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Thread: Orchestra funding - new ideas?

  1. #31
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    BTW, apologies for my ageism above & in other threads maybe. Eg. targeting/naming over 65's or retirees. I shouldn't have stereotyped like that. But it speaks to how I dislike going to mainstream/flagship concerts, avoided them generally, as the audience is mainly of that age group, and being younger than that, I feel it's kind of like not reflecting on the wider society. The injection in these events, as part of the audience, of guys in suits from the corporations that sponsor these groups doesn't really improve things, etc. But anyway, just stating things how I see them from my angle, etc...
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  2. #32
    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    The internet has a lot to do with the postal service struggling. The US is still a wealthy country, but billions of dollars are wasted instead of being spent wisely.

    I don't believe the economy is the main factor for struggling orchestras. An organization the size of a symphony orchestra can never survive on ticket sales alone. It needs sponsorship. Unfortunately, many of the big businesses and banks that have supported the arts in the past aren't willing to make that kind of investment any longer. They don't give a damn about intrinsic value, they only care about monetary returns. This seems to be all pervasive in today's empty culture where super salesmen like the late Steve Jobs are revered like gods, and artists are marginalized.

    The upper offices are still giving...to themselves.

  3. #33
    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid James View Post
    BTW, apologies for my ageism above & in other threads maybe. Eg. targeting/naming over 65's or retirees. I shouldn't have stereotyped like that. But it speaks to how I dislike going to mainstream/flagship concerts, avoided them generally, as the audience is mainly of that age group, and being younger than that, I feel it's kind of like not reflecting on the wider society. The injection in these events, as part of the audience, of guys in suits from the corporations that sponsor these groups doesn't really improve things, etc. But anyway, just stating things how I see them from my angle, etc...

    I've been saying for years (well, maybe not here), the best value for those-in-the-know are chamber music concerts. What do I know...everyone wants Strike Up The Band.

  4. #34
    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid James View Post
    ... the corporations that sponsor these groups doesn't really improve things...
    Many professional orchestras would have disappeared long ago without sponsorships of any kind (whether corporate, government or private). So I'm not quite sure why targeting corporate sponsorship alone appears to be the "problem". Indeed, being involved in sponsorship myself, which makes me qualified to comment based on first hand experience, sponsors often deliberately make zero management contribution, which is left to the professional managers who run the orchestra. Sponsorship, as the word clearly defines, does not necessarily entail management of the entity, to make that clear. Now that's the reality.

    The best point in this thread so far, was mentioned above about the over paid "stars" of the orchestras when other members are not awarded by some other comparable criteria / measurement . The economics and legislation can differ between countries by a great deal and so I won't make sweeping generalisations that might not apply to say an orchestra in Russia versus one in America or a local one here.

  5. #35
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    a quick pie chart that shows how compensation increases (not total compensation) in American orchestras were divided in 2008-09:

    The compensation charts for that same year which compare base musician salary to CEO, music director, concertmaster, and total expenditures are available here.
    source http://www.adaptistration.com
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  6. #36
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Mea culpa re an earlier comment of mine. I attended the stakeholders' meeting today and learned it's the Opera which is in the black. The Ballet is running a small deficit and the Orchestra ran a special fundraising campaign this past spring to try to make up their deficit. They (orch.) will be in the hole again this year and will not be able to run this again.

    The idea is to merge the three organizations into one, with increased artistic synergies and performance opportunities. This will also allow the organizations to work together instead of against each other in programming and scheduling, and collaborate on "signature events" and artists-in-residence, with hopes of defining our city as an "arts innovator." The discussion has drawn the attention of several national arts foundations, as this would be a first in the nation (USA).

    The three organizations are currently "solvent," but do not feel the current model(s) will be sustainable in the next five years.

    One factoid I came away with which I did not know, as I've not previously been involved in arts administration, is that it costs $1.60 in production costs to generate a dollar of ticket revenue. This is why arts organizations are so heavily dependent upon donations and other sources of funding.

  7. #37
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    An article in today's local paper reported that our orchestra's subscription income is up 3% this year, with credit given to nontraditional programming and flexible ticket subscription options for the growth.

    There are five programming subscription series available, plus FlexPass (which allows you to buy coupons at fixed pricing to exchange for the best available seat up to 30 days before concert date), and Create Your Own, which allows you to buy a minimum of four concert dates in one pricing tier for any subscription series.

    Our music director praised "some smart and well-executed marketing strategies" and stated "This shows our willingness to try new things and experiment during tough times is wiser than just hunkering down and cut, cut, cutting."
    ***

    The League of American Orchestras reports a decline of about 5 percent in attendance between fiscal years 2009 and 2011. So an uptick, however small, is a laudable event.

