We’ve all heard plenty about the two speed economy in Australia lately, so its no real surprise that the WA and Queensland orchestras both showed a significant improvement in their funding positions in their 2011 annual reports, both having secured solid increases in their sponsorships. However, the disappointing thing about all of them (with the exception of Sydney) is that ticket sales have continued their years-long trend of flatlining. Some, like the QSO, have evidently worked hard at converting single ticket sales into subscription sales – this strategy may have been successful, but ultimately their ticket sales are the lowest they’ve been for many years, although the Queensland floods of early 2011 would have had an impact.
The relative success of the Sydney Symphony raises the obvious question about what they are doing to keep their ticket sales growing and their reliance on government grants falling. There is no doubt that they have a bit of an edge in that they’re able to trot out names like Lang Lang (2011) and Anne Sophie Mutter (2012) for Sydney-only performances, but in addition to that you have to wonder if their insistence on playing Australia’s safest repertoire is yielding dividends. A glance at their 2011 program shows a preponderance of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Rachmaninoff, and ultimately a repertoire safety index score of just 4.5 – way below the Australian average for that year of 6.5, and miles below the leaders ACO (9.9) and ASO (7.5). Programming of works by living composers (8%) and Australian composers (6%) is similarly well below the national average. Other details of the 2011 programs can be found here (2012 is here).
I guess it’s self evident that programing popular works by popular composers is likely to lead to an increase in ticket sale because they are, well, popular. So here’s your proof.