Fiscal crisis affecting traditional business models of all the arts

Posted on: April 29, 2011

In Friday’s (4/29) Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout writes, “Kansas City’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival says that unless it manages to raise $100,000 by next week, the company’s production of ‘Macbeth’ will be cancelled. Not so long ago, that would have been fairly big theater news. Now it’s just a drop in the bottomless bucket of high-culture fiscal crisis. … On April 4, the Syracuse Symphony ‘suspended’ operations after its musicians refused to accept a $1.3 million pay cut. On April 7, the New York City Opera revealed that it was suspending plans to announce its 2011-12 season, pending the outcome of a top-to-bottom review of the company’s finances that is expected to lead to drastic budget cuts. … What’s the problem? … When money is tight and ticket prices keep climbing, playgoers and opera buffs will respond by staying home. Moreover, the high-culture business models don’t work anymore. In particular, the subscription-based model that kept opera and theater companies and symphony orchestras afloat throughout the 20th century are no longer viable now that younger Americans are unwilling to commit in advance to attending future performances … Everybody in the culture business, union leaders included, has been guilty of chronic myopia when it comes to outmoded business models. The point is that there is no longer any alternative to root-and-branch fiscal reform.”

Posted April 29, 2011