US Orchestras loose subscribers and audiences

The League of American Orchestras has released Orchestra Facts: 2006-2014, the organization’s first comprehensive longitudinal study of American orchestra finances and operations.

Survey says: US orchestras loose subscribers and audienees

Survey says: US orchestras loose subscribers and audienees

Using an extensive variety of organizational and external data sources, the study depicts the enormous breadth and scope of the American orchestra field, along with the complexities and resiliencies inherent in the art form’s business model. With its focus on the nine-year period from 2006 to 2014, including topline trends, five-year trends, and one-year snapshots, Orchestra Facts examines the effects of the recent recession, as well as broader trends around audience attendance, orchestra finances, and accessibility.

Orchestra Facts: 2006-2014 reveals a remarkable breadth of activity and commitment of resources on the part of orchestras in service to their communities,” said League of American Orchestras President and CEO Jesse Rosen. “Our first-ever longitudinal study provides an authoritative fact base for analyzing orchestras’ finances and operations, as well as new metrics for understanding orchestras’ education and community engagement activity.” The report finds that the scope and scale of the orchestra field in the United States is vast: in 2014, 1,224 orchestras contributed $1.8 billion to the U.S. economy and attracted a total audience of nearly 25 million. Two out of every three orchestras operated with annual expenses budgets of under $300,000. Cost barriers traditionally associated with attending orchestra performances are coming down: the number of free concerts has increased, while the cost of purchasing paid-for tickets fell.

 

An 18% growth in the number of households subscribing shows that demand for subscriptions is still growing, even if spend per subscriber is down. Overall, audiences declined by 10.5% between 2010 and 2014, broadly in line with other performing arts sectors. However, audiences for classical series concerts declined by 5.5% (corresponding roughly to a 3% decline in the number of classical series performances offered). The report also finds that orchestras’ work continues outside the concert hall through a wide array of education and community engagement activities for diverse audiences.

Generally, the report confirms recession recovery for the field as a whole, but individual orchestras may have different experiences. The study also illustrates the complexity of the orchestra business model as orchestras balance multiple forms of earned, contributed, and investment revenue. Looking at Change in Unrestricted Net Assets (CUNA), defined as the difference between unrestricted income and total expenses, the proportion of orchestras reporting deficits dropped from 40% in 2010 to 18% in 2014.

 Report Highlights*:

See report’s Key Findings (pp 4-5) and Conclusions (p 20) sections for more details.

Download the Full Report Here

 

For the first time, this report publicly reveals a detailed picture of the scope and scale of the orchestra field in the United States:

  • In 2014, the orchestra field contributed $1.8 billion to the U.S. economy and attracted a total audience of nearly 25 million.
  • That same year, there were 1,224 U.S. orchestras, distributed widely across all 50 states, and two out of every three orchestras operated with annual expenses budgets of under $300,000.

Orchestras perform, but also teach, lead, facilitate, and train.

  • Their work drives a vast array of education and community engagement (EdCE) activities.
  • A segment of the report analyzes survey responses from 98 orchestras EdCE activities: these 98 orchestras alone reported 19,000 EdCE performances, musical activities, and events, with 2.1 million people participating in these EdCE events.
  • Two thirds participated without charge.
  • Thirty-eight percent of the EdCE participants were African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaskan Native. Sixty-two percent were white.

Cost barriers traditionally associated with attending orchestra performances are coming down:

  • Between 2010 and 2014, the number of free concerts increased, while the cost of purchasing paid-for tickets fell.

Orchestras find themselves at a moment of transition:

  • 2013 saw a significant shift in the traditional orchestra business model as – for the first time – income produced by single ticket and group sales was higher than that earned from subscription revenues.
  • The subscription model remains important: an 18% growth in the number of households subscribing shows that demand for subscriptions is still growing, even if spend per subscriber is down.
  • Overall, audiences declined by 10.5% between 2010 and 2014, broadly in line with other performing arts sectors.
  • However, audiences for classical series concerts declined by 5.5%, corresponding roughly to a 3% decline in the number of classical series performances offered.
  • The stability of contributed income through the recession years and the large number of small gifts made to orchestras (around 75% of the gifts made by non-trustee individuals were under $250) indicate a broad base of continuing community support for – and appreciation of – orchestras’ work.

The orchestra business model is complex but resilient:

  • Orchestras depend upon a complex portfolio of revenue sources that includes multiple forms of earned, contributed, and investment income.
  • Orchestras successfully maintained contributed income levels through the recession while containing growth in expenses.
  • Many orchestras rely on investment income, though this makes them more vulnerable during leaner times.
  • Between 2006 and 2014, total asset value increased by 4% while liabilities decreased by 7.5%, having peaked at the recession’s height. Consequently, net assets grew at a rate exceeding inflation by 6.6%.
  • In general terms, these measures indicate improved organizational stability over time, despite the impact of recession on the field.
  • Looking at Change in Unrestricted Net Assets (CUNA), defined as the difference between unrestricted income and total expenses, the proportion of orchestras reporting deficits dropped from 40% in 2010 to 18% in 2014.
  • It’s important to note that the report confirms recession recovery for the whole field; individual orchestras may have different experiences.

