The chief executive of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra says it has taken an entrepreneurial approach after unveiling its “broadest ever programme” for its 2013/14 season.
Stephen Maddock believes a concerted drive to appeal to audiences of all ages and musical tastes is an essential component of continued success in tough economic times where the arts are under increasing pressure.
The boss of the orchestra, which receives council funding but generates 62 per cent of its running costs through ticket sales, sponsorship and touring, sees variety as essential.
Some of the highlights of the next CBSO season with acclaimed music director Andris Nelson include the Mendelssohn symphony cycle with principal guest conductor Edward Gardner and three concert operas – Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury.
“That is very much part of what we do these days and we always push things a little bit further every year,” said Mr Maddock.
“We are basically running a world class orchestra for what is a relatively small amount of public money, at least by international comparisons.
“The normal ratio of European orchestras we compete with in most places is more like 70 or even 80 per cent public funding and at a much higher level. In Berlin, Paris or even Luxembourg you are talking amazing sums of money – two, three, four or even five times as much as us
“We have to be incredibly entrepreneurial and it is one of the reasons we have such a broad and varied programme
“Whether it’s a programme of Abba concerts, or a big Strauss opera, there are always things we have not done before. From music for pre-school children, right through to the classics, choral singalongs and Friday night pops – anyone who looks at our season will be able to find something they enjoy.”
The CBSO’s season will also feature premieres from Charlotte Bray, Brett Dean, Gerald Barry, Francisco Coll and Hans Abrahamsen, celebrations of Strauss and Britten anniversaries and the CBSO continuing the countdown to its centenary with a focus on 1913 and 1914.
Other highlights include guest appearances by Anne-Sophie Mutter, Håkan Hardenberger and Thomas Adès and debuts by Benjamin Grosvenor and Rafael Payare – all delivered by an orchestra which delivers good value for money and helps to enhance Birmingham’s reputation across the globe, according to Mr Maddock.
“We are fortunate we do still get funding from Birmingham City Council and Arts Council England and do earn a lot of our income ourselves,” he said.
“This financial year 38 per cent of our income is coming from public funders and 62 per cent we are earning ourselves.”
It is a balance which has shifted gradually, with the CBSO continually increasing the revenue it generates itself.
“A decade ago it was 50/50,” added Mr Maddock. “We have already had to move a long way along the road of generating our own income and that is going to carry on being ever more the case. It gets more challenging every year.”
Turnover this year will be around £10 million with almost £2 million of that generated from touring overseas, a record amount.
Looking to the year ahead, the CBSO has a tour to the Far East for the first time in a decade, when it will visit Japan and Taiwan.
Mr Maddock said such tours play a crucial role in promoting Birmingham.
“Overseas it is about selling the name and reputation of the city and all of that is very important. It is an investment that provides a very good return both economically and socially.
"We go through exactly the same processes as other local arts organisations and have to justify the value we provide for the city against several different kinds of measure including the reputational value we give to Birmingham beyond the city.”