Cover photo showing the text

Comparative Report 2020-21


Summaries by Budget Size and Regions  

Each year, Orchestras Canada collects financial and audience information from member orchestras and produces a Comparative Report. This Report is shared among participating orchestras and used for advocacy and ongoing research.  The 2020-21 Comparative Report contains information from 73 orchestras, including all member orchestras with budgets over $1.5 million, and almost all orchestras which historically have budgets over $50,000. 

The summaries are compiled using information in the Comparative Report. They provide an overview of the Canadian orchestra industry for the 2020-21, consolidated by budget size and by regions. 

Percentages are calculated in two ways: 1) based on the aggregate totals, and 2) “averages-of-percentages” using the individually calculated percentages for each of the 73 participating orchestra. The “average-of-percentages” approach is useful when considering relatively small samples of organizations of disparate size and scope, especially in the Summary by Regions. Percentages based on the aggregate totals are useful when considering larger samplings. We find both sets of percentages useful. 

We continue to report “Cost per audience contact” (CPAC) calculations in the Summaries, at the bottom of each column. Given the impact of the pandemic on orchestra activities, the value of this calculation is questionable. That said: this tool may be of interest to individual organizations for assessing business efficiency compared to other orchestras.


Summaries of Summaries: 2018-19 to 2020-21 by Budget Size and Regions   

COVID-19’s dramatic impact on orchestras began in March 2020 with the shutting down of performance venues. Despite the quick pivot to various forms of online presentations, the 2019-20 financial and attendance numbers came in well below results from the 2018-19 season.    

2020-21 was a fully COVID-affected season. The vast majority of orchestras pivoted to online activity almost exclusively. Consequently the 2018-19 aggregate live audience of 2,843,000 collapsed to 53,000 in 2020-21; a drop of 98%!      

As a companion to these documents, here are two Summaries of Summaries: by Budget and by Regions. They contain quickly absorbable numbers for 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21. Percentages of change relate only to 2018-19 and 2020-21 (2019-20 was only a halfway-house.)   

72 orchestras routinely participate in Comparative Report process. In 2020-21, a new participant came on board; a mid-sized operation, near the median point in the detailed Report. It was easier to include this orchestra in summary calculations rather than exclude. Hence the Summaries of Summaries show 73 orchestras for 2020-21. 

We continue to retain Budget categories that we have always used: over $5 million; between $1 million and $5 million, etc. In the Summary of Summaries – Budget Size, observe the “Number of orchestras” line across the top. This quickly highlights the dramatic drop in budget sizes right across the board.  

Historically, orchestras’ budgets are fairly close-to-balanced. This was NOT so in 2020-21. Nationally, Revenue outstripped Expenses by 12%. (A reminder: for purposes of comparative reporting we calculate “budget size” as the average of total revenues and total expenses for each orchestra.)      

It’s fair to say: in 2018-19 there wasn’t much Canadian orchestra online performance activity – at least, not enough for us to try and keep track. In the spring of 2020, we observed a huge “online” burst. We tried to collect numbers from you, but were hard pressed to define appropriate parameters for tabulation. This is why the report shows online numbers for 2019-20 as “Unverified”.  By 2020-21 we were more up to speed. However the “% Changes” in this section should only be interpreted as rough estimates. At best, these percentages only indicate significant growth, year to year.     

We expect readers will find these two Summaries of Summaries fascinating. In all the years that we have been preparing the present iteration of the Comparative Report, we never expected to see numbers like this. We commend these documents to you for vigorous discussion in your organization.  

There is one overarching reality in all these numbers that should not (dare we say must not) be ignored. Orchestras in Canada are continuing to function thanks to direct generous intervention by governments at many levels.  For recipient organizations, appropriate and meaningful acknowledgement and thanks is mandatory politeness at the very least, not to mention political astuteness.     

The future 

If you are part of an orchestral organization, you will be reading this halfway through your 2021-22 season (or later). A year ago, none of us had heard of Omicron. Today, it’s part of everyday conversation. Our COVID troubles are far from over; but more concerts are occurring in concert halls than this time last year, and we can hope.  

We look forward to collecting results for this present season starting in October of 2022. We suspect that the 3-year Summaries of Summaries will grow to a 4-year report; and we have hopes for a 5th year that looks something like 2018-19.  

General disclaimer 

We produce these Summaries using straightforward information and commonly accepted definitions, avoiding subjective judgments as much as possible. The accuracy of the Summaries is dependent primarily on the accuracy of information provided by the 73 participating orchestras, followed by accurate transfer of information to the master spreadsheets. If you note significant errors, please let us know. 

Respectfully submitted
Stephen Smith (Statistician, Orchestras Canada)
February 2022