CSO strike had minimal effect on orchestra’s bottom line

Thu Oct 24, 2019 at 12:30 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

You lose some money, you save some money.

That economic insight may not have come from Adam Smith. But it’s a fair summary of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2019 fiscal year, details of which were released at the CSO Association’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

The major economic event of the orchestra’s 2018-19 season was the seven-week strike by CSO musicians in March and April, which caused fifty concerts to be cancelled. That resulted in a precipitous decline of over 20% in ticket sales, down nearly $5 million from 2018 FY to $18.5 million.

Yet that loss in revenue was largely offset, ironically, by the savings accrued from the strike, primarily in unpaid musician salaries. With almost two months of dark nights at Symphony Center, operating expenses were down $3.6 million from last year. That meant—at least for the 2019 fiscal year—that despite all the turmoil, bitter public comments and negative headlines, the strike was essentially a wash economically. The CSO’s deficit, however, crept back up, from $910,000 in 2018 to $1.1 million this year.

Still, the relatively minimal financial effect of the strike for FY 2019 has to be considered incomplete, since the orchestra’s accounting year closes June 30 and therefore doesn’t take into account cancelled 2019-20 subscriptions or any decline in donations for the current season.

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One Response to “CSO strike had minimal effect on orchestra’s bottom line”

  1. Posted Oct 26, 2019 at 12:57 am by Gerry A

    Thanks Lawrence.
    Well I certainly wish the CSO & the musicians, and US, only the best. But it is still too early to really account for the S/t or L/t impacts.

    I can say that I have seen some growing system computer issues this season getting worse from last year. New site is often down, won’t show subscribers their upcoming tickets like it did Last Year. It hasn’t shown subscribers online seat locations for a couple years now. Site has lost the filters that let you search independently from a menu for a genre, composer, performer.

    My point is these systems have continued to deteriorate the last two years,so watch out if this baby really goes down. They’ll say they are working on it. They said that last season too.

    Call and ask.

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