Today a friend pointed out the Marketing portion of the MOA’s website to me, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it. I remember being suspicious of their claims a while ago, but I had no way to confirm or deny those suspicions. Now, however, I’m better versed in the art of the 990, and the MOA has shared more information about the auditorium at Hall. So let’s take a look!
From the website:
Throughout the recession, our earned revenue has been essentially flat—a significant achievement in this economy.
“Essentially” is such a magic word, isn’t it? Stick “essentially” in front of anything and you can essentially say anything and essentially no one will ever bother you for any essential details. Essentially.
Given the context, I’m assuming that by “earned revenue” the MOA means “program service revenue”… (Ticket revenue, rental revenue, concession revenue, etc.; not grants, contributions, or investment income.) The MOA’s “program service revenue” can be found on the first page of the 990s…
To sum, from 2008 to 2011, earned revenue fell by 15%. According to the MOA, this is “essentially flat.”
(Interestingly, musicians’ compensation, which the MOA says has risen by 19.2%, is not “essentially flat.” Apparently somewhere between 15% and 19.2%, things stop being flat.)
Is program service revenue decreasing by 15% “a significant achievement” in this economy? Let’s look at the percentages that program service revenue increased or decreased at other orchestras. This graph is ordered by population of each city’s metro size, biggest to smallest…
I’m not clear on how the MOA’s program service revenue decreasing by 15% is “a significant achievement”, unless “not failing as badly as Philadelphia” is a significant achievement. But I welcome clarification.
Our marketing efforts have maintained stable ticket sales across 150 music events a year in a 2,450 seat Hall.
Maybe so, but here are the revenues from those ticket sales…
Is a 17% drop “stable”?
(As a side-note, here’s a strikingly similar graph of the amount spent on advertising and promotion from 2009-2011…)
On the other hand, maybe it’s impressive that ticket sales only dropped 17% since advertising decreased by 27%…
This is a solid accomplishment in a recession and in a community of our size.
Ehhhhhh. See the second graph above, that compares various communities’ gains or losses in program services revenue. I’m not convinced. Give me some harder numbers to back your assertion up.
Our strategic plan calls for 80 percent paid concert capacity and for a 2 percent increase in annual revenue year over year. (Our current paid capacity is 69 percent.)
Wow. An eleven percent increase in paid capacity? That sounds ambitious.
Until you realize…
The renovated hall has a decreased capacity. Some seats were taken away for the larger stage – more were taken out for accessibility sake – I think the new seats might be larger than the old ones – the sound system may have something to do with it, etc. Bottom line: the old hall had 2,450 seats, the new one has 2,092.
So let’s run the numbers…
Sixty-nine percent of a 2450 seat hall? 1691 tickets sold.
Eighty percent of a 2092 seat hall? 1674 tickets sold.
This is ambitious but achievable.
In other words, the MOA thinks…selling 17 fewer tickets per performance than it is now…is…”ambitious but achievable.”
Way to shoot for the moon, MOA.