Orchestra sells 97% on modern music

Orchestra sells 97% on modern music


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2018

Annual results are in for the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

In the course of 2018, the orchestra played to 97% of hall capacity (1,700 seats). Its headliners were series of Witold Lutoslawski and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.

The Helsinki public seems to trust conductor Hannu Lintu to take them on adventures.



  • Pirkko says:

    It’s not only what they play, but how the play.

    • Zacharias Galaviz Guerra says:

      Quite right. I wonder, is the consumer at fault, or the orchestra and its leadership for the skew in content being produced? Not that Modern is undesirable, necessarily… but 97%? That’s a statistic we cannot ignore…

      • Meal says:

        The headline might have mislead you. It is not that the orchestra plays only (or even mainly) modern music (whatever this means). If you have look on their website you will see that they have a very typical mixture in their programming. E.g., on January 11 they play a premiere (Jukka Tiensuu: Trombone Concerto), Bartok Concerto and Haydn Symphony, one week later the play Mahler 2. Nevertheless, 97 % sold tickets is remarkable. In 2016 (don’t know the numbers for 2017) the Berliner Philharmoniker sold “only” 94 % of their tickets.

  • The View from America says:

    Looking at percentages alone can be very misleading.

    Of the 30 top orchestras in the United States, only three play in concert halls of a similar size to Lahti’s (Atlanta SO, Indianapolis SO, Kansas City SO).

    All of the others play in 2,000+ seat halls, including a few that are stratospheric (Los Angeles PO @ 3,200, Houston @ 2,900, Buffalo PO @ 2,850, Utah SO @ 2,800, Portland SO @ 2,775).

    Lahti’s 97% figure drops to 67% when calculated against the USA Top 30 average seat figure of 2,445.

    • Pirkko says:

      What has Lahti got to do with this?
      The orchestra in question is the FRSO, who play in Helsinki. Every other week they play their programme twice, which means they sell around 3,300 every other week.

    • Stats Freak says:

      Nevertheless it is appropriate to look at percentages (quoting n=capacity), one cannot simply apply average seat figure 2445 to any other place at random (that figure 67% is like comparing apples to oranges). 97% is certainly an impressive figure for a population as small as Finlands’. If the figure was further ‘weighted’ for country (city) population size then it would certainly dwarf any figures in the US.

    • Impro says:

      Why Lahti?

  • Rottweiler says:

    The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s home is NOT the beautiful Sibelius Hall in Lahti (seating capacity: 1250) but the 2011 completed Helsinki Music Centre (seating capacity: 1704). You also got it wrong with LA Phil. Their old “home” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is @ 3.200, whereas the capacity of its home since 2005 in Disney Hall is “only” @ 2.265. Figures as such should be absolutely correct before you even start verifying possible impacts on audience behavior etc. With regard to Finland it seems obvious that the “public investment” in music education over a period of many decades in a very refined and continuously ongoing way is paying off not only in an informed audience but finally in sales figures as well. It would be very interesting to see if the same results would appear if for instance Scotland (which has about the same population of 5.5 +/- million) would do the same for the next 60 years.

    • ” the “public investment” in music education over a period of many decades…”

      …has created a ticket buying audience for classical music that is less than1/10th of 1% of the population.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Proving that music can be saved if you program enough John Bortslap!

  • Peter Owen says:

    10 or so years ago I heard the FRSO under Lintu play an all 20th century programme in Helsinki – half Stravinsky, half Jouni Kaipainen including a world premiere of his and the place was packed including Leif Segerstam in the audience. I think this must reflect the importance Finns attach to music education plus the accessibility of most contemporary Finnish composers.