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Australia’s premier orchestra is $1 million down

Sticky times for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which lost money on a China tour and recently cancelled a jaunt to Russia, Armenia and Germany because it couldn’t get a viable deal. Full financial details were disclosed today. A stay-home policy won’t work: isolation is the greatest cultural risk for ensembles on the fifth continent.



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  1. Mark Pemberton says:

    The fact that they made a surplus in this difficult climate is cause for celebration, surely?

    • Tomas2 says:

      I was actually shocked when I read the newspaper article. Their 2011 profit of $1.5m dropped to a 2012 profit of $450K. In the US, the headline would have been “Holy sh*t, orchestra makes surplus for second consecutive year.”

  2. Timon Wapenaar says:

    The sooner orchestra managers wrap their heads around the current global macroeconomic situation the better. Baumol’s cost disease is a factor, yes, but only in the “growth” based economy, with its “rational expectations”. By far the greater threat is the general disappearance of capital formation in the economy at large. Orchestra managers need to realise that the days of state/corporate funding are all but over. The current funding model may be feasible, in increasingly isolated cases, for another 10 – 15 years, and after that, it’s Mad Max time. There are two kinds of economist to whom orchestra managers can look for guidance: those who predicted the 2008 crisis, and those who didn’t. I would suggest the orchestra knocks on Prof. Steve Keen’s door at the University of Western Sydney, because he’s one of the few guys who was ahead of the 2008 curve, and if what he says about our current prospects is to be believed, there is some serious rethinking of the formulae to be done.

  3. Brendan Joyce says:

    Isolation is actually a cultural asset for those who live in Australia. You can live and work here without being as encumbered with tradition or imposed upon by hegemonic artistic attitudes. There is a lot of space for creativity and experiment. The main use for an orchestra from Australia to tour abroad, is to be taken seriously within Australia rather than needing some cultural input.

  4. What is your basis for implying that Australian cultural organizations are imperiled by virtue of their “isolation”? This rings a bit like the obsession of every organization to have a “global brand” even if that goal has nothing to do with the plain old business of being great at what they do.

  5. As someone who runs a small, un-funded chamber music group in Sydney I sympathise with the Sydney Symphony of which I am a subscriber. But we all need to cut our cloth to fit the economic situation. Nobody is saying “no tours” but that if major institutions wish to tour from Australia, someone or some entity(s) has to cover the cost. If nobody is willing to cover those costs then that in itself is a strong message.

    I do wish the SSO well…

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