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.

Orchestras on the offensive: More than audience development!

In a rapidly and profoundly changing environment it is essential to make orchestras ‘future-proof’. Issues such as audience development, education and outreach programmes, or corporate identity have been high on the list of priorities for some time. Cultural organizations have to embrace change and see its potentials, to use technological tools and be open for unorthodox ideas.

Orchestras: relevant to kids & people & coummunity

Orchestras: relevant to kids & people & coummunity

Orchestras should think on their ‘dramaturgy’: an integrated approach involving all departments of his house – artistic management, media and PR, marketing, fundraising – to address the question: how can classical music remain relevant and demonstrate this relevance? In particular the internet has accelerated processes of cultural learning and un-learning. For classical music, this is both a challenge and a chance.

Orchestras have to offer a broad range of programmes aimed at reaching a diverse range of audiences, diverse target groups through a mix of formats, concepts and locations that reflect the social, cultural and economic heterogeneity of their home city. All, however, are held together by a commitment to the highest artistic standards.

Orchestras have to focus strongly on their youth outreach programme. They should encompass a broad and varied range of activities both in-house and outside: school sponsorships, radio features, participatory concerts. The great importance attached to these activities should be also demonstrated by the fact that despite tight budgets there are several full-time positions necessary to organize the outreach programme. Youth outreach is so important. Therefor orchestras might offer soecial music subscriptions for pre-school children.

Beside the educational and outreach business orchestras must also go for high-impact mass events, staging a partially free open-air performance of operas as well as a ‘Last Night of the Proms’, which attracts several thousand live listeners and more on the radio and/or online – music as an emotional spectacle for the people. Another good tool is the ‘music van’, taking the orchestra on tour to schools, social services, zoos, parks or the mountains, emulating the travelling musicians of old.

New Study: Quality Parameters For Education Projects

Music education has become an integral part of the European and International concert scene. Staged concerts for children, workshop series with musicians and collaborations sponsored by educational institutions are well established forms in orchestras and concert halls. They signal the increasing ambition of arts administrators and cultural institutions to take responsibility for the musical education of children and adolescents.

Quality in music education - evaluate yourself

The two foundations Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg and Robert Bosch Stiftung jointly initiated a new study to collect and analyse the quality of music education offered by orchestras and concert organisers. The aim was to identify internationally comparable quality criteria and quality attributes and to develop recommendations to support education managers and music educators when reflecting about their work. The study also wanted to contribute to improving the quality of music education projects and the discussions about it.

Read more