It might seem rather lax to forecast the year ahead in culture. We're already well into January after all. But summer is the peak time for many in the arts profession, particularly those working on our nation's many music and arts festivals, with the Big Day Out about to get into full swing and the Sydney Festival already well under way.

It's always difficult to sum up a sector as diverse as culture. Nevertheless, some clear trends are emerging. The year ahead will be dominated by a few key themes: the announcement of the federal government's National Cultural Policy, the deflation of the music festivals bubble, and fraught times at many of Australia's small and medium-sized arts companies.