Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Symphony likely to raise prices

Musicians may be asked for cuts

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is likely to announce ticket-price increases and a reduction in discounts as part of a still-forming plan to close a $1.45 million operating deficit for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31.

The orchestra's trustees met Tuesday afternoon to hear the financial details. Chairman Dan Hoffheimer said the symphony's management would return with specific recommendations during the next several months.

"It's hard to imagine we could increase revenue from classical music, other than price increases," Hoffheimer said.

The meeting came as the orchestra is facing its biggest operating deficit in a decade, more than triple last year's shortfall.

Hoffheimer hopes raising ticket prices will be only one element of a swift transformation of the CSO's $31 million annual budget, starting with eliminating the deficit in the 2004-05 fiscal year.

Other elements could include:

• More consulting contracts like the recently completed management of Tall Stacks. That produced revenue of more than $50,000, Hoffheimer said.

• More uses of the Riverbend Music Center, which is owned by the CSO and returns profits of more than $1 million a year.

• Possible concessions from the orchestra's 99 musicians, which makes up more than half of the CSO's operating budget. That might include sharing benefit costs or taking unpaid days off, rather than salary cuts, Hoffheimer said.

Talks on a new union contract will start this summer. "This is obviously going to require that they do something to help us," he said.

• Asking the city of Cincinnati for help with expenses such as annual rent at Music Hall of about $325,000 and more than $30,000 in cleanup costs after the Jammin' on Main street music festival.

Ironically, on Saturday the symphony sold out all 3,418 tickets to Music Hall - its best single-day performance in more than a decade.

The local orchestra is not alone in its financial problems. More than two-thirds of all major symphonies across the country are facing operating deficits.


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