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TRG Arts Insight Report Reveals Status of Recovery of U.S. Orchestra Sector

November 23, 2021

Ticket Sales Still Lagging Below Pre-Pandemic Levels; Donations Up Significantly, 15% From First-Time Patrons  

Colorado Springs, CO—November 23, 2021 –U.S. orchestras show signs of revenue recovery as they return to live performances following two seasons of mostly online programming, with tickets sales partial and uneven, and donations much more robust. These results are according to a new study, “Orchestras in Recovery: Ticket Sales and Donation Trends 2018-2021” released by international arts management consultants TRG Arts in partnership with the League of American Orchestras. The study also includes findings about advance ticket sales and patron demographics, diversity, and engagement.  

The study is based on data collected from the COVID-19 Sector Benchmark, an initiative led by TRG Arts and Purple Seven, which has grown into the largest global arts and cultural consumer dataset in the industry. “Orchestras in Recovery” focuses on a cohort of 27 mostly larger-budget U.S. orchestras participating in the benchmark, compared with a wider cohort of 125 performing arts organizations.

Among the study highlights:
•   Ticket sales and associated revenue for these orchestras in the U.S., while showing some signs of recovery, are still lagging significantly behind pre-pandemic levels. For the past 12 months from November 2020 to October 2021, orchestra ticket revenue is down 67% and the number of tickets sold his down 62%. This is comparable with ticket revenue down 66% and number of tickets sold down 65% for the overall performing arts sector in the U.S. during the same period.  
•   The greatest ticket sales gains took place in the late spring and early summer of 2021 when vaccine rates were steadily climbing and many orchestras put 2021-22 season subscriptions on sale, and before the Delta variant took hold.  
•   Donation revenue is more positive with results for the last 12 months up 23% from the same period in pre-pandemic times, with the number of gifts down 6% (see Chart below). This outpaced donation revenue for the performing arts sector overall (up 16%), although the number of gifts was down 5%.    
•   The number of gifts from first-time patrons has grown by 15% during the last 12 months. Many brand-new donors to orchestras are having their first experience through giving as opposed to the more traditional “on-ramp” of ticket purchase/concert attendance. This could be the result of a wide range of factors including donation asks associated with viewing digital programming and funding mission-driven, resiliency efforts.
•   Active ticket buyer and donor base demographics of these orchestras became less diverse, both generationally and racially in 2020. In 2021, these bases have, mostly, returned to pre-pandemic levels.
•   Advance ticket sales for participating orchestras show December 2021 with the strongest future advance sales, though December 2021 is tracking behind the advance sales booked by the start of November 2019 for performances in December 2019. Looking into the future, March and April 2022 have stronger advances than either of the previous two years. Among performing arts organizations overall, December 2021 has the strongest advance in the next six months.

“Orchestras must recognize that many patrons are having their first experience with the orchestra as a donor, and that they have an opportunity to build new patron bases through donations,” said TRG Arts CEO Jill S. Robinson. “This new activity should be acknowledged and invitations for a next experience with the orchestra carefully crafted to build on the patron’s interests in order to effectively deepen the relationship.”

“We’re grateful to our orchestra cohort for participating in this important study,” said Karen Yair, the league’s Vice President, Research and Resources. “Subscribers and donors have displayed extraordinary generosity during these past months, and, as a result, orchestras are making strides towards recovery. While the shortfalls from ticket sales remain a serious challenge, we believe that the coming months will bring continuing audience comfort with attending live music and cultural events.”

To download a copy of “Orchestras in Recovery: Ticket Sales and Donation Trends 2018-2021” visit

About TRG Arts
TRG Arts is an international change agency committed to building thriving arts and cultural organizations. Experts in the arts sector for over 25 years, TRG Arts has earned a reputation by successfully shaping for-profit and non-profit business models to focus on consumer relationships, financial stability, organizational frameworks, and people-centric teams. TRG Arts believes that a thriving organization leads to artistic innovation that helps create a vibrant community. Visit

About the League of American Orchestras
The League of American Orchestras leads, supports, and champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of more than 1,800 organizations and individuals across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned orchestras to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles, from conservatories to libraries, from businesses serving orchestras to individuals who love symphonic music. The national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the League is a nexus of knowledge and innovation, advocacy, and leadership advancement. Its conferences and events, award-winning Symphony magazine, website, and other publications inform people around the world about orchestral activity and developments. Founded in 1942 and chartered by Congress in 1962, the League links a national network of thousands of instrumentalists, conductors, managers and administrators, board members, volunteers, and business partners. Visit

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