St. Paul Chamber Orchestra reports $280,000 surplus for 2013

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2013 - 7:10 PM

Six-month standoff reduced expenses, but also ticket revenue.

Bruce Coppock
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Bruce Coppock

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra had favorable financial results for fiscal 2013, a fractious year that included a six-month lockout of musicians in a protracted dispute over pay.

The orchestra recorded a surplus of about $280,000 on total revenue of $9.5 million. The extra money will reduce to $512,000 an accumulated deficit that the SPCO hopes to eliminate in the next few years.

“It was a very difficult year, but the response from our audiences and donor base has been overwhelming,” said Bruce Coppock, who returned as president and managing director of the SPCO in May.

Expenses for the year ended June 30 were about $9.2 million, down 16 percent from the previous fiscal year. While the lockout of musicians reduced salary expenses, the canceled concerts also saved the SPCO money on guest artists, marketing costs and hall rentals.

The 2013 budget also reflected the one-time expense of a retirement program agreed to in the new contract, which was settled in April. Ten musicians took that option, with packages that had a maximum benefit of $200,000.

On the revenue side, Coppock said the SPCO lost about $1 million in ticket sales because of the lockout. Consequently, earned income constituted only 6.7 percent of total revenue — down from roughly 15 percent the previous year.

Contributions of $7 million represented almost 75 percent of total revenue. Some of that included money earmarked for the retirement package. Coppock said the annual fund reached 87 percent of the previous year’s total.

“If you grade on a curve, [fundraising] did fantastically compared to other orchestras who had been in a long work stoppage,” Coppock said.

Coppock expressed optimism, based on sales for the first three months of the current season. He would not speculate whether the bump was the result of the continuing Minnesota Orchestra lockout.

“All we are able to observe is that since we started playing again, we have had higher subscription renewal rates, ticket sales and attendance on a weekly basis that has exceeded goals,” he said. “But it would be complete conjecture to say it was due to any one thing.”

As an example, the orchestra has just added a performance of its “Messiah” this month at the Basilica of St. Mary with the SPCO Chorale.

Coppock said the organization has budgeted expenses of roughly $9.6 million in the current fiscal year, with hopes that revenue will allow another surplus to further reduce the deficit.

The SPCO has struggled financially since 2008. Annual expenses were cut by $1.5 million through administrative salary cuts and layoffs. The board then sought concessions from musicians, which resulted in the lockout. Musicians eventually took a deal that cut annual salaries by approximately 20 percent for a total of more than $1.1 million.

The Minnesota Orchestra, which reported a $6 million deficit last December, is expected next Wednesday to report financial results from its fiscal 2013, a year in which not a single concert was played because of a labor lockout that continues into its 14th month. Recent attempts at negotiations have foundered and the musicians have scheduled a series of concerts on their own.

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Bruce Coppock