When it was realized years ago that a $2.5 million to $3 million deficit for the St. Louis Symphony wasn’t going away by itself, a decision was made to embrace it in a most creative and energizing way. A donor was found who would make up the difference for the next few years, but, on the books and in PR, the deficit still showed. The rational, gradual timeline for eliminating this deficit, by increasing revenue and holding costs, went forward without the waves of panic so prevalent in many orchestral managements. Through it all, the deficit and its timeline were openly acknowledged, giving an impetus to the entire operation which has seemed to work in the most amazing way.
By both getting people accustomed to a deficit and staying positive about growth, President and CEO Fred Bronstein has kept the goodwill of donors, promoted an excitement about the orchestra, and placed new audience members in seats by the thousands.
Here are some numbers from the St. Louis Business Journal (Kelsey Volkmann, Web Editor):
- Fiscal 2011 ticket revenue rising 1.5% to $6.56 million
- Fiscal 2011 contributed revenue increasing nearly 8% to $9.16 million
- Endowment $126 million, up $10 million from fiscal 2010
- Total three-year ticket revenue up 36%, from $4.84 million to $6.56 million
- Increase of 17% over 3 years in seats sold, from 165,865 to 194,700
- 12% increase in per-concert average attendance, from 1,522 to 1,708
- Since 2008, annual contributed operating revenue up 18%
- Over 22,000 added to Symphony’s audience base
These numbers show that the St. Louis Symphony’s “Building Our Business” initiative, which was launched in 2008, is gaining traction and producing positive results even in precarious economic times. All without panic.