Although the word conservatorio as a place for learning music goes back to sixteenth century Italy, the establishment of most early conservatoires took place at the beginning of the nineteenth century when the demands of European classical music (especially orchestral repertoire) warranted dedicated virtuoso training (Abeles et al., 1995, pp. 6-9). But what capabilities do musicians need in order build vibrant, sustainable careers in twenty-first-century Australia? Are they still the same? How can higher education contribute to the development of these capabilities?
In order to answer such questions it is imperative to review recent survey and census-based research into the Australian music labour force, especially regarding what is known about the distinctive portfolio career patterns of professional musicians, and the key challenges they face in building a music career. Considering the implications of these challenges for the professional development of musicians, it is possible to outline structural, policy and professional learning support conducive to supporting this new reality. This assists in constructing an agenda for targeted research to address the significant gaps in knowledge relating to musicians' career patterns, roles, contributions and skills. Promoting a deeper understanding of key elements in the Australian music sector's cultural and economic fabric in this way yields the potential to improve sectoral health and vitality. Tertiary music education is a key player in this 'musical ecosystem'.
The Australian music sector and its labour force
In 2010, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI, 2012) estimated the global music industry to be worth US$168 billion, up from $132 billion in 2005, in spite of the collapse of the conventional record industry. Whilst the IFPI data categories had changed slightly between the two data collections, the figures clearly indicate increased activity. This increase aligns with economic reports from several countries including the UK, US and Australia, all of which suggest increased household expenditure on entertainment. Although these positive reports indicate multiple new opportunities for musicians, they must be considered alongside trends that are fundamentally changing the way in which musicians 'do business' within the music, creative and cultural sectors.
The full range of music activities and industries that make up the Australian music sector is estimated to represent a turnover in excess of seven billion dollars a year (Music Council of Australia, 2009; cf Guldberg & Letts, 2005). Music in turn forms part of a much larger industry sector known collectively as the creative industries. There is no internationally agreed definition for the creative industries, but in general they are understood to include industries "that are based on individual creativity, skill and talent with the potential to create wealth and jobs through developing intellectual property" (British Council, 2012). Music also falls within the cultural industries, which are more broadly defined to include categories such as film and video, motion pictures, television, art galleries, libraries, archives, museums, botanic gardens, music and theatre, performing arts venues, and services such as education. Musicians, therefore, work within a large and diverse industry sector; and some of their creativity, specialist and generic skills are transferable across and beyond the creative and cultural industries (Bennett, 2008a).
Based on IBISWorld estimates (Centre for International Economics, 2009) the creative industries are reported to have contributed $31.1 billion to the Australian economy in 200708 with a long-term growth rate exceeding the economy as a whole. IBISWorld estimates include related activity in performance and composition, recording, film and television, education and training, venues, manufacturing, trade and technology, research and information, and health. …