Australian Attitudes to Music

The association conducted comprehensive research into the Australian music profile in the 2001 and again in 2007.

Some snap shots of this research reveals a population, that while valuing music, does not participate at the levels of the US or UK.

Australian Attitudes to Music Research Summary

The survey found that 35% of households contain at least one person who now plays a musical instrument – a statistically similar figure to the 36% found in 2001.  This proportion now equates to a rough estimate of 4.25 million people (5+ yrs) who play.  Of these, about 1 million people are believed to be taking private lessons.

Music players continue to have a young profile.  It was found that 37% of all players are aged 5-17 yrs and a further 24% are aged 18-34 yrs.  That is, over 60% of music players fall within the 5-34 yrs age bracket – compared to about 45% of the total population (5+ yrs).  In fact, there is an increasing view towards younger exposure to music – over 40% of people think this should be before the age of one year.

It is estimated that there are now some 5.15 million people (5+ yrs) who are lapsed players and 9.67m who have never played.

The majority of players (almost 70%) start learning a musical instrument before they reach secondary school – girls a little earlier than boys.  The main influences on taking up an instrument were parents (for 23%), the development of one’s own interest (21%), school teachers (8%) and other mentors (9%).

As in 2001, almost a third of those giving up playing do so before they are teenagers.  A further 30% drop out by the age of 16 yrs.  The major reason given is just loss of interest.  It appears that discontinuation of lessons at school is a major factor but, in older age, lack of access to instruments and to co-players have a tangible effect.

The most popular instrument now played, according to the survey, is the acoustic guitar (by 31% of current players).  The upright piano is played by a statistically equivalent proportion.  The electric guitar is currently played by about 16% of players (with some acoustic overlap) and drums by some 12%.  In the 2001 study, the piano was marginally ahead – a position perhaps eroded by other digital pianos and keyboards.

It appears that about 4.25 million households own at least one musical instrument, equivalent to around 53% of the total households in Australia ( – statistically equivalent to the 55% recorded in 2001).  Over 90% of households in which somebody plays, own at least one instrument.  Nevertheless, it appears that many households which have musical instruments – almost a third – contain no current players.

The majority of the population (59%) believe that music is a good hobby, that it provides a good means of expression (57%) and sense of personal accomplishment (56%).  These views are understandably more strongly held amongst those who themselves play.  They are held to a similar or possibly marginally greater extent than in 2001.

The majority of people 12+ yrs would completely agree that music is an activity that a child can enjoy all their life (63%), that performing in front of others develops poise and confidence (61%) and, importantly, that all schools should offer instrumental instruction as part of their regular curriculum (57%).

However, only a minority (c.20%) completely agree that learning a musical instrument helps one do better in test scores or other subjects such as maths, science or languages.  A similarly small minority were in complete agreement that teenagers who play an instrument were less likely to have discipline problems.  Whilst the direction of causality cannot be proven, in practice players were found to actually achieve more tertiary education (20% v. 8% non-players) and be more likely to speak a second language (29% v. 19%).

The following pages provide more analysis and interpretation of the results.  After these, the detailed tables and a copy of the questionnaire are provided for reference.

–  35% of households report containing at least one player of a musical instrument

–  6.4 million people live in a household which contains at least one player of a musical instrument.  This is out of a total population of around 17.2 million people (aged 12+ yrs).

–  it was found that some 4.25million individuals currently play a musical instrument

–  45% of Australians aged 5-17 yrs may be classified as current players.  This age group therefore accounts for almost 37% of all players.

–  53% of current players are male