It’s been a challenging few years for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. With a 15% drop in attendance, a 1.2 million dollar deficit from last year (and $800,000 the year before) the stakes are high.
The TSO isn’t the only one struggling in Toronto. Despite spinning it otherwise, the Canadian Opera Company announced at their Annual General Meeting last month a dismal financial outlook. They did their best to focus on the positives of an average 4% attendance growth, but the fact was overall ticket sales were down, along with subscriptions and tickets sales to those under 30 (the most important).
While many arts presenters react to declines with heavy cuts to programming and staff, to its credit, the TSO responded by evolving. This was seen over an extraordinarily active year for the TSO, which also marked Peter Oundjian’s 10th season as Music Director.
This summer, the Orchestra announced a multi-disc agreement with Chandos Records and enjoyed a profitable European Tour in August. They also landed a new C.E.O. – one of the best in the business – ex-Banff impresario Jeff Melanson. Though these changes would not have affected the financials for this year’s Annual Report (as their fiscal year ends in March), it shows the ship is pointed in the right direction.
So this year was a test of sorts – with the burning question: can they turn it around?
It seems the answer is an emphatic “yes”.
On Thursday, November 27, 2014 – At TSO’s Annual General Meeting, Christopher Hodgson, Chair of the TSO Board of Directors stated the TSO is now in the black, with money to spare. Total revenue is up by just over $660K.
“The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s 2013/2014 season was a great success – both artistically and financially,” Hodgson said. “In 2012/2013, the TSO increased annual funding for operations by $1 million. Not only was that level of funding exceeded in 2013/2014, but by year-end, the organization had raised an additional $1.5 million in support of the Orchestra’s August 2014 European Tour, the first overseas tour in 14 years.”
The TSO’s operating expenses for the 2013/2014 season were $23,717,860 with revenues of $23,940,189, resulting in a modest surplus of $222,329. The success was due in part to fundraising revenues that increased $687,723 over fiscal 2013.
Despite a decrease in government grants and in foundation transfers over 2012-13, ticket sales were up by $400,000 at 37% of total income. Fundraising and special events increased by 500% and represented 28% of income, government operating grants represented 22%, gifts from the Toronto Symphony Foundation represented 9%, and touring and other sources accounted for the remaining 4%.
Over the 2013/2014 season, the TSO presented 132 performances (two more than last year), with a total attendance of 257,108. Yet they managed to cut production costs down by $550,000 and marketing costs by $186,000. And although there was a marked increase in fundraising costs, this paid off in spades through revenue.
TSO President & C.E.O. Jeff Melanson stated “The TSO has a tremendous impact on our community, with tens of thousands of people of all ages being enriched by live orchestral performances each year. This community connects with us as committed subscribers, curious single-ticket buyers, school groups, visitors to Toronto, and devoted patrons and supporters. The future is bright for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. We are an organization strong in people – musicians, staff, and volunteers – with a surplus of ideas and enthusiasm. We are an innovative and dynamic orchestra in one of the world’s great cities. The possibilities are many, and we have exciting days ahead.”
This is good news, not only for the TSO, but for the city of Toronto.