Orchestra Field-wide 2014 Snapshot: 1,224 orchestras in the NCAR and OSR data sets for financial year 2013-14

Orchestra Field 2006-14, 9-year Trends: The 547 orchestras with annual expenses of $50,000 or more that submitted data each of the five financial years from 2005-06 to 2013-14

The OSR data set was also exclusively analyzed in the following two ways: OSR2014 Snapshot: The 107 League member orchestras participating in the Orchestra Statistical Report for financial year 2013-14;  OSR 2010-14, 5-year Trends: The 65 League member orchestras participating in the Orchestra Statistical Report for each of the five financial years from 2009-10 to 2013-14

Figures in the report are adjusted for inflation.

Orchestras surveyed include both professional and semi-professional orchestras, but do not include school, college, or military orchestras.

Youth orchestras are partially represented in the data sets, and are identified by footnotes throughout the report.

Read the full press release here.

League of American Orchestras Releases Five-Year Strategic Plan 2016 – 2020

The League of American Orchestras’ Board of Directors has announced the organization’s blueprint for the future: Creativity, Engagement, Impact: The League of American Orchestras’ Strategic Plan, 2016-2020 http://www.americanorchestras.org/strategy). The plan comes at a moment of great possibility in the orchestral field, as orchestras are embracing the opportunities presented by the current environment with vigor and ingenuity.

LAO-Logo

“Orchestras are keenly aware of profound changes in their environment,” said Jesse Rosen, the League’s President and CEO. “Building upon the field’s momentum, the five-year Strategic Plan addresses a wide array of critical issues and internal and external field challenges in response to broad social, demographic, and technological changes, affirming the League’s vital role as a catalyst, convener, and source of knowledge.”

Synthesizing feedback from member orchestras and other stakeholders, including musicians, funders, external partners, and League board and staff, the plan identifies five outward- and inward-focused strategic priorities:
• Advancing the orchestral experience
• Developing the orchestral field
• Better serving members
• Strengthening the League’s business model
• Growing the League’s capacity

The organization’s mission and vision have also been refreshed. The mission is now: To advance the experience of orchestral music, support the people and organizations that create it, and champion the contributions they make to the health and vibrancy of communities. The vision is now: The orchestral experience is shared by all and supported by artistically vibrant, robust, and civically engaged organizations; and the League is an indispensable leader, resource, and voice for the orchestra community and its value to the public.

The League’s previous plan, Supporting Orchestras in a New Era, guided the League through a large-scale global economic recession. Since then, the field has pushed forward on a variety of fronts, and the new plan addresses such critical issues as the need for diversity, community impact and relevance, public perception, technological advances, and fiscal health. Internal and external challenges identified by League members and stakeholders are also assessed in the plan, such as music education, demographic change, changing patterns of philanthropy, and changing patterns in the use of leisure time.

Rosen commented, “Looking from 30,000 feet at the evolution taking place, orchestras continue to strive for excellence in performance, but now bring equal attention to the nature of the orchestral experience itself: the interplay with different audiences; synergistic and authentic engagement with communities; expanding roles of musicians, composers, and conductors as ambassadors, advocates, and educators; and increasing activity in lifelong learning and civic participation.

“The League will embrace our commitment to support orchestras and promote public understanding of their role in civic and community life. We will lead our members in collectively advancing, articulating, and advocating for the essential experience that only orchestras can provide.”

The planning effort was led by a strategic planning task force of the Board of the League of American Orchestras. The task force was chaired by Steven C. Parrish, vice-chair of the Board. The process was facilitated by AEA Consulting.

Note:
• Find a brief overview of the plan here: http://americanorchestras.org/strategyglance
• Find an abridged and full version of the plan, both of which contain the President’s introduction, here: http://americanorchestras.org/strategy

Read the full release here.

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Boston Symphony Orchestra enter into a new alliance

The freshly annouced strategic alliance between the Gewandhausorchester and the Boston Symphony opens a new window of globalization in the arts.

Gewandhaus Leipzig, Germany

Gewandhaus Leipzig, Germany

Historically, a long standing tradition unites the Gewandhausorchester and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. These mutual ties are now intensified with Andris Nelsons’ appointment as Gewandhauskapellmeister from the 2017/18 season.
The history of close cultural connections between Leipzig and Boston began in 1881, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s (BSO) founder, Henry Lee Higginson, appointed Leipzig Conservatory-trained Georg Henschel as its first conductor. Subsequent conductors of the BSO, including Wilhelm Gericke, Emil Pauer, Max Fiedler, Karl Muck, and most importantly, Arthur Nikisch, were all educated in Leipzig and also held posts with the Gewandhausorchester (GWO). From the middle of the twentieth century, the connection was reinforced when Charles Münch became the Music Director of the BSO in 1949, remaining in the position until 1962. Münch was also educated in Leipzig and had been Concertmaster of the Gewandhausorchester from 1926 to 1933. In addition, Boston’s Symphony Hall (1900) presents a structure inspired by the second Gewandhaus.
Based on this historic bond, and under the leadership of Andris Nelsons, Mark Volpe, Managing Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Gewandhausdirektor Andreas Schulz are planning a unique multi-dimensional partnership to explore and share the heritage and strengths of both ensembles.

