Federal Oversight for Australian Orchestras

In Australia, the federal government recently began an audit to determine the financial viability and assess the board governance of their six state symphony and two pit orchestras. Furthermore, the audit will consider how the Australian government and orchestral groups can improve their relationship to ensure the long-term sustainability of Australia’s orchestras.

This decision comes after several of their orchestras declared large operating deficits following a long period of financial health.  For Australia, this will be the first major review of state orchestras in 20 years, and the Australian government selected an individual to conduct the audit that has experience as a theatre manager and is also the chairman of an insurance company.  So it looks like the government is serious about the study, which is scheduled to conclude at the end of the year.

Several months ago I wrote an article that proposed a similar idea of a third party body assigned to perform regularly occurring audits for American orchestras.  It will be interesting to see what conclusions the Australian audit comes up with and to discover their methods of research and evaluation.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to adopt some of those results in this country and they’ll work toward creating a more financially stable orchestra environment.

On a related note, there was an article in the Australian paper “The Age” that connects the issue of placing too much importance on the role of music directors to the Australian orchestra audits.  Written by Greg Barns, it even includes some quotes from Adaptistration.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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