Orchestras warn of ‘double funding whammy’ as they perform more but earn less

Britain’s leading orchestras are reaching more people through concerts and youth engagement but are losing income on all fronts, a report warns today.

The State of Britain’s Orchestras in 2016 report reveals the phenomenal achievements of the nation’s leading orchestras as they delivered more than 4,000 concerts and reached almost 5 million attendees and 900,000 children and young people amidst a 5% drop in total income.

The report, commissioned by Association of British Orchestras (ABO), which will be launched at their annual conference, compares their performance since a similar survey three years ago and shows how they last year:

  • delivered 7% more concerts and performances compared to 2013
  • visited 42 foreign countries, compared to 35 in 2013
  • reached almost 900,000 children and young people, a 35% increase on the previous survey

The latest survey also shows how, despite these achievements, orchestras actually earned less money. This, combined with public funding cuts of up to 11% had left them with a 5% drop in their total income.

ABO director Mark Pemberton said: “Orchestras have innovated to achieve bigger audiences and engage more young people and they should be proud of these successes.

“However, the survey masks a greater reality. These larger audiences do not bring in more money and, if anything, actually increase losses. Many of the achievements have been fuelled by audience development initiatives such as discounted ticketing, free concerts and fixed fee performances at open air events. These have left orchestras suffering a double whammy – a decline in earned income alongside significant cuts in public funding. The message is simple. Orchestras cannot continue doing ‘more for less’. The government has this year implemented Orchestra Tax Relief and this will offset some of the cuts in public funding imposed since 2010 – but it is far from enough. We need national and, most crucially, local government to restore funding closer to pre-austerity levels to enable our members to continue delivering great music to the widest possible audience.”

The State of Britain’s Orchestras in 2016 survey covered 84% of the Association of British Orchestra’s (ABO’s) 61 members and was last carried out in 2013.

It shows how British orchestras last year:

  • increased attendance at UK concerts and performances by 3% to 4.83m compared to 2013
  • employed a total of 2,411 permanent, long-term or member status musicians, of which almost 20% are EU nationals
  • had a total income of £124.6m, a fall of 5% on equivalent figure for 2013. The reduction reflected a 5% drop in earned income, a 7% fall in Arts Council funding and an 11% drop in local authority funding.


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