Implementing a different revenue model: an orchestra case study

Implementing a different revenue model: an orchestra case study

By Bruce Coppock


Discover a radical new revenue model for orchestras, which challenges the traditional 'three legged stool' revenue model and outlines a significantly different system operated by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

The thirst in our field for new thinking about orchestra finances was powerfully evident at the League's National Conference last June, when approximately 350 people attended a joint presentation by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) with business-strategy guru Paul Boulian. For three and a half hours, people engaged deeply in the subject of the session, deliberately and provocatively entitled 'A Radical New Revenue Model for Orchestras'.

Although this article expands that material and puts it expressly through the unique lens of the SPCO, I would like at the outset to acknowledge the contributions my colleagues PSO President and CEO Larry Tamburri and Paul Boulian both made in stimulating our thinking in St Paul. We are grateful to them both.

It was my good fortune to be engaged in 1999 as president and managing director of the SPCO, and to be challenged by its board of directors to 'take it to the highest level'. In response, we have vigorously strived for innovation and creativity on and off stage. A new artistic leadership model instituted in 2004-05, an aggressive decentralisation of concerts into eight neighbourhood venues, powerful roles for SPCO musicians in the artistic life of the orchestra, a labor contract driven by the SPCO's artistic and financial imperatives, and a tremendous investment in defining the SPCOs artistic profile all combined to generate a true revitilisation of the orchestra. We have broken with industry traditions in governance and management by enlisting musicians, the full board and senior staff in every major policy initiative, from strategic planning to community engagement and by blurring the lines of demarcation among board, musicians, and management.

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Resource type: | Published: 2013