Orchestras Rely More on Contributed Than Earned Income, Study Finds

Over the past decade, U.S. orchestras have relied more on philanthropic support than on ticket sales for their income, a report from the League of American Orchestras finds.

According to the report, Orchestra Facts: 2006-2014 (30 pages, PDF), 40 percent of the total income in 2014 of the sixty-five member orchestras in the study, or some $520 million, was classified as earned income, with three-quarters of that from performance and related activities; 43 percent, or $569 million, from contributed income; and 17 percent, or $229 million, from investment income. While the field has largely recovered from the Great Recession, growth in earned income between 2010 and 2014 fell 1 percent short of inflation, while in 2013 revenue from single-ticket and group sales exceeded subscription revenues for the first time. At the same time, the 6 percent rise in revenue from single-ticket and group sales between 2010 and 2014 did not make up for the 13 percent drop in subscription revenue during that period, in part because spending per subscriber fel even as the number of households with subscriptions grew.

The report found that contributed income for the league’s member orchestras remained relatively steady, and in 2014 was up some 13 percent over 2006 levels, with 35 percent of that coming from individuals, 13 percent from foundations, 11 percent from trustees, and 7 percent from government. Gifts from trustees (up 45 percent) and foundations (up 13 percent) also outpaced inflation, while gifts from non-trustee individuals — 75 percent of which were under $250 — held steady at 2 percent above inflation. The study also found that the league’s member orchestras managed to contain growth in expenses during the recession, and that the share reporting deficits in unrestricted net assets fell from 40 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2014.

In 2014, 1,224 orchestras collectively contributed $1.8 billion to the national economy and attracted an audience of nearly 25 million people. "Orchestra Facts: 2006-2014 reveals a remarkable breadth of activity and commitment of resources on the part of orchestras in service to their communities," said League of American Orchestras president and CEO Jesse Rosen. "Our first-ever longitudinal study provides an authoritative fact base for analyzing orchestras’ finances and operations, as well as new metrics for understanding orchestras’ education and community engagement activity."

"Orchestra Facts: 2006-2014." League of American Orchestras Press Release 11/15/2016. "Orchestra Facts: 2006-2014." League of American Orchestras Report 11/15/2016.