Did you ever wonder what is the real cost of presenting superior art?
Great art requires great artists, working hard to make a living, as well as organizations to present it. In the world of music, the costs include the musicians themselves but also the performance space, the organization’s staff, and all of its daily operating expenses. So what is the real cost of presenting a concert?
The Pittsburgh Music Alliance is a collaboration of five organizations in town: The Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, Chamber Music Pittsburgh, Chatham Baroque, The Pittsburgh Camerata, and Renaissance & Baroque. These organizations work together on a variety of efforts, helping one another in building the rich offerings of musical performance in Pittsburgh. Recently we looked at the real cost of presenting great art, and the members did an exercise looking at the cost per attendee. That cost ranges from $58 to $83 dollars per person. Yet the ticket prices are much lower than that, perhaps one half of the actual cost and often even less. The standard ticket prices range up to $46, a little more than half of the performance’s actual cost of $83, and student ticket prices can be as low as $12.
On the one hand, we want to bring audiences the finest works and musicians, and those goals have significant costs. On the other hand, we want to make sure that your ticket prices are low enough to accommodate all who might want to see the show. So there is a certain “art” to bring the art to audiences. In the process, arts organizations depend on a variety of revenue in order to cover the difference between ticket price and actual cost. This is part of the math of running a nonprofit organization.
The difference comes in philanthropic support, in the form of grants, volunteerism, and individual giving. For us to present programs with the excellence you want to experience - without the fundraising and behind the scenes efforts of volunteers - your ticket might cost far more. However, because of the generous support of so many, prices for PMA organizations have been stable and affordable.
Now for the best part: You can always help. Probably the easiest way to help is to spread the word about performances. Each new ticket sold helps to bring down the per-ticket cost. The more, the merrier! Second, please do keep this in mind as you approach your charitable giving. Often people become more and more committed to the success of an organization, and they show that increasing support through charitable gifts. Those gifts help to keep ticket prices lower, which might help us to reach new audiences…which might ultimately produce another committed patron in time.
For all that you do to support music, thank you.
Photo: Mickey Miller