Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of odds & ends floating around and it is high time to tie them up…
There was a wonderful comment posted a few days ago to the A Tale Of Two Ticket Prices articles. The comment went up several days after the article was initially published so you likely missed it. However, I think the comment is important enough to repost here and is worthy of an entire series of articles (which are likely not far off):
As an orchestra board member and financial geek, I’ve been interested in the issue of earned vs contributed revenue models for symphony orchestras for some time. Subsidizing operating expenses to offset our luxury-item pricing would, in my opinion, increase attendance, and if done effectively, deepen participation in the programs of orchestras.
In questioning how ticket income figures were achieved in a proposed budget by our symphony’s executive, I received adequate explanation. She cited maintaining a stable, consistent ratio of earned vs. contributed income for a budget that had various small increases in cost. She further said the figure is determined so it is realistic, not ambitious; the budget is a guide for annual operations. Sales growth is a goal that will become budget reality if maintained with regularity. The bottom line was that the ticket prices were necessary to fund the orchestra’s budget, and the ratio was the current standard for the industry. But is the entire model at fault when we consider the dwindling number of people who choose to benefit themselves with the symphony? We face an issue of access, and price has to be the number one barrier to access.
At every performance I attend, I stand up at intermission and look at the unfilled seats in the back and the holes of prime seats where people who paid hadn’t shown up or turned in their tickets. I see inventory being spoiled by the second and opportunity that is lost, and I’m sad that so many people missed what I just heard. Our mission is to keep classical music alive in our community. We cost four times more than a night at the movies for two, and the movies are raking in volumes of cash and churning vast profits from it. For young professionals and families with limited spending for leisure activities, a night at the symphony (in the cheap seats!) vs the cost of a bucket of popcorn and sexy special effects is a no brainer.
Many museums provide access to their programs with very modest, if not free admissions. I know that my gift to the local museum helps pay for the art and the overhead. They tell me 70% of my gift goes to programs and 30% to operations. But because of my gift, I get invited to meet the curator, drink free wine at every opening, and get to socialize with friends who also pay to do the same, but after that opening night, my young neighbors can see the art for $2 admission, $7 including the $5 audio tour. My hypothesis is that seat value directly correlates to deeper participation. We know most patrons would pay dearly for the prime aisle seats they’ve owned for generations, and the chance to meet the composers, conductors, soloists and musicians at fancy wine parties, too. We already do! I joined the board to learn more about music and have some social fun. Would I get upset that my young neighbors could get in for only $5? No. I place value on the experience I choose, but I want everyone the hall can hold to hear the music, too.
When we perform free concerts on occasion, we attract mobs of people, many whom have told me they really appreciated the chance to bring their 12-year old child, perhaps a violin student in school, to hear the orchestra play. They don’t have to tell me that the reason they don’t hear it more often is because it’s too expensive.
Is classical music an entertainment that should compete against comparable for-profit entertainment? We get funding on the basis that classical music is high art, a vital artform of humanity that everyone should experience in their lives. Orchestras are the creators and curators of that art in every community where they play.
I love my aisle seats and wine and cheese parties, and I’d pay reasonably more for those privileges, especially if some of my money and time helps to open the concert hall doors to more people. I have often wondered why orchestra fundraisers don’t pass a plate after a dynamite concerto, because at that moment of inspiration, I’d shell out more from sheer excitement. The orchestra is a source of community pride and cultural education, and we’re failing to expose enough people to the music because our financial model contains this addiction to ticket revenue. There are people in our community who could write a check to fund the entire season and not miss a dime. Perhaps Baltimore’s coup is a promising first step in the right direction.
On March 18th, I had a brief radio appearance on the weekend edition of NPR’s Nation with Vivian Goodman reporting. The topic was Cleveland Orchestra’s impact on the local Miami cultural scene. Fortunately, the segment is still available at the NPR website (wait for it, I’m at the end).
Now This Is A Headline That Grabs Your Attention
“BROADCASTING THE MUSIC COMMERCIAL RADIO TRIED TO HIDE FROM YOU” American Music Center caught my attention with the best PR headline I’ve come across in, well, forever. BTW, the PR was announcing their new online radio station, Counterstream Radio at http://www.counterstreamradio..org/. It’s sounds all edgy and in your face, I like it.
Eugene Symphony Musician Returns After Crash
Oboist Kelly Gronli will reportedly return to the Eugene Symphony following the fatal car accident which claimed the lives of two of her colleagues. More on that tragedy here.
Cartoon Caption Contest
Don’t forget to take a crack at the Adaptistration Cartoon Caption Contest, the deadline is Sunday, 3/25 at 11:59p.m. ET so don’t wait. There have been a number of great submissions so far but you never know, your submission could be the winner! CLICK HERE for details.