No Miracle: At the Last Minute, DSO Cancels Smokey Robinson Show Due to Slow Sales

For the second time in a month, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra has canceled a concert due to slow ticket sales. But June's cancellation was for a "community concert" featuring Jubilant Sykes -- an astounding singer, but not exactly a household name. And it came with two weeks' warning. But today's announcement comes but one day before a scheduled show at the Morton H. Meyerson. And Smokey Robinson's a legend.

Says the release that went out about an hour ago, the show's been canceled "in an effort to reduce cost and ensure financial stability," meaning: Ticket sales were awful. The release continues:

The Smokey Robinson concert was planned as part of the Dallas Symphony Presents series. Smokey Robinson has been very popular with the DSO audience in the past and we hope to have him back in the future, but do not have a future date scheduled at this time. The DSO continues its commitment to bringing musical excellence to all of the citizens of Dallas and to incorporate diverse programming throughout the Dallas Symphony Season.
John O'Dell, vice president of marketing, tells Unfair Park he made the decision to cancel the show only last night. And it wasn't easy, he says, but with "a little less than half" the Meyerson sold, he had no choice.

"It was less about belt-tightening and more to do with the profitability of this show," he says. "We were looking at the financial risk we were taking here. We're trying to be very prudent with our funds, obviously, because of the economic climate. We've had great success with Smokey in the past, and this was not performing as we'd hoped."

Just last month, Scott Cantrell wrote that the DSO doesn't actually have a classical show on its schedule through summer -- it's been heavy on pops and pop, not to mention things like Planet Earth Live. A glance at the schedule reveals that Kenny G's forthcoming, and September opens with two nights of The Music of Michael Jackson, followed by three nights with Pink Martini. Said DSO president and CEO Doug Adams, "Quite honestly, business is very, very challenging."

Were Robinson coming in to perform with the DSO, as Elvis Costello had; or were he coming alone, like Neil Young; O'Dell might have let the show go on. After all, he says, "when the orchestra is involved, whether it's Pops or classical, it's what we do, and it's part of our fixed cost." But Robinson was coming with his band, and it didn't make fiscal sense to bring them all in to play to half a hall.

"We take the patrons that purchase tickets very seriously, and we're doing everything we can to accommodate those folks. We would avoid that at all costs, but we have to balance that with the financial position and not taking on any more debt. We don't want to make things worse."

I asked him if he looks down the schedule and sees any more trouble spots ahead. O'Dell says: So far, so good. Meaning: Kenny G will likely play the Meyerson next month. But not Smokey Robinson tomorrow.