We’re all concerned, I’m sure, about the impact of the economy on classical music organizations.
But here’s something to look for very soon. Large classical music institutions are finishing their subscription campaigns. They’re trying to get new people to subscribe, and, above all, they’re trying to get current subscribers to renew their subscriptions.
Normally this is more or less routine. Most existing subscribers renew. Yes, there’s been a falloff in subscriptions over many years, and that appears to be a long-term trend, which shows no sign of reversing. But still — even though marketing people at these institutions work hard on subscription campaigns — renewals are, in the larger scheme of things, relatively routine.
But maybe not this year! From what I hear, single-ticket sales have been surprisingly strong during the current season, despite the economy. And subscribers bought their tickets before the economy collapsed, so they’re still showing up. Attendance, therefore, is remaining at whatever level it was at before the economy got into trouble. (My impression here is based on anecdotal data. If I’m wrong, please correct me!)
Subscriptions for next year, though, could spell trouble. Will people renew? Maybe not, or, more precisely, maybe not in the numbers seen in previous years. Maybe some notable percentage of subscribers — some of whom may even have lost their jobs — will look at their budgets, and say, “No, not this time.”
Anecdotal data once again: preliminary indications are that subscription sales are falling. Maybe not by any overwhelming percentage, but even a 5% falloff can mean a significant hit to the bottom line.
So this is data we ought to be looking for. When the first round of the subscription campaign is over (organizations may launch other campaigns later on), how will the numbers look. Memo to my brothers and sisters in the music writing biz: Go right to your local orchestra, opera company, and presenting group. Go to any chamber music institutions that sell subscriptions. And ask all these people when their current subscription campaign will end, and, when it ends, ask them for some numbers.
Don’t let them hide the figures, or stonewall. If they do those things, tell the world that they’re doing it. We all have a right to know how the classical music business is doing. It’s our music, too.