Los Angeles Mayor wants more arts, less subsidy

Los Angeles Mayor wants more arts, less subsidy


norman lebrecht

January 15, 2014

Some very odd statements from  Mayor Eric Garcetti.

‘Los Angeles can do a better job promoting the arts than by subsidizing them,’ he said. Followed by: ‘We have a tremendous amount of wealth in the city that’s waiting to be asked in the right way.’ Hmmm…

City spending on arts, Mike Boehm points out, is currently $8.96 million a year, down 38.5% in real terms over the past decade.

Slipped Disc will be there next month. Happy to help change the Mayor’s pre-sets.



  • A paultry anmount for a city of it’s size! The LA arts scene is magnificent, for those who can pay! For the rest it’s cable TV!

  • Maestro says:

    Mayor Garcetti and the entire Los Angeles City Council are collectively STUPID, and have their collective heads up their A*S! Reduction is arts funding will NOT do anything but work to degrade the current level of the arts city AND region wide. Fortunately, arts funding is NOT the sole domain of the City of Los Angeles, but is also the domain of Los Angeles County. As such, only time will tell if there is any real significant impact as a result of Mayor Garcetti’s decision.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Not “odd,” since Eric Gracetti is an American politician. Subsidizing arts from taxpayers is “Socialism” and “European.”

  • robcat2075 says:

    Basically, if you can’t tax them more find some other way to shake it out of them.

  • MWnyc says:

    L.A. Opera and the L.A. Philharmonic have been trying for years and years to tap into Hollywood movie industry money, and it seems like it never works. Those folks just don’t care.

    Seems to me that even the money in the (well-established) visual arts scene there comes from real estate, industrial or legal fortunes rather than from Hollywood.

    Theater seems to be the only art form able to tap into the wealth in Los Angeles that Mayor Garcetti is presumably referring to, and even that doesn’t get nearly as much as it might considering just how much money is sloshing around Hollywood.

  • Los Angeles has the 3rd largest metro GDP in the world, but ranks 180th for opera performances per year.

    • Anon says:

      So what? Maybe the people who live there don’t want opera as much as you think they ought to. There might be other forms of the arts, hobbies, entertainment, pastimes that they prefer to spend their time and cash on.

  • As Mike Boehm’s article points out, the city of Los Angeles spends 8.96 million dollars per year on culture. Berlin, by contrast spends 1.37 billion dollars (about 1 billion Euros.) See:


    On a per capita basis, LA spends 42cents while Berlin spends 391 dollars. That’s 930 times more per capita than Los Angeles.

    I think Mayor Garcetti and the LA city council members LA should always wear Mickey Mouse hats for all public appearances.

  • GW says:

    William, you are not making a sensible comparison. Arts funding in the US is largely private while private support for the arts in Germany is almost negligible, so you’re going to have to get a meaningful total of private and public monies to make a meaningful comparison, and one which includes the fact that tax deductions for contributions to non-profits exist at a level unknown in Europe (and thus constitute a real subsidy). Los Angeles has the best endowed private museum in the world (the Getty) and a half dozen other private museums of world caliber; the LAPO is one of the best endowed and best paid ensembles in the world, the LA Chamber Orchestra is a uniquely stable institution of the sort and there are numerous regional orchestras in the Southland region that are not reflected in City of LA spending. Opera is a late-comer to LA, came in with a questionable business and artistic plan but its performances complement those of the older nearby Long Beach Opera; in any case, opera is always going to be problematic in a town in which popular cinema is king, making 19th century opera stage magic look quaint. LA gets along without an NFL football team, it could survive well enough without the opera.

    • The small budgets and paltry seasons of the orchestras you mention, outside of the Philharmonic, are proof of how rinky-dink cultural funding is in LA — as is its ranking at 180th for opera performances per year. It’s easy to found an orchestra, but another matter to properly fund it. And all of this even though LA has the 3rd largest metro GDP in the world.

