Following the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s announcement last week of a 2016 surplus, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has announced a surplus of $785,984 for 2016. Like the MSO, the SSO reported significant financial losses in its 2015 annual report, with a shortfall of $896,811, the most substantial year-on-year decrease in income recorded by the orchestra since 2009.

According to SSO Managing Director Rory Jeffes, the 2016 surplus can be attributed to a growth in performance profitability, as well as a substantial bequest that has offset continued cost pressures. “I am pleased to report the SSO has delivered a significant turnaround in its results for 2016,” Jeffes said. “Ticket income for the year increased from 2015 by 21% to $21,859,428 across the range of our performance activities, with a particularly strong result in the commercial programming segment.”

“The SSO has continued to see strong growth in philanthropic support which in 2016 included a significant bequest left to the organisation by a long-term SSO subscriber, to whom we are very grateful. Sponsorship remained steady in the period, accounting for $1.73m of total revenue.”

“The Company is now a $44.8m business of which government funding represents 32 per cent, as compared to 37 per cent the previous year. The SSO remains the only state symphony orchestra in Australia that generates significantly more revenue through its own activities than the level of funding it receives from Federal and State governments,” Jeffes added.

In 2016, the company continued a pattern of strong ticket sales during the course of the season, with total tickets sold up by 11% compared to 2015. However, there were more performances in 2016 (122, compared with 108 in 2015) and concert programmes (86 in 2016 as opposed to 81 in 2015). Consequently, paid occupancy for 2016 was lower at 79.8%. Additionally, paid attendance for commercial concerts were up by 10% in 2016 compared to 2015. This result was largely due to a more popular mix of artists and programmes, and the inclusion of two additional performances.

In its third year under the leadership of David Robertson, the SSO gave more than 215 concerts to over 341,000 people. These included two free concerts in the Domain and Parramatta Park to a combined audience of approximately 30,000.

Reflecting on some of the highlights of 2016, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director David Robertson said: “To open the season we put on the ultimate jazz celebration for our audiences when we welcomed virtuoso trumpeter Wynton Marsalis to perform the Australian premiere of his Swing Symphony with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. We performed two Asia-Pacific premieres: a new presentation of Messiaen’s From the Canyons to the Stars with stunning projections, and a new Violin Concerto by my friend, composer John Adams. With our Artist in Residence Brett Dean, we worked with several Australian composers to bring their work to the Carriageworks stage, and we performed three great Stravinsky ballets. Continuing our opera in concert series, we presented Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in a tremendous finale to a season that saw our musicians continue to excel in their artistry.”