SPAC sales: Rock rocks, but orchestra strains
By DANIELLE FURFARO, Staff writer
Last updated: 7:17 p.m., Friday, September 26, 2008
COLONIE - The Police, Journey and other big-ticket rock acts put on by promoter Live Nation helped the Saratoga Performing Arts Center break even this summer, despite a continuing slide in the number of tickets sold for the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet.
The orchestra, ballet and other SPAC-run shows accounted for $2.6 million in ticket sales, but the amount was still a 9 percent drop from 2007. The total attendance for those shows was about 88,000, also a 9 percent drop, SPAC Chief Financial Officer Richard Geary said.
The board blamed the downturn in classical sales on a crumbling economy and a soggy summer that saw rain mar several performances.
"We had the same kind of season as the track, where sales were (also) down," Board Chairman Bill Dake said during a SPAC board meeting today at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center.
The board said ticket sales for Live Nation's show, which also featured the Dave Matthews Band and Bob Dylan, shot up by more than 27 percent. The board declined to say exactly how many people went to the rock shows, but said that the high attendance kicked in SPAC's bonus clause with Live Nation and it received another $65,000 on top of its guaranteed $1 million.
But SPAC lost more than $1 million alone on the New York City Ballet, which had $1.2 million in sales and $2.3 million in expenses. The performing arts center took an even more devastating hit with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which saw sales of only $742,000 but had expenses of more than $2 million.
"It's disappointing that, with the orchestra, we are now covering only 37 percent of the costs with ticket sales," Geary said.
SPAC had budgeted for $375,000 more in classical sales - including its Freihoefer Jazz Festival - this year. Regardless, some board members said they were happy with the turnout.
"The overall attendance, while not pleasing to all of us, is good compared to what's happening elsewhere in the art world and sales at organizations similar to us," said Dake.
Other elements that helped make up for the classical sales shortfalls were more advertising and more endowments, SPAC President and Executive Director Marsha White said.
Dake made dire predictions for the 2009 summer season.
"The economy will have an impact not only on us but also on our partners," he said. "There is a triple threat: sales go down, endowments go down and subscriptions go down."