Over the past few years articles about the viability of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s business model have appeared in the press, most recently in the New York Times on Dec 22, 2018. The general message is that ticket sales are down, especially subscriptions, due to external forces beyond anyone’s control, such as changes in people’s entertainment spending or their reluctance to commit to events months in advance. This argument is used by Lyric Opera management to justify cutting the number of performances offered, reducing the amount of rehearsal time and eliminating orchestra and chorus positions.
But what if the forces pushing down ticket sales were in fact internal and therefore under management’s control?
What if the decision to limit the resources needed to create the product is making that product less desirable to the ticket buyer?
What if offering fewer performances makes that product even harder to fit into busy modern schedules?
What if discounting tickets to nearly every show makes buying a subscription the most expensive way to see shows rather than the most economical?
What if management’s decisions to deal with declining ticket sales is actually pushing sales down further?
Answering these questions could lead to a new kind of article about Lyric Opera of Chicago: one which exclaims Lyric Opera’s success in the 21st century rather than excuses its failures.