Various aspects of this cooperation include:

Co-commissions and Educational Initiatives
The BSO/GWO Alliance, under the leadership of Andris Nelsons, will feature a series of co-commissions, with new works presented each year of the partnership, starting with a work by German composer Jörg Widmann to be presented in Boston and Leipzig in the 2017-18 concert season. Several European and American composers, representing a diversity of styles and generations, will also be commissioned for performance by both ensembles. The Alliance will also focus on some key educational initiatives including a program that will give Conducting Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center (BSO’s acclaimed summer music academy at its summer home in western Massachusetts) an opportunity to assist Andris Nelsons with his work with the Gewandhausorchester. BSO musicians will also take part in the GWO’s music education programs.

Programming Highlighting Each Orchestra’s Musical Heritage
During the 2017-2018 subscription season, the BSO will celebrate “Leipzig Week in Boston” at Symphony Hall and the GWO will celebrate “Boston Week in Leipzig” at the Gewandhaus, giving each orchestra an opportunity to focus on some of the repertory for which their partner organization is best known. Since its founding in 1743, the GWO has been associated with some of the greatest figures of music history, having given the premiere of works by Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Brahms; this tradition continued into the 20th century with scores by such significant composers as Henze, Kanscheli, and Rihm, among others. The BSO’s own compositional legacy is, likewise, without parallel, including some of the seminal scores of the last century from composers ranging from Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Bartok, to Messiaen, and Dutilleux and a myriad of Americans including, Copland, Bernstein, Sessions, Carter, and Harbison, among others. The BSO/GWO Alliance will provide an opportunity for each orchestra to program a selection of works by composers particularly associated with each of these great orchestras; this programming strand will also be highlighted in chamber music performances, lectures, panel discussions, and exhibits, with the goal of inspiring a new understanding of this great repertoire.

BSO Performing at Gewandhaus and GWO Peforming at Symphony Hall
One of the most exciting components of the Alliance will be a chance for the BSO to perform at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and the GWO to perform at Symphony Hall in Boston, giving each orchestra’s audience a chance to appreciate this new partnership first hand. The BSO/GWO Alliance will also explore musician exchanges between the two orchestras.
This segment of the cooperation will begin on May 5, 2016, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra will give its premiere guest performance in the Gewandhaus.

Christoph Wolff, Artistic Advisor
Christoph Wolff, Adams University Professor at Harvard University, Director of the Bach Archive from
2001 to 2013 in Leipzig, and author of numerous acclaimed texts on the history of music from the 15th and 20th centuries, will serve as an artistic advisor to the BSO/GWO Alliance (please see bio below). Further details about the programs of the BSO/GWO Alliance will be announced at a later date.

Quote by Andris Nelsons
“I am thrilled to accept the appointment of Gewandhauskapellmeister alongside my music directorship with the remarkable Boston Symphony Orchestra,” said Andris Nelsons. “It is also an immense privilege to be partnering these two world class institutions—each with their own deeply rich musical heritage — and to be leading them in an innovative and forward-thinking alliance spanning two continents. This wonderful new alliance between the BSO and GWO will give us a unique opportunity to explore each of these orchestra’s great music traditions, as well as create exciting and meaningful new experiences for our audiences at home and around the world. We are very much looking forward to the musical journey that lies ahead.”

Orchestras – well prepared for the future?

Falling tax revenues, budget cuts, but also demographic developments continue to affect public spending on culture, worldwide especially in Germany, the UK and many other European states as well as down under. Public subsided theatres and orchestras have to prepare for change: to create a unique profile, connect with local and regional communities, communicate the added economic value of a vibrant cultural scene and develop new, younger audiences. A survey among cultural organisations conducted by the German Zentrum für Kulturforschung (ZfKf, Centre for Cultural Research) in 2009 showed that outreach programmes among orchestras and performing arts venues have become widespread. Most focus on students in secondary education as the common target audience. It also found that educationally disadvantaged senior citizens, young children and immigrant audiences are clearly underrepresented. Yet approaches to validate cultural organisations through claims that they produce external economic or social benefits do have their pitfalls.

Such claims are nearly impossible to corroborate and put culture in competition with other activities. Instead, culture should follow its own logic and emphasize its inherent, non-economic value. In Germany e new study points out that regions who benefited from princely patronage of opera houses as far back as the 18th century show a markedly higher concentration of members of the ‘creative class’ (Richard Florida), who in turn stimulate local economic activity. Therefore one can argue for the public support of cultural activities.
As directors of man professional ensembles point out that tight staff rosters can be used as arguments in political debate, yet too much success can also tempt policy-makers to reduce funding. Political debate is also influenced by public support (or the lack thereof). The Internet can help to bring transparency to such discussions as online forums allow for wide and open participation. At the same time, however, there is a warnings of populist or simplistic rhetorics, often typical for online debates.