      As your post shows, Americans often list orchestras without noting their lack of funding to make excuses for themselves. Appearances without substance. In name only. Mickey Mouse.

      • Pete says:

        The classical music scene in southern California is vibrant and alive– many orchestras, chamber music, pops, theaters, a bunch of music schools, and opera. On any given weekend, there is more music than you could shake a stick at — even if the musicians are not employees of the state.

        • The metro population of LA is over 18 million. The offerings for a population that large are paltry. Hard numbers and international comparisons tell the truth. London, for example, has 5 full time symphony orchestras and two full time opera houses. In LA, by contrast, opera companies and orchestras are usually defined by slap dash productions in rental facilities with pick up musicians doing a gig. Most groups’ seasons and programming are extremely limited and the artists so poorly paid is borders on exploitation.

          • Anon says:

            True, but does London actually need five full time symphony orchestras plus all the others? The absence of packed houses every night suggests not.

          • Attendance for the London orchestras is good, especially at the Proms. See:


            According to an article on the BBC’s website on May 24, 2004 entitled “ London is ‘Classical Music Capitol’” the LSO sells 82% of its tickets. The orchestra’s CEO said they could reach 90%, but that they like to balance attendance figures with innovative works and younger soloists.

            Perhaps someone can offer more recent and comprehensive stats. I would like more up to date info.

          • Anon says:

            The Proms are an anomaly for general attendance. I don’t believe “gate receipts” are shared with orchestras anyway, so it’s irrelevant.

            Attendance for London orchestral concerts certainly isn’t poor, it is good I agree. But not so amazingly great as to justify five full-time symphony orchestras playing the same old repertoire, I fear.

      • John says:

        I’m curious, William. Where do you find statistics around which companies have the most or least opera performances?

  • Michael B. says:

    You have to understand the political realities at play in Los Angeles. Yes, 14 out of the 15 city council members are Democrats, but, in California, the Democrats receive their funding and support largely from two sources: public employee unions and the entertainment industry. Neither is particularly well-disposed to the arts or inclined to support arts funding.

    For the public employee unions, the majority of whose members are African-American or Latino, the arts are an elitist frill for affluent white people. Although the public employee unions are not overtly hostile to arts support, they have not made it a priority.

    The situation with regard to the entertainment industry is even more troubling. For most of the industry (there are a few well-publicized exceptions), the serious arts (real theater, classical music, opera, visual arts, literature) represent an economic competitor. Even worse, there is a mindset in the industry that people who begin to think for themselves and take an interest in the serious arts will stop consuming the mass-market, content-free, junk put out by the entertainment industry. In other words, if you are the sort of person who starts buying Beethoven CDs, you will largely stop listening to Miley Cyrus. For an industry that is increasingly based on everyone listening to or watching the same lowest-common-denominator stuff, and where a movie that takes in $40 million can be considered a flop because of insanely high production costs, that is a real threat to their business model. Given this attitude, it will be extremely difficult for any serious artistic enterprise to tap the huge amounts of money sloshing around the entertainment industry.

    Things were different 50 or so years ago when a substantial number of people who worked in the entertainment industry at the time were Central European refugees, mostly Jewish, who had a significant appreciation for high culture and when most movies were scored by real composers with a classical background, rather than using a mash-up of popular music as has become the norm. In those days, there was a real association between the entertainment industry and the serious arts in Los Angeles. Those people have long since passed away.

    • Excellent post. Even in Hollywood’s earliest days business interests crushed artistic aspirations. United Artists, founded in 1919, really was a group of film industry artists who joined forces to market their work and gain independence from the commercial studios. The members included D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. Their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. The company was eventually taken over by corporate interests.

      Today, Hollywood is not just content to crush competing art forms in America, they also target the European film industry and the subsidies it sometimes receives that allows it to create films with genuine artistic value. America will never reach its full cultural potential until the power of Hollywood is diminished.

  • ella k. says:

    …and when you’re here come to the library again with Deborah like last year. you two were having a laughing time and we were fall off our chairs.