With the hit of the recession, donations to orchestras and symphonies took a nose dive.
The Philedelphia Orchestra declared bankcrupty. The Honolulu Symphony, Syracuse Symphony, and Louisville Orchestra folded. The Dallas Symphony, The San Francisco Opera, and The Colorado Symphony are all having massivie financial problems.
But it's not like people aren't going to concerts anymore. Worldwide, as of 2010 the value of the music industry was $168 billion dollars, up $32 billion from 2005. I consistently blow a hole in my monthly budget with concert tickets and I have no intention of changing this. If you're a music junkie I'm guessing you can say the same as well.
The real issue isn't the lack of financing for orchestras, it's the disconnect between concert-goers and the symphony business.
When is the last time you went to a classical concert?
When are you planning to go next?
Personally, I adore string quartets. I'm such a sucker for cellos that I almost always immediately like a band with one. But I don't have any desire to hear anything from the Dallas Symphony. The "Symphony Experience" of being a fanicly dressed statue has no appeal to me. It's a crappy school field trip that costs up to six times the price of a normal concert ticket. As callous as it may be to say this, should the organization fold I'd feel only a slight "meh".
It's surprising how artists, who live off of their creativity, can be too stubborn to change their presentation when it's clear the market isn't interested in their current offerings.
In times of crisis, it's the artists who unleash their creativity on their business who prosper.
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment realized the conventions of classical concerts weren't attractive to their fans, so they went on a pub crawl.
Maggie Faultless, joint leader of the orchestra, elaborates on their Night Shift concert series:
...I'd like to think that some people will feel that we have broken down some conventions and after this they might like to try other performances of classical music, but this isn't about enticing people into the concert-hall to hear an 80-piece OAE in concert, this is about empowerment. Audiences want to have a bit more ownership of what they're listening to. The best performances involve a three-way relationship - the music (ie what's on the page) the audience and the performers. The performers react not only to the written notes but to each other and most importantly, to the audience. But all too often in today's concerts, the third part of that equation is forgotten. Often when we're performing you can't even see beyond the first couple of rows, let alone to the back of a thousand-seat hall.This idea is utterly fantastic. If the Dallas Symphony were to pull off something like this I'd be all over it.
Other ideas that have sprung up from clever musicians are lie-down concerts of Bach (bring a bean bag!), drive-by Handel, and my favorite, baby-sitting for concert attendees. These are more than just "stunts" to be discarded, they're a targeted response to customers' needs.
Creativity isn't just for your art, it's for your business as well.
Are you making it easier or harder for your customers to throw dollars at you?