If the Philadelphia Orchestra really does declare bankruptcy this weekend, as news stories suggest (here and here) — that’s huge. People in the orchestra world, speaking privately, have been wondering which large orchestra might be the first to crash, with Philadelphia normally mentioned as a likely candidate.
The orchestra management says (according to the New York Times) that “The orchestra has more than $46 million in costs, but our revenues are only a little more than $31 million.” I assume they mean annual costs and revenues. You can blame the management, if you like, and say they should have gotten more income, from all the usual sources (ticket sales, donations, grants). But you should also understand that these figures aren’t static. They’re a moving target. The pressures on them get worse every year. Orchestras — speaking very generally here — face a ghastly spiral, as declining revenues (over many years) meet rising expenses. Of course some orchestras do better than others, but they’re all feeling this pressure.
Hence the need for a new financial model, as I said in my last post. Philadelphia, if they do declare bankruptcy, is proving it. Especially since behind the financial pressures lies a loss of interest in mainstream classical music, which is happening culture-wide.
This bankruptcy is big, big news.