Saturday, April 30, 2011

2010 Annual Reporting Season

A bunch of 2010 Annual Reports have turned up on various orchestral websites.  Preliminary observations as follows:

  • Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
  • A reasonable pick up in ticket sales (8%) over 2009
  • Alas these gains dwarfed by a big loss of sponsorship/donation income (down over 30% on 2009) – this apparently relates largely to the cancellation (owing to weather) of one of their outdoor community events
  • Tight cost control ensured an operating surplus, with total income growing at 0.9% but total expenses at just 0.8%
  • Grant income as a % of total income edged up to 62% (from 60%)
  • Reserves to total expenses at 22%, compared with the target of 20%
  • Further (relatively small) losses on their portfolio of equities…more on this later
  • Queensland Symphony Orchestra
  • Massive drop in ticket revenue (25%) was just about offset by a big increase in sponsorships/donations, but it does beg the question as to why ticket sales fell so much
  • Overall income fell 1.2% but expenses rose 0.6%
  • Grant funding as a % of total funding rose to 77% (from 76%)
  • Like everyone else, a reserves to operating expense ratio of 20% is targeted, but QSO falls well short at 8% (up from 5% the previous year)
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra
  • 227,758 people attended 119 performances across 77 programs
  • a small loss for the year, up from a big loss in ‘09
  • a big boost (14%) in their revenue from ticket sales
  • sponsorships and donations were down a bit (12% of total funding, down from 14%) – an ominous sign in Australia’s financial markets heartland
  • a solid increase in total revenues (8.5%) relative to cost increases (5.7%)
  • decreased reliance on grant funding – now just 37% of total funding (see the chart below)   
  • reserves relative to operating costs (23%) well above the 20% Australia Council floor
  • Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
  • Ticket sales fell 11% on the year, while sponsorships and donations also saw a smallish (3%) decline
  • Overall income grew by 2% but expenses fell by 0.6%
  • Reliance on grant funding was up 1% to 76%
  • A healthy reserves position got even healthier – now 41% of operating expenses
  • West Australian Symphony Orchestra
  • Ticket sales up slightly (1%) but a big fall (10%) in sponsorships (what happened to the mining boom?) led to an overall decline in total income of 2.3%
  • A comparable (2%) cut in total expenses was engineered by slashing the marketing budget
  • Reliance on grant funding ticked up a little, but is still a relatively low 53%
  • Reserves remain (at 16%) under the target ratio of 20%

Sunday, April 10, 2011

ACO Funding – what’s the secret?

As this chart shows, the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s funding model leaves every other orchestra in this part of the world in the shade:

As a small orchestra their costs are obviously much lower than many others (for example, in 2009 ACO’s total expenses were half Melbourne’s and a third of the SSO’s), so their need for grants is somewhat lower, but the real story is their success in generating ticket sales (2009: almost as much as Melbourne, and almost half of Sydney’s sales) and sponsorships.  In regard to the latter, 2009 saw the ACO raise an impressive $4.6m, which was more than Sydney managed ($4.4m) and three times Melbourne’s effort ($1.4m – a fairly indifferent effort considering the range of big corporates headquartered there, along with plenty of well-to-do Melbourne families).

How does the ACO pull all this together?  A great orchestra, a powerful board and a charismatic artistic director all contribute no doubt.  As I’ve noted before, this also needs to be put in the context of a significantly more adventurous repertoire than the other orchestras hereabouts.

image The ACO also boasts a healthy proportion of work written by living composers, although one area where they aren’t quite up to scratch is the Australian composer component of their repertoire, which is slightly below the average: