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July 26, 2009

Recession Note

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The economic downturn hits the New York City Ballet.



posted by Michael at July 26, 2009


That's a shame. Not that I ever made it to a performance when I lived in Manhattan last winter, but I always appreciated seeing this ad on the street.


Posted by: James O. on July 26, 2009 10:16 PM

It would be interesting to see which arts programs are being cut and which are are not.

My guess is that european classical arts are being cut, while those promoting multi-culturalism and modernism are just fine.

Any bets?

Posted by: BTM on July 27, 2009 12:35 AM

Its not a question of funding being "cut", its that attendance is dropping. If you go to a NY Philharmonic concert or a NYC Ballet performance, the majority of the audience is over 65 years old (and I'm being generous). The audience that either appreciates or can afford ballet is starting to die off. And there are not enough of us to replace them.

A friend of mine plays in the NYC Ballet orchestra and frequently gives me free tickets for unused seats. Prior to last year, there were never unused seats for Nutcracker performances (the staple for the NYC ballet's fall/winter season, it is said that these shows fund the majority of their year). Last winter, the last three rows of the theater were empty for most weeknight performances. Recession, fewer tourists, ticket price creep, parking lot issues as Lincoln Center undergoes renovation - lots of alternate reasons, but the overwhelming trend for all of the "european classical arts" is smaller audiences of increasingly older average age.

Posted by: Julie Brook on July 27, 2009 9:56 AM


There are several reasons for this:

1) They don't teach an appreciation of classical european arts in schools anymore

2) Most white people (and lets not kid ourselves about who goes to these things) don't live in the cities anymore. They live in the burbs. But the classical art centers are almost invariably still located in the cities. Why? Their clientele is not located near the venue. Especially not the younger kids.

3) Too much time in front of the TV or computer. So the live arts die off. wonderful! We pay a great price because we worship the tube.

Posted by: BTM on July 27, 2009 3:08 PM

The economy is one thing.

Demographics is another.

Some years back, a new guy in the marketing section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra came up with a study showing that the average age of the CSO's audience was over 50. This was meant as a massive alarm bell: "Our audience is all old and will all die soon!" One of the veterans in the section reached in a drawer and pulled out a study with the same result and conclusion - from thirty years before.

This story is far from horrifying. I thought perhaps the NYCB was closing down conpletely. Which may yet happen. This downturn, IMO, is just starting.

BTM: If the "live arts" are being killed off by video, then why does Chicago have about 40 live theater companies right now?

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on July 28, 2009 2:33 AM

I'm the target audience for the NYC ballet, philharmonic etc. Over 50. Affluent (comparatively). Willing to come into the city for a concert or play or show. But I can't afford to do this more than once or twice a year. If I buy okay but not great seats, costs are two tickets at $75 each, plus parking at $30, plus tolls and gas at around $20, for a total of $200 before you add dinner. So I select my entertainment choices very carefully.

I'd like to see a comparison of how much corporate money goes to buy boxes and tickets for rock concerts, baseball, football, basketball and hockey games versus classical concerts, ballets, and broadway shows. In my job, I have to review expense reports from a bunch of account executives which include client entertainment expenses. I've seen one expense for a Broadway show versus dozens for sporting events and rock concerts (no, I don't ask how they discuss business over the music, that's not what I'm supposed to be reviewing).

Posted by: Julie Brook on July 28, 2009 9:41 AM

I'm a lot less concerned about contemporary theater than the traditional arts. Like I said before, the traditional arts seem to be under attack, while the fetid swamp of multi-culturalism and modernism infects ever more sectors of the art world. It think this is intentional.

Those theater companies in Chicago are almost all small-time outfits. There's Steppenwolf and the Goodman being the larger ones. Yet most of the stuff they put on is filled with above fetid M&M's.

What's really interesting to me is the suburban scene, where the families are. Why is there no culture there, except for around the colleges? Just movie theaters and sports. Is this intentional? I mean, said families are not homogeneous--I'm sure that they take their kids to museums and such. But why no suburban art culture? I think there's more to this whole thing than meets the eye.

Posted by: BTM on July 28, 2009 12:50 PM

"But why no suburban art culture? I think there's more to this whole thing than meets the eye."

We're too busy raising kids. Seriously. Hard to produce art as a parent and maintain a paying job. Too all-consuming.

Posted by: JV on July 28, 2009 4:54 PM

I think everyone here is missing the most important element of the story.

Out there, right now, are a bunch of low self esteem ballerinas who, for the first time in their lives, have way too much time on their hands.

Good luck guys, I'm off to find one or two of them.

Posted by: Steve Johnson on July 29, 2009 9:25 PM

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