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Revolutionizing the Arizona Opera's funding model

In partnership with ASU, the arts company is seeking innovative revenue ideas for its OnPitch Business Challenge

Theater masks, drama and comedy on a dark background / 3D Rendering

October 29, 2019

To elevate the transformative power of storytelling through music, the opera requires risk taking, boundary pushing and innovation. The same is required of the art form’s generations-old funding model.

Arizona Opera announced a request for proposals (RFP) for its OnPitch Business Challenge, a venture capital-inspired competition designed to seek out the most innovative proposals for new earned-revenue sources for the company, with $25,000 of prize money to be awarded. 

The arts company aims to work with experts and innovators across multiple fields to identify meaningful new earned-revenue sources, decreasing reliance on ticket sales and donations. It is the first competition of its kind in the field of opera.

“In line with the extraordinary creativity demonstrated by Arizona Opera’s artistic program, we are seeking, in partnership with ASU, a new entrepreneurial venture-funding approach to supplement and increase the revenues of the company,” said Barry Fingerhut, board member of Arizona Opera and chair of the company’s Funding Innovations Task Force. “I hope our success will become the model to financially enhance all U.S. opera companies.” 

Arizona Opera’s RFP, which launched Aug. 15, invites teams and individual innovators from across the country to present funding concepts designed to create new and novel earned-revenue sources for Arizona Opera. The window for submitting competition entries will open on Nov. 1 and close on Dec. 31, 2019. Entrepreneurial experts from the Arizona State University community will then assist with vetting submissions for the competition. Proposals that reach the finals, scheduled for April 2020, will then be evaluated by a group of business and thought leaders assembled by Arizona Opera to determine which team and/or individual will be awarded a top cash prize of $25,000.

In Phase 2 of the program, the grant provides $100,000 of seed capital, which will be used by Arizona Opera to support the launch of the winning concept, with a goal of generating $1 million in new, annually recurring net earned revenue within four years. 

The company’s OnPitch Challenge is seeking wide-ranging solutions — from maximizing revenues of existing company assets (e.g., sets and costumes, LED video wall) to groundbreaking concepts that expand beyond conventional boundaries of the art form. The competition has been inspired in part by companies such as Opera Idaho and Michigan Opera Theatre, and locally by Chicanos Por La Causa, which have implemented their own novel revenue-generating operations, supporting those organizations’ ability to fulfill their missions and deliver service to their respective communities.

“Arts organizations such as Arizona Opera are vital to our city, and we celebrate entrepreneurial Arizona organizations that persevere and create their own success,” said W. P. Carey Dean Amy Hillman. “In addition to distributing the national call for proposals through intercollegiate communication channels, the Center for Entrepreneurship at the W. P. Carey School of Business is excited to collaborate on a one-day, student-centric event in support of the OnPitch Challenge. The event gives students the opportunity to engage around brainstorming new business models for the opera, see the challenge, experience workshops, and pitch real solutions.”

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