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THE SCOOP | TSO Announce Modest 2014-15 Annual Surplus

By Michael Vincent on November 23, 2015

Jeff Melanson, CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Photo: Rick Madonik
Jeff Melanson, CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Photo: Rick Madonik

Announced today at the TSO’s annual general meeting, Christopher Hodgson, Chair of the TSO Board of Directors, reported an in-year surplus of $135,781. This marks the second consecutive year the TSO have managed to balance the books while reporting growth in the process.

“For the second consecutive year, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra ended its season on a high note in all possible regards,” Hodgson said. “Without the generous support of patrons, individual donors, foundations, corporate sponsors, and the government, the TSO would simply not be able to achieve its goals.”

The good news reflects well on new CEO Jeff Melanson, who recently celebrated his first year with the TSO on November 1st.

In a statement, Melanson said this year was about establishing a new set of strategic goals, developed around the idea that over time, the TSO might become the world’s most innovative orchestra. It’s a bold move, and like any company that intends on competing with the growing variety of options available to audiences in the entertainment industry, the TSO seem intent upon becoming a market leader.

The problem is that change can scare away the loyal base support from patrons which, let’s face it, aren’t that keen on radical departures.

Melanson has kept innovation fairly balanced by incorporating a healthy mixture of initiatives. These include six world premières – five Canadian and one North American. They continued to develop the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO), which will now be offered tuition-free. The New Creations Festival upped its profile significantly with the Canadian première of one of the most talked about operas in the world: “Written on Skin” featuring local soprano and rising star, Barbara Hannigan.

The TSO has been reaching out to other media outlets such as ZoomerMedia, which has resulted in a new weekly radio show, Sunday Night with the TSO. They also did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) for the first time in January 2015.

Other collaborations included concerts with the Second City comedy theatre and Culture Days’ fifth anniversary with Conduct Us!, and presentations such as “Pianos in the City” as part of the RBC Piano Extravaganza. They also performed the national anthem at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Pan Am Games.

All said, these innovations appear to have proved successful and left them with an increase in board donations.

In addition, revenue from ticket sales was up $167,930.

The earned revenue from fundraising and special events represented 36% of total revenue, ticket sales represented 32%, government operating grants represented 19%, the distribution from the Toronto Symphony Foundation represented 8%, and other sources accounted for 5%.

One minor concern, however, is bank debt, which rose from $5.8 million in 2014 to $7.3 million in 2015. Considering low-interest rates, they may be just waiting until rates start to rise before paying it down. Then there is the not so minor matter of its previous deficit which is now nearing $12 million. It’s a hard hole to dig out of.

The TSO’s European tour was a major expense for the orchestra at the start of the 2015 fiscal year, but looks to have been successful from a philanthropic and marketing perspective. The report did not offer financial data with regards to revenue versus expenses  on the project specifically, and how cost effective it was. Either way it seems the TSO view the tour as an investment on the orchestra’s reputation.

Looking ahead it will be interesting to see if the TSO can maintain revenue levels in 2016. With relatively flat expenditures, this next year may demonstrate an even stronger showing for the TSO.

While this year’s AGM undoubtedly reflects well on Jeff Melanson, we will have to wait for 2016, which will represent his first full fiscal year and the first year in which we will be able to see the impact of his strategic direction.

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Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is Publisher of Ludwig Van. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
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