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.
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: