Australia's live music business in 2008 has slipped back to its mid-decade level but still managed to generate more than $1 billion Australian ($832.7 million) in ticket sales, according to a new report issued by Live Performance Australia.

After years of reporting steady growth, the trade body's latest "Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey 2008" reveals a national headline figure of $1.06 billion Australian ($882.6 million), well down on the $1.23 billion Australian ($1.02 billion) and $1.16 billion Australian ($965.9 million) reported in the previous two years, a period the LPA describes as "peak years in the current economic cycle."

While the value of the country's live entertainment market shrank by 13.6% compared with the previous year, the volume of tickets fell by a sharper figure, down 24.2% to 15.8 million. The average price of tickets in 2008 actually rose by 16%, to $76.60 Australian ($63.75).

The LPA and its CEO Evelyn Richardson admit the rocky global economic climate spells a tough road ahead. Regardless, she says, these most recent results paint a picture of a dynamic and healthy live marketplace. "Spending by Australians on live performance has remained strong," comments Richardson. "These figures are comparable to trends in other major territories around the world, highlighting the fact that Australia has a world-class live performance industry."

The survey, compiled by accountancy giant Ernst and Young, collated data from a sample of participants including ticketing giants Ticketmaster and Ticketek, and performing arts companies the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia.

The largest revenue generating categories were contemporary music with 37% of the pie, followed by musical theatre with 24%, classical music with 10% and theater with 8%. These four categories accounted for 79% of the total revenue for the year. Ernst and Young admits attendance at festivals and non-classical music events are underreported in the study.

LPA president Andrew Kay remains optimistic the live sector will overcome the hurdles which lie in wait. "We know from experience that our industry is cyclical and the global downturn will have an effect on Australia. However, these are not new challenges for our industry," Kay comments.

"We are looking at ways to sustain our activity across the live performance industry," he adds. "This means finding new and innovative ways to deliver compelling live performance events that will keep attracting audiences, as well as working closely with governments at every level to ensure the ongoing vitality of the live performance industry."

Today's release of the annual ticketing survey coincides with the LPA's annual Helpmann Awards ceremony, held at the Sydney Opera House.