Syracuse SymphonyThe Syracuse Symphony Orchestra’s board voted to suspend the rest of their 50th anniversary concert season due to a shortage of funds. They are emphasizing that this is a suspension and not a complete closure.

This decision was preceded by cost reductions across the board from layoffs to salary decreases. As an example their conductor accepted a 14% decrease.The musicians took salary decreases but the board wanted more – to which they declined. It’s actually a bit more complicated than just salary decreases. There are issues such as the mix of full time vs. contract players, number of services etc.

What has actually hurt the most is that both government and corporate funding has seriously declined since the beginning of the great recession.

Only about a third of the orchestra’s revenue is from ticket sales. Attendance this year was a quarter of what it was only 3 years ago. To counter this the board posted things like this to their website:

“With our new prices, 65% of our tickets will be $25 or lower for most concerts.”

So the way to increase revenue is to decrease revenue.  It looks like the board was thinking that lower prices would get more seats filled. I wonder if they ever considered their programming to be a problem? One thing I’m sure will come back to bite them is that they are not refunding any tickets. But then again, how could they?

In an article from the local Syracuse newspaper, the Post-Standard you can read many details on the back and forth in the negotiations. But to me what was most enlightening were the comments to this article. In particular I was stunned at the ignorant rage of several commenters railing against “elitist” organizations such as an orchestra.