Single-ticket sales and subscriptions fell 16 and 14 percent, respectively, for the orchestra's season ending in May.
Contrastingly, the Cincinnati Pops, part of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra umbrella organization, reported an average increase of 8 percent in attendance.
Among the nation's top orchestras, the Cincinnati Symphony has seen marked successes since conductor Pavo J‹rvi became its music director in 2001, releasing several recordings under the Telarc label and making tours through the country and Europe. "With [J‹rvi], they are playing better than the New York Philharmonic," Sandra Rivers, a professor at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and member of the orchestra's board of directors, told the Enquirer.
But attendance has plummeted since 2004, when the symphony raised average ticket prices by 25%.
Other statistics lend a more positive slant: private donors gave $1.8 million to help the ensemble avoid a potential $2.7 million deficit this year.
Taking on a new business approach, the orchestra also had to raise an additional $500,000 to compensate for a drop in the amount of money it takes from its $74 million endowment for expenses. "This was a challenge," said president Steven Monder.
Evading a deficit, though, was not difficult, the newspaper reports. The symphony anticipates finishing in the black.
Major cuts in the budget beyond a drop in the orchestra's size and a two-year wage freeze accepted in the past by musicians are not possible, Monder said, and the board of directors must raise about $2 million annually for an endowment substantial enough to support "the new [business] model."
"I am optimistic, but clearly we're going to have to make changes to gain greater attendance," said incoming board chairman Marvin Quin.
Cincinnati Symphony officials say the new, 4,000-seat National City Pavillion opening August 30 at the Riverbend Music Center outside the city will bring an extra $400,000 annually.