Orch posts record attendance – and sudden deficit

Followers of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra are entitled to feel confused.

Last season it increased box-office sales and made internal economies, cutting ten admin jobs, yet still wound up with a A$577,653 deficit.

The orch has a new Canadian chief exec coming in – Sophie Galaise, lately of the Brisbane Symph.

Her predecessors have gone on from Melbourne to run the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orch.

Sophie will need to find a new formula. Details here.


sophie galaise

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  • When will people get used to the idea that it’s practically impossible to run a full time symphony orchestra and make money? Not a single major UK symphony orchestra could survive without pubic subsidy; same goes in most other countries. The economics of having 80 musicians on payroll (to say nothing of conductors and soloists who have negligible box office appeal but whose fees can wipe out up to 50% of the ticket income on a given concert) vs what the pubic is willing (or able) to pay to hear live music simply do not stack up. You can cut, cut, cut and sell sell, sell, and you’re still more likely to lose money than not. Surely everyone knows this by now?

    • The newspaper report mentions that funding hasn’t kept pace with inflation.

      It’s a shame, because the orchestra is doing very well. They did a good Prom last year under Andrew Davis, and recent recordings have been well reviewed. I hope it gets the local and national support it deserves.

    • I understand one slip-up typo–though an embarrassing one, switching “pubic”for ‘public’–but twice seems to be the beginning of a pattern. Is there something subliminal you’re trying to say?

  • “The MSO has increasingly broadened its repertoire to include special hybrid events such as this year’s performance with Detroit house DJ’s Jeff Mills and Derrick May and the recent concert with Australian hip hop act Hilltop Hoods. These larger, more commercial offerings have previously been among their most popular: in 2014, their performances of Lord of the Rings, Dr Who and with singer Ben Folds were among their top 10 best-selling events, ever.”

    Attendance up with programming like this?
    What does this say about musical taste down under?
    My heart bleeds for the serious musicians in the MSO.

  • One question I don’t see answered here yet which is not merely germane but central to the story: is their deficit larger, smaller on the same since before the improved attendance and administrative economy?

  • Box office can never be enough to guarantee financial prosperity. If government support is reduced only private sponsorship will cover the gap. Administration – especially the CEO – has to work hard to garnish the sponsors. The MSO admits it had a year with just an Acting CEO. The financial outcome is perhaps not unexpected.

    • But city and government support actually rose in 2015! The Annual Report makes clear it is private donations that fell markedly during the year. A quick glance through that Report appears to throw up another issue that might be worthy of discussion and I quote –

      i) Donations
      Donations received from Directors and director-related entities in 2015 were $591,990 (2014: $1,054,599). Table purchases and auction proceeds from Directors and director- related entities at the Company’s annual gala in 2015 were $46,800 (2014: $17,600).
      ii) Sponsorship
      Sponsorship from Director-related entities in 2015 was $121,516 (2014: $201,097).

      Whilst it is not always easy to draw conclusions from statements made in official Accounts and “director-related entities” can cover a multitude of possibilities, this does at the very least seem to suggest income from Directors and director-related sources actually fell by more than A$500,000 and accounts for most of the deficit. Merely out of curiosity, should the directors be pointing the finger more at themselves, I wonder?

  • The administrative redundancies have only happened in the past two months and therefore aren’t relevant to this result which is for 2015.

  • let’s not forget that this is a woman who also plunged the orchestre symphonique de québec in a serious financial crisis before moving to the other side of the planet

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