Corporatisation, Economic Efficiency and the Australian Symphony Orchestras


Professor David Throsby, Department of Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. Email:


A process of corporatisation of the six State-based symphony orchestras was implemented by the Australian Government in the 1990s. This article discusses corporatisation theory as it applies to firms in the cultural sector, highlighting the peculiarities of symphony orchestras as productive enterprises. The program for corporatisation of the Australian orchestras is outlined and its outcomes are considered with an emphasis on the measurement of efficiency. Data envelopment analysis is used to assess the efficiency of a sample of the orchestras’ post-corporatisation. We conclude that removal of the orchestras from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has enabled a rationalisation of their administrative structures, but that the scope for achieving gains in technical efficiency has been limited, especially amongst the smaller ensembles which are unable to take advantage of the economies of scale and scope available in larger centres.