Orchestra 2.016

The Orchestra Is Dead.

The Orchestra Is Dead.

Long Live the Orchestra.



The Orchestra of the 19th and 20th centuries is dead. Everywhere you look in the classical music industry, and the symphony orchestra is classical music's primary symbol and driver, there are signs that the markets for both are on their last legs.


In 2014, a morbid piece in Slate ("Requiem") declared:

When it comes to classical music and American culture, the fat lady hasn’t just sung. Brünnhilde has packed her bags and moved to Boca Raton.

Classical music as recent as 20 years ago was a major segment of the music industry; now it's just a fringe market, traded in bulk by the last few remaining major record labels. In 2012 alone, classical music sales experienced a 21% decline.

Consider the average age at Symphony Orchestra concerts. Every single year - and this is a decades-long trend - it inches upwards. Imagine that in Los Angeles of 1937 it was 28! 

The grimness goes on and on. Younger would-be donors are no longer interested in financially supporting orchestras in good times, let alone rescuing them in bad, and not all ensembles are winning the fight to fend off bankruptcy.

But how did it all go wrong?