What is the Future of Orchestras?
May 29, 2019 In: Sound Bits
(Spoiler alert: I don’t have an answer to this question, just more questions! But I think it is worth exploring…)
We live in a tumultuous time when the Chicago Symphony goes on strike for 7 weeks over salary and pension benefits, and at the same time the California Symphony has doubled its ticket sales over the last 4 seasons.
With technology competing for our limited time and attention, will audiences continue to value live concerts of classical music? Baumol’s Cost Disease suggests that there is essentially no way to make orchestra concerts cheaper – it takes a certain amount of musicians a certain amount of time to prepare and perform a concert, so the costs are relatively fixed (and rising). But if revenue (ticket prices, subscribers, etc.) isn’t rising accordingly, how do orchestras survive?
A 2016 report from the League of American Orchestras found that, on average, earned income (ticket sales, hall rentals, etc) only comprised 40% of orchestra revenue. 43% came from donations, and the remainder came from investments. Is that financial model sustainable in the long term?
Will orchestras find ways to continue presenting the important art that they champion, while capturing the imagination and interest of audiences that will continue to support them in the future? We’d be curious to hear what you think! Send us an email at email@example.com. Maybe you know of an example of an orchestra that is doing something innovative. Or perhaps you just want to share your opinion on these questions. Either way, we’d love to hear from you!