Orchestras for major opera and ballet companies have been put in a “critical position” due to the Covid-19 pandemic and need more financial support to survive, a leading industry body has warned.
The Association of British Orchestras represents 65 member orchestras, including major opera and ballet orchestras.
Mark Pemberton, who is director of the organisation, told Music Week: “There’s no easy way of saying this: the Covid-19 emergency has placed the UK’s orchestras in a critical position.
“Unlike orchestras in continental Europe and other parts of the world, which receive significantly higher levels of public subsidy, British orchestras are heavily dependent on earned income from ticket sales, international tours and commercial activity such as recordings, at an average of 50% of turnover.
“With the forced closure of entertainment venues and recording studios, that income has plunged to zero.”
Pemberton added: “It isn’t just in the past few weeks that this has hit the orchestras hard. Tours to Asia, a crucial revenue earner for our members, started to be cancelled back in January, and it has escalated from there, with first international touring, and then concerts in the UK, grinding to a halt. This in turn threatens the financial sustainability of our members, and the livelihoods of the musicians who work for them.”
He argued that while government support measures will help reduce costs for orchestras with salaried musicians, they will not replace the loss of income or deal with outstanding fees for musicians booked before the lockdown.
ABO said it is urging the Department For Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to provide further financial support.
Pemberton added: “It’s the uncertainty that makes this worse. We do not know how long the lockdown measures will last, and when venues can reopen. We are seeing summer festivals and opera seasons close one after the other. In the meantime, the bills pile up.
“The ABO and its members are doing what they can to make a grim situation that bit better. Because it is in all our interests to make sure that when things finally return to normal, the music hasn’t stopped.”