When Ticket Revenue Doesn’t Equal Attendance: What’s Opera Doc?

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*THANKS TO AARON ANDERSEN FOR POINTING OUT A GLARING ERROR I MADE (see strikethrough texts below and my comment following Aaron’s)

I was reading a piece about the sharp decline of NASCAR ticket revenue and was intrigued. In NASCAR’s three publicly traded companies, all have seen a sharp decline over the years.

For example, at Daytona Beach, the International Speedway Corp.lost more than 40 percent of its ticket revenue, falling to $144 million” while the Charlotte Speedway Motorsports Inc.has lost more than a quarter of its admission revenue, falling to $130 million.” Dover Motorsports Inc. took the biggest hit “with admission revenue falling nearly 60 percent, to $13.6 million last year.

The piece gives various reasons for the decline in ticket revenue, and offers some solutions the different franchises are considering or actively doing, yet, this statement is interesting given what can amount to a loss of 57,000 (current capacity of Daytona Speedway is 147,000) butts in the seats:

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Vampire shows, Fragmentation & Oversupply, and the “Classical Music Crisis”

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While watching the second episode of Penny Dreadful, I was struck by a thought* — I just don’t have time to watch all these geek themed television shows! Penny Dreadful is just the latest of shows which features vampires.  The recently cancelled Dracula series, The Vampire Diaries and its spin-off, The Originals, and Being Human are series which center on stories of vampires. Like Penny Dreadful, the Lost Girl, Supernatural, and even Da Vinci’s Demons are set in worlds where vampires exist**.

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San Diego Opera, again…

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In my piece “Opera: ‘I’m Not Dead’” post, i mentioned a guest post at Bill Eddins Sticks and Drones guest blog by Viswa Subarraman, conductor and Artistic Director of the Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee and his thoughts about the San Diego Opera closing. This is just one several criticisms of the organizations decision to shut down (here’s another recent piece) amidst rumors which inevitably fly as organizations of this size come near an end.

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Orchestra 990 Database Project

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I’d been meaning to blog about this especially given how often those of us who blog or talk about arts organizations and finances discuss economic issues in the field, but as a last minute reminder, Drew McManus’ has blogged about his kickstarter campaign for an Orchestra 990 Database.

As you can see from the post, here’s what the Database will include and feature:

  • Converting a decade’s worth of IRS Form 990s into a searchable format along with assigning category filters.
  • The database will begin with the 2003/04 season filings. The database will include all US based professional orchestras with total expenditures of $2 million and higher.
  • A website that will retain a searchable database of professional orchestra IRS Form 990s.
  • The user interface will provide multi taxonomy filtering to assist with narrowing results (think searching by state, zip, and other custom categories).
  • Users will be able to download copies of documents returned in the search query.
  • Searches and results will be free for all users, all the time. 
  • The website will be built atop an open source publishing platform and feature a responsive design, allowing users to easily interface via desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone without the hassle of downloading and installing platform specific apps.
  • An L3C will be formed as the entity under which all work and ongoing administration will be conducted (more on that below).

Drew was also recently interviewed and gave more info about the project on the video blog, SoundnotionTV, which can be viewed on youtube:

For a field which has tons of researchers, pundits, and bloggers making claims about the financial conditions of large arts organizations without the ease of access a project such as this would allow, it would really be nice to have some level of transparency and, more importantly, ease of access to the public and other independent scholars who don’t have significant resources for doing research.

Even if this kickstarter doesn’t fund the project this time around, I’d hope that the next time it get proposed we can see the value of it and get it funded and off the ground because we sorely need easy access to things like this to combat the hedgehog pundits on any side of debates about arts sustainability!

Creativity, Craftmanship, and Copying

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Michael Rushton’s recent post says some wonderful things about the problem of focusing on either Creativity or Quantification.

Creativity is a wonderful thing, but successful songwriters, playwrights, poets, video game designers and chefs, know technique – they have to. It is great to encourage children to experiment and explore, to instill a love of creativity. But they won’t turn into adults that make genuinely interesting creative works until they have learned technique. “The Daily Show” sketches cannot be written by someone who only understands how to analyze data, Egan is correct. But neither can they be written by somebody with no experience or sense of how television comedy works.

In my post, to create or to copy, I explored the misguided dichotomy of creativity versus copying by giving an example of a comment by Japanese Bunraku musicians:

[This] reminds me of interviews I had with the chief puppeteer in the major bunraku troupe, the chief chanter, and the chief shamisen player. I asked them how they trained, how they learned as children. As we all know, the standard system in Japan is to copy your master. [But] those artists said, “We do not copy our masters. Of course we watch our master and we learn. But no two human beings are alike, so it is impossible for me to copy my master. I have to internalize my art, make it my own. Then I can become a great artist.” This is a wonderful illustration of the solution to what might seem to be impossibly opposite goals: to “replicate” and to “create” anew.

And what they are describing is the process of learning Craftsmanship.

Sure, there are plenty of artists who “copy,” and probably as many who are “creative” without any sense of craftsmanship. But as I said in that post,

In the end, the greatest artists are those that can make ANY work, whether their own or someone else’s, speak powerfully. On the flipside the weakest artists have to hide behind the rubric and hubris of citing originality and creativity, or, dedication to the re-creation of a previous work to hide the fact that he or she has nothing really to say.

So again, I wonder, going back to Rushton’s final paragraph:

The need to teach “creativity” has achieved a lot of buzz lately, as Egan notes. But is it misplaced? Should the emphasis rather be placed on technique, know-how, rather than some generally vague notion of creativity? Misleading to characterize the issue as one between creativity and the quants.

and my questions about the Music Conservatory and Music Education industries and Arts funding politics I still have to wonder how much of the entrepreneurial and business shift in some conservatories are more for the sake of legitimizing the status quo in the pre-professional world of music making.