    I have been called by the orchestra marketing department after each concert I've attended this year to ask if I enjoyed it, and a subtle solicitation to buy upcoming programs. If they do this for everyone, that's pretty impressive.

  8. #38
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    Let me offer the perspective of someone who has actually RUN several orchestras. Firstly, it DOES make a HUGE difference where you are situated as to how you deal with the financial challenges. Anyone who suggests otherwise simply doesn't have a clue. Even between the UK (where I am) and the USA, there are VAST differences in how orchestras are funded. Compare the USA and Germany and you might as well be in a different universe. In Europe (but in some cases more than others), major orchestras get at least some state funding. In Germany, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (I will give its name in English as I'm writing and being read in English, not German) receives more subsidy per year than all the UK orchestras put together. In the USA there is no state subsidy at all (nor for anything else, for that matter). In the USA orchestras have traditionally existed on private donations from benefactors with more money than they know what to do with (the American Dream?). In Europe, this tradition is very new, funds previously being generated from a combination of state subsidy, ticket revenue and corporate sponsorship.

    These differences dictate the way that you raise money. No matter what system of funding is in place, the odd cake bake sale, raffle or lotto event won't even pay one musician for a month (usually) and so these piddling amounts of money do nothing to help. Also, it is all very well to say "go play in shopping malls, etc", but those making the suggestion have no concept of how to make this happen? Who pays for this (presumably, the shoppers listen for free while the orchestra rack-up a huge operating bill)? What are the logistics and how can it made to work (envisage an orchestra in a shopping precinct - not much room for anything else, is there?). Then there are noise levels, health and safety elements to consider. These are some of the practical REALITIES of running an orchestra.

    Raising funds for orchestras is notoriously difficult because of the perceived 'elitism' of their events. The perception is very much on the part of the general public, I assure you and is deeply ingrained in society. In the UK, classical music is seen as 'uncool' (wtf is 'cool', anyway?) and always has been. This is a socio-cultural issue and no amount of 'audience development' will change this. One has to change the attitudes and perceptions of society before any change can come about in this area.

    When one CAN raise money for an orchestra it is nearly always event-led, ie money towards the costs of putting-on an actual concert. Almost impossible to raise money for is the core cost of actually MANAGING an orchestra. An orchestra doesn't just magically turn-up and play a concert which has materialised from thin air. Who generated the concert? Who is paying for it? How does the orchestra get there? How do they get home again? Who chooses the conductor and soloist? And the repertoire? Who organises the publicity? Who looks after the payroll? What about the office? The rent? The equipment? An orchestra of any size needs administrative and artistic staff to make an orchestra work, but sponsors don't get much publicity from sponsoring a salary. So, one has to add between 10% and 20% 'management' to all performance fees so some money can be skimmed-off to cover these costs without eating-in to the musicians' fees.

    Some orchestras, it is true have been badly run in years gone by; a lot of money has been wasted. Now times are tough, orchestras have to be run in a businesslike fashion. This doesn't mean making a profit, but it does mean not making a loss you can't cover. While society in general continues to undervalue the arts, things will only get more difficult. I don't know how we change governments' attitudes. So corrupt and cynical are most politicians nowadays that culture doesn't get a look in - not enough votes in it, you see.

    I haven't really answered the question, although orchestras now exist precariously on a combination of subsidy, box office revenue, sponsorship, individual giving and occasional donations from private and public trusts and foundations. That, and running a very tight ship with working conditions most people here wouldn't tolerate as being 'reasonable'. What needs to change is attitudes. The arts are what define a society (whether you participate actively or not). Let it perish at your peril; you don't know what you've got until it's gone!
    Last edited by Delicious Manager; Dec-29-2011 at 12:52.
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  9. #39
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Thanks, DM; your unique perspective is always valued and especially relevant to this question. My perspective is naive as I'm essentially an interested patron.
    Last edited by Lunasong; Dec-29-2011 at 14:13.
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  10. #40
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Review of a new book by Robert J. Flanagan exploring funding avenues for American orchestras:
    The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras. Flanagan studies three revenue or cost-containment paths:
    Performance revenue: consisting of ticket sales, recording, and other direct performance revenue
    Non-performance revenue: Government grants, private contributions, and endowment growth/income
    Cost reduction

    The fact that there’s “no silver bullet” (Flanagan’s conclusion) to the economic challenges faced by orchestras will come as no surprise to anyone working in the field today. What Flanagan has contributed to the discussion is a thorough and fact-based analysis of how orchestras’ past choices are playing out in today’s economic and social environment. By doing so he’s informed the best choices for leading our organizations forward.

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