Monday’s article on the reduced ticket price initiative at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has generated a great deal of private responses from professionals inside the business. More impressive than the number of responses was the sheer variety of opinions, I simply can’t think of another issue here at Adaptistration which generated such an assortment of opinions. Everything from absolute support to condemnation has come through my email…
However, after separating the responses into four basic categories (“great idea”, “cautiously optimistic”, “cautiously pessimistic”, and “terrible idea”) and plugging the numbers into a spreadsheet I came up with the following (unscientific) results, illustrated on the chart to your right. I was sincerely surprised at the number of negative responses and even more intrigued that the reasons behind the negativity were almost as varied as the number of respondents. By comparison, the majority of positive email was centered on very similar themes.
Nevertheless, based on the sheer number of responses, it seems that a number of folks inside the business are going to keep their ear to the ground to hear what happens in St. Paul by the end of the season.
Another interesting point was the number of similar questions most individuals presented regardless if they were pro, con, or somewhere in-between. The most popular question was whether or not the money the SPCO has developed to subsidize lost ticket revenue was enough to cover what they expected to lose through lowered prices.
I don’t have an answer for that question and I’m sure that the SPCO won’t have an absolute answer until the end of the season. Regardless, the inherent nature of the question demonstrates some of the thinking out there. Obviously, you can’t run a negative revenue stream for any prolonged period of time and expect to maintain business as usually without finding replacement funds.
At the SPCO, if they end up running a negative revenue stream for the series of concerts which featured lower ticket sales by the end of the season, they’ll have to make the same sort of decisions that every orchestras faces at one point or another, albeit for a variety of different reasons. Essentially, they’ll have to raise ticket prices for 2006-2007, develop higher contributed sources, or do something in-between.
Personally, I hope they find enough subsidies to continue the initiative indefinitely, thereby turning it into standard procedure. If you’re a betting sort of individual, then that’s where I would encourage you to put your money because every orchestra is going to have to cross this same bridge at one point or another, unless they discover a way to sustain full houses while simultaneously increasing ticket prices at the hyperactive levels many in the business have grown accustomed to.
It’s similar to the quagmire many orchestras currently deal regarding the loss of recording revenue. Most orchestras saw the revenue slowly bleeding away but never focused enough attention on replacing the revenue stream until it was too late. The result was to engage in “contentious” labor negotiations while cutting some artistic and administrative corners.
As the 2005-2006 season comes to a close, we’ll revisit the good folks at the SPCO to see where things stand.
Postscript: Although I always enjoy private email messages, I would like to encourage all of Adaptistration’s readers to use the comment feature at the bottom of every article. You don’t have to attach your name to a comment, which is convenient especially if you’re concerned about office blow-back (this business is way too collegial for its own good). Many of the points in the private email messages I received would have been positive contributions for continued discussion, it’s a shame they weren’t submitted as comments.