Do Ballet Companies Make (Financial) Sense?
The arts are desperately underfunded in this country, and programs big and small rely on philanthropy to stay afloat. Ballet companies rarely earn enough income to break even, so philanthropy is essential to their continuation. While this is a less-than-ideal way to scrape by, we (readers and staff) all probably agree that it’s worth the fundraising hustle in order to keep seeing and presenting great art. In the meantime we can work to change the way art is funded in the U.S.
But what if someone played devil’s advocate and questioned, in strictly economic terms, whether it makes sense for ballet companies to keep existing as money-losing institutions? Angela Ma–
reader, ballet dancer and Harvard student extraordinaire–did just that, and her answer was published in the
Harvard Economics Review.
Ma notes that ballet companies are beholden to a double bottom-line: They have “dual economic and artistic obligations.” Ballet companies are non-profits that exist to share art, not make a profit. To that end, Ma argues, it is economically acceptable for them to be money-losing organizations. She says that “the implication of this ‘double bottom line’ for ballet companies is that they are justified in pursuing various opportunities that advance one cause at the cost of the other. The monetary loss incurred by companies that advance their artistic mission but expend more resources than are recouped is accounted for by the social benefit of bringing the mission to fruition.”
Translation: Yes, ballet companies make economic sense. Check out the rest of Ma’s thoughtful article