Arts and entertainment are the lifeblood of a thriving city such as ours. But we rarely think about the business decisions that go on behind the scenes. Read on to discover more about the business of arts and entertainment in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden operates as a nonprofit organization, which means, for one thing, that the zoo must generate its operating expenses in revenue each year. Which, when you consider all of the animals and enclosures that are a part of the zoo, comes out to a huge amount of money. Take, as an example, the Asian elephant. Asian elephants eat several hundred pounds of food daily, and drink up to 40 gallons of water. The Cincinnati Zoo has four elephants and hopes to continue breeding them. And all this covers just one enclosure. According to the Cincinnati Zoo’s Annual Report for 2014-2015, the zoo needs $38.6 million to cover its expenses, from animal care to administrative costs—$14.4 million of that was spent on just animal and plant care last year. Luckily for our local families, the Cincinnati Zoo is very good at keeping local interest high—the zoo brought $40 million in revenue over the last fiscal year.

Cincinnati Ballet

The Cincinnati Ballet, also a nonprofit, must bring in all it needs to mount exhilarating performances designed to wow local audiences every year. According to the 2014-2015 annual report, the ballet brought in $12.5 million last fiscal year, which more than covered its $8.5 million of organizational expenditures. Of those expenses, the ballet spends 80 percent of the income received on artistic activities—the world-class performances audiences enjoy and outreach programs that introduce 80,000 children and families to the ballet annually. Of the remaining 20 percent of expenditures, 16 percent are spent on administrative costs and 4 percent on fundraising efforts. Last year, for the eighth year running, the ballet ended the year with a surplus, which it, like the zoo, was able to roll into an endowment—a rainy day fund for any lean years that come.


But where do the arts organizations of our city, beyond just the Ballet and the Zoo, get their revenue? Much of it comes from ticket sales and even more comes from individual donors and philanthropists, but some of their revenue comes from Artswave. Artswave is a local arts agency that runs the nation’s largest community campaign for the arts. You may have attended its Macy’s Arts Sampler, in which community members can enjoy free arts “samples,” or small performances. Or perhaps you attended or participated in Cincy Sings, a Sing-Off-style competition for employee choirs. Both of these are put on by Artswave to cultivate community excitement and dedication to the arts. Over the 2014-2015 fiscal year, there were 42,000 donors in more than 100 arts and community organizations, from arts staples like the Ballet and the Symphony, to more unconventional arts organizations, like woodturners guilds and gerontology centers.

Arts and entertainment are something we all invest in, with just our ticket sales or perhaps more substantial donations. Just as in any business, you get what you pay for.