Both the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra have posted unexpectedly healthy surpluses, their 2020 annual reports show. The pair of positive reports come as something of a surprise, given the enormous issues faced by arts organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Due to the pandemic, both organisations had severely curtailed their live performances, and hence much of their incoming revenue, for the majority of 2020. The SSO posted a $7.8 million surplus, and the MSO $1.5 million, both significantly larger than previous years.

Simone Young and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Chief Conductor Designate Simone Young conducts the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in February 2021. Photograph © Nic Walker

In April last year, MSO made the decision to “hibernate” its musicians. While the orchestra had had several years of surplus, MSO Managing Director Sophie Galaise said at the time that “. . .  we don’t have enormous reserves so we are not in the position to sustain [the orchestra] without any earned revenues coming in for a long time”. Likewise, last May the SSO also