“Near Death Experience” Pushes DSO to Reinvent Itself

Orchestra Hall.  Detroit, MI. Wikimedia Commons Image.

Orchestra Hall, home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Wikimedia Commons Image.

In the 7/31/2011, Financial Times, Petroc Trelawny reports on the trials of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

A strike by the Orchestra’s players this past spring
“ended when the players agreed, in April, to a 23 per cent pay cut, reducing their base salary from $104,000 to $79,000. Even after the cuts, it’s still far from clear if the DSO has a viable future.”

Likening the Orchestra’s audience to erstwhile aging Buick customers, Matt Cullen of General Motors, says it is time for the DSO to “evolve.”

While that advice may be hard to swallow from an executive of a company that refused to evolve for decades, it is, nonetheless, true.

Cutting salaries is not a longterm strategy.  Only larger audiences will guarentee the Orchestra’s future.

Though Detroit’s case is critical, no orchestra is immune to the challenges posed by an aging audience, tightening budgets, and lower ticket sales.  All must evolve to meet the audience where it is.