I'd like to come to your concert. Will you give me complementary tickets?
This video, prepared by American vocal ensemble Octarium, is very preachy -- but also very true. I'm posting it to try to atone for the complementary tickets I get to concerts.
I contacted the Toronto Symphony and Canadian Opera Company several weeks to ask if they would divulge how much it actually costs to put on an opera, or a symphony concert. I thought it would be a great start to showing people how big the gap is between ticket prices and the actual cost of putting on performances.
Unfortunately, neither organization even bothered to reply to my request.
I received this email response from Toronto Symphony spokesperson Laura Quinn:
To your point about the cost of putting on a concert – it’s difficult to pin down. Costs of guest artists vary, the number of musicians on stage is different for each orchestration, and different production needs have different costs. The TSO also does so much more than presenting the public concerts that audiences see on stage – from commissioning new works, to the organization’s extensive education outreach programmes, which include a Northern Residency, 3 weeks of student concerts, in-school activities and a youth orchestra – all of these things are under the mandate and budget of the TSO.
To your initial question about how presenting a symphony is made possible by a combination of ticket sales, donations and grants, our Annual General Meeting media release outlines the organizations revenues for the 09.10 season: “For the 2009.2010 season, earned revenue including ticket sales, education and other revenue represented 47% of revenue; fundraising represented 22%; government operating grants accounted for 23%; and gifts from the Toronto Symphony Foundation and the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee accounted for 8% of revenue.”
It is very difficult to show what a TSO concert is actually worth in material terms, though our AGM and its accompanying materials aim to explain the financial activity of the TSO. What’s also difficult to show is what the TSO is worth in qualitative terms, like culture, emotion and aesthetics...
AND this response from Canadian Opera Company spokesperson Claudine Domingue:
Describing the budget for a “typical” opera is an extremely hard. Operas come in all sizes and shapes and many, many factors contribute to that particular production’s budget For example: orchestra, chorus and cast sizes vary dramatically; whether the production is a new one that the COC is building from scratch or co-producing with another company (thereby reducing the initial cost), or even renting from elsewhere (possibly reducing costs again); and, the relative size of an opera – length, design requirements, etc. (for example, generally a Wagner opera is most expensive to produce than an opera by Mozart – but even that may not always be true). In short each production is completely different. And, similar other arts organizations, the COC does not simply produce a mainstage season – we also present 75-80 free concerts per year, run over 20 education and outreach programs for all ages, and we run the oldest and most respected opera training program in the country, the Ensemble Studio. All these and more are encompassed within our annual budget.
Overall, the Canadian Opera Company’s operating revenues (as outlined in our 2009/10 Annual Report available online,http://www.coc.ca/ExploreAndLearn/NewToOpera/OnlineLearningCentre/Publications.aspx, are fairly consistent year over year: 41% come from box office and ticket sales, 28% from fundraising, 19% from government grants, and 12% from other sources. The Report outlines the range and depth of our activities as a whole company.
Opera’s “worth”, as anyone who has ever attended one will tell you, is entirely subjective and personal, however, the COC presents opera at the highest possible level, and that, surely, is worth a lot.