Concerts, plays, dance shows and other productions generate $2.5 billion a year in Australia, making live entertainment a bigger money-spinner than film, television and digital games combined.
The Ernst and Young study found the live performance industry employed 34,131 people full-time across ballet, opera and classical music to theatre, contemporary music and music festivals in 2012.
The value-added return to the Australian economy was more than $1.5 billion, with $161 million of that flowing through WA, the report said.
Contemporary music (32.6 per cent) and musical theatre (14.6 per cent) dominated ticket sales and other income, followed by festivals, theatre, dance and classical music.
Live Performance Australia, which commissioned the report, said the sector generated other intangible benefits such as improved social cohesion, lifestyle improvement, diversity and increased creativity not reflected in dollar terms.
“Our industry is a significant contributor in terms of financial, employment, and quality of life metrics to the Australian economy,” LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson said.
The size of the industry had increased by 17 per cent since 2008, when the first industry-wide data had been collected, the report said.
Many economic activities go into putting on a show, including staging, ticketing and venue hire, marketing and the actual performance by artists.
Dance was one sector which led the growth, which gladdened the heart of Sydney Dance Company performer Cass Mortimer Eipper.
Mortimer Eipper, a former dancer with WA Ballet, is one of several dancers with WA links in the SDC touring production of 2 One Another, which opened last night at His Majesty’s Theatre.
He said it was important to keep educating people about the pleasures of contemporary dance, which could be challenging for audiences and was expensive to produce because of labour costs and access to reasonable rehearsal space.
“Something like 2 One Another is the perfect entrée to contemporary dance for an audience because I think it is really accessible while still pushing certain boundaries,” Mortimer Eipper said.
SDC artistic director Rafael Bonachela is leading the push to make dance more accessible by trying to lower entry costs and encouraging community events like Big Dance.
More could be done, if some more of the funding for sport could be channelled into the performing arts, Bonachela said.
“The thing with dance is that it marries the physical and the artistic. It develops humans in a way that is not just all about winning.”
Thousands of dancers of all ages and abilities are expected to learn a routine choreographed by Bonachela and join in the biennial Big Dance event to be held simultaneously in Sydney, London and Glasgow next month.
Registrations for the Sydney event had exceeded expectations.
“It is exciting to see how many people are into dance,” said Bonachela, who was rushing back to Sydney after last night’s Perth premiere of 2 One Another to oversee some lessons for a group of 70-somethings taking part in Big Dance.
“It has been done in a way to show that anyone can dance,” he said. “Everyone can benefit from the joy of dance. It is soul-changing.”
Public participation in arts has increased in recent years. A recent Australia Council survey showed more Australians were creating art themselves last year (48 per cent) than in 2009 (41 per cent). One in three people were creating visual arts and crafts, and one in five people were making music.
Australians were increasingly positive about the arts but fewer agree that the arts should receive public funding, down to 79 per cent in 2013 from 85 per cent in 2009.
2 One Another is on in Perth until Saturday before touring to Mandurah, Albany, Bunbury and Geraldton.