A symphony season has more impact on the local economy than a football season


Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

Given the current situation with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Sheila Kennedy has written an interesting post about the purported economic impact that football/sports has to local economies.  This paragraph, in particular, reflects many of the things I’ve been blogging about recently regarding our misconceived views that sports has a more sustainable economic model than the arts simply by virtue of more “mass appeal”

A symphony season has far more impact on the local economy than football. Early in my academic career, I worked on a paper with an expert in the economic impact of sports. Such impact as exists is by virtue of intangibles–the value of raising the profile of the city with the team, that sort of thing. There was no direct dollar benefit. Despite that lack of immediate economic impact, we pump large amounts of public money into privately-owned sports teams and venues.

Of course, many economic impact studies on local economies by sports usually show a negative effect–the infrastructure needed to sustain a sports franchise in a city actually drains more public money (often through raising taxes) than it generates.  And as I’ve been emphasizing, ticket sales for sports is an even smaller percentage of total revenue than what we’d find in the case of orchestras which simply means there aren’t enough people buying tickets to cover the players’ salaries much less to cover operating costs of a game.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the subject for my comparison of economic impact will actually be Indianapolis.  Given that there is at least one longitudinal study about the impact of the RCA stadium, and that for the longest time the ISO was considered one of the most conservative orchestras fiscally it is interesting to speculate how more public funding to the orchestra might have given the city a little boom rather than having the drain that is the current Lucas Oil Stadium.

Anyway, read Sheila Kennedy’s post and expect me to get back to more blogging soon now that I’ve settled into more of a running life!

the economics of underserved audiences (part 2): “Who Benefits Whom” and Preference Minorities

Joel Waldfogel’s – The Tyranny of the Market published by Harvard University Press (2007)

It’s been some time since I posted the first part of this series of posts exploring the issues surrounding how I view my role as an educator and musician.  In this, part 2 of the series, I’m going to make some use of some of the research and theoretical insights by Joel Waldfogel that he published as a short book titled, “The Tyranny of the Market: Why You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

The gist of the book is summarized well enough at its page at the Harvard University Press website (linked above):

Economists have long counseled reliance on markets rather than on government to decide a wide range of questions, in part because allocation through voting can give rise to a “tyranny of the majority.” Markets, by contrast, are believed to make products available to suit any individual, regardless of what others want. But the argument is not generally correct. In markets, you can’t always get what you want. This book explores why this is so and its consequences for consumers with atypical preferences.

When fixed costs are substantial, markets provide only products desired by large concentrations of people. As a result, people are better off in their capacity as consumers when more fellow consumers share their product preferences. Small groups of consumers with less prevalent tastes, such as blacks, Hispanics, people with rare diseases, and people living in remote areas, find less satisfaction in markets. In some cases, an actual tyranny of the majority occurs in product markets. A single product can suit one group or another. If one group is larger, the product is targeted to the larger group, making them better off and others worse off.

The book illustrates these phenomena with evidence from a variety of industries such as restaurants, air travel, pharmaceuticals, and the media, including radio broadcasting, newspapers, television, bookstores, libraries, and the Internet.

Waldfogel’s basic thesis is that given high fixed costs, those who are members of a preference minority are far less likely to get products they desire.  Through his research he demonstrates that as the population of a particular preference group increases, the members of that group are more likely to be satisfied by the range of choices available to them and vice versa if the population of a particular preference group decreases.

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“…and it never occurred to me that musical tastes and offerings will change as demographics change…”

Keni Washington and his OMniverse Jazz Sinfonia

Keni Washington and his OMniverse Jazz Sinfonia at the Madame Walker Theater Indianapolis 1997

So today, as I mentioned last week is a cello sectional coaching day, but I was so distracted by thoughts about the current DSO situation that I found it hard to concentrate at the task at hand.   What I also had on my mind, in light of the recent piece I rediscovered and blogged about a few days ago, Changing US Demographics and Classical Music, and especially as Elysia and I have been having a discussion about such issues in a review of a Sacramento Philharmonic concert she went to this weekend which included a composition (“New Conception”) by Egyptian Composer, Nader Abassi, was the quote (in the title of this blog post).

It was a response to a possible solution for the DSO that I had made back in August at the Cello Chat forums.   I tend to envision an orchestral world that isn’t so dominated by European styled Orchestras sure–and I’m not at all shy about stating my desire to form my own World Music Orchestra that would be international in a way that Orthodox Orchestras will probably never be. Continue reading

the economics of underserved audiences (part 1)

Yesterday, I posted a bit about playing for underserved audiences, or rather, my desire to play for them. As the response to an email I quoted it’s an issue of bringing a certain type of live entertainment to groups that might not otherwise have an opportunity (or that have fewer opportunities) to ever experience an art form that could regularly be seen in the audience member’s native country.

Some of the questions (or retorts) I’ve had to answer in the past when I’ve bothered to make my “mission statement” public have been weighing on my mind for years (if not decades in some cases) and I’ve only recently been able to articulate non-anecdotal and intuitive responses.

So many of the issues can be analyzed and articulated from the standpoint of the economic benefits or harm that is the result of not having the same range of choices available between populations, or rather between different subpopulations within a geo-political region.

As far as arts and entertainment goes, the case is probably not seen as being so important. I’ll address that in the next part, but to underscore just how important and relevant an analysis like this can be just imagine how fewer options for a particular population can be deadly when it comes to the issue of nutrition and/or medicine.

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