I can hardly believe I am at that point where I have to ACTUALLY begin my thesis! Wow, this really snuck up on me fast. So much has changed in a year and half about how I view the arts world. My interests, though varied, have collected around the topic of opera and classical music. More specifically, how they will survive and adapt to 21st century culture and technology. Thus, the topic of my thesis…
My proposal is this:
Ever since Baumol and Bowen wrote in the 1960s about the inherent “cost disease” facing every non-profit arts organization, there has been a lot of focus on how performing arts organizations can increase their revenue, both earned and contributed, to offset this inherent flaw in their business model. However, there is only so much donor money to go around and only so much ticket prices can go up before you completely isolate a majority of your audience. With earned revenue still only accounting for approximately 50-60% of income (sometimes even less), and with reports of governments slashing and/or eliminating arts budgets, endowments losing their overall value, and foundations and corporations more heavily scrutinizing their giving, what creative ways are opera companies using to maintain artistic quality while also cutting costs? Also, what efforts are there to better educate the average opera patron of the inherent flaw in the earned income/cost ratio, and the need for individual giving to sustain the art form?
It’s a daunting subject, but “doable” according to my thesis advisor. (I have at least one cheerleader!)
I think this topic is valuable to the field of opera. I have seen a lot recent writing around creative cost-saving measures. A few examples that come immediately to mind are the use of projections in place of scenery, using the same core set structure for multiple operas in repertoire, the utilization of various social media techniques to take the place of more expensive traditional and expensive marketing campaigns, and the utilization of “demand pricing” – the same way airlines determine ticket prices.
This certainly will be the most daunting writing assignment of my life, but one that I am certain will discover numerous other creative cost saving measures, educate the public, and act as a conversation starter amongst my colleagues in the opera field.