Orchestras battling the recession nee...

Orchestras battling the recession need a bold new business plan...

There are 44 comments on the Chicago Tribune story from May 15, 2009, titled Orchestras battling the recession need a bold new business plan.... In it, Chicago Tribune reports that:

It's everybody's job in these recession-rocked times to get by with less, so we are constantly told.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Chicago Tribune.

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ozlock

Chicago, IL

#1 May 16, 2009
Fascinating article, but I wonder how salaries compare with European organizations that have so much more support from government. Is this a source of compensation inflation over the years?

And of course I cannot miss the opportunity to point out that Barenboim is certainly the most overpaid musician in the history of the CSO (and probably any other organization).'Tis a pity that Fogel and Barenboim led the CSO disastrously into to this downturn in an already weakened condition.

Since: Feb 09

Southern Pines, NC

#2 May 17, 2009
Ticket prices weren't mentioned, but let me put in a plug for FREE performances on Friday nights in the summer in Park Ridge of the Fine Arts Society Orchestra, which features a lot of musicians from the CSO and other fine orchestras around.

I don't remember what they are paid for performance, but thanks to the generosity of donors, the price of admission is absolutely right during these times!

You can find out the 2009 schedule at www.prfas.org .
Drew McManus

Gurnee, IL

#3 May 17, 2009
ozlock wrote:
Fascinating article, but I wonder how salaries compare with European organizations that have so much more support from government. Is this a source of compensation inflation over the years?
And of course I cannot miss the opportunity to point out that Barenboim is certainly the most overpaid musician in the history of the CSO (and probably any other organization).'Tis a pity that Fogel and Barenboim led the CSO disastrously into to this downturn in an already weakened condition.
That's an excellent question; in 2008 the International Federation of Musicians (FIM- an international labor organization) conducted one of the most comprehensive wage and working condition surveys to date for non-US orchestras. That survey produced a wealth of quantifiable data but when comparing international compensation levels, it is important to remember some key differences regarding the impact of state sponsored benefits on an overall compensation package.

When determining a formula for the value of direct wages, one must take into consideration countries where expenses related to health care, retirement, and pensions are secured by the state. Consequently, conducting a side by side comparison of weekly or per service wages without adjusting the cost of these benefits to an organization doesn't provide a clear picture of the buying power for those figures. Nonetheless, it is certainly possible to take into account all of these variables and arrive at a relative apples-to-apples comparison.

This work has been paramount in many countries that do not have an established tradition of western European orchestral music yet are initiating large scale projects. In cases such as these, it is necessary to initially recruit professional musicians from different countries thereby requiring organizations and/or government agencies to calculate competitive compensation packages capable of attracting quality musicians (these projects are a tremendous but rewarding challenge).
EJ from Palatine

Chicago, IL

#4 May 17, 2009
One point not discussed is musicians that get a gig at one of the big orchestras make big money teaching because of the prestige that comes with playing for the likes of the CSO.
Jones

Naperville, IL

#5 May 17, 2009
Tar Heel Fan wrote:
Ticket prices weren't mentioned, but let me put in a plug for FREE performances on Friday nights in the summer in Park Ridge of the Fine Arts Society Orchestra, which features a lot of musicians from the CSO and other fine orchestras around.
I don't remember what they are paid for performance, but thanks to the generosity of donors, the price of admission is absolutely right during these times!
You can find out the 2009 schedule at www.prfas.org .
This comment absolutely makes me wince. I've heard the Park Ridge orchestra and it is in no way, shape or form comparable to the Chicago Symphony or even the smaller orchestras in Chicagoland. These kinds of sentiments eventually boil down to "Well, why should I pay top dollar for the CSO when I can hear this other group for free?" I'd agree that conductor salaries and soloist fees are unnecessarily high and due for an adjustment, but as with any other profession, you are paying more for the very best, and that's what the orchestra business is -- a profession.

Free performances would be a boon in these times, but it doesn’t serve to punish the CSO or any other well-paid orchestra for making the living they deserve to make for being in the “major leagues”. So let’s not turn our backs on a world-class institution simply because they have the audacity to reap the benefits of a strong economy that rewarded everyone else at the top of their game.
EJ from Palatine

Chicago, IL

#6 May 17, 2009
Jones wrote:
<quoted text>
This comment absolutely makes me wince....
It's the same reason I take my family to the Flyers game instead of the Cubs/Sox game. While I can tell the difference, most folks can't. The difference in cost for a family of five is hundreds of dollars...Like it or not, the CSO is just another choice in the market. In hard times everyone has to tough it out....
KerryH20

Tulsa, OK

#8 May 17, 2009
It is almost as if this article's author is suggesting that everyone should make what is considered a "reasonable" amount. Who makes this decision? What is reasonable? By the same principles during economic hardship everyone making a large sum of money should relinquish part of their earnings. Athletes, musicians, doctors, lawyers, actors and anyone else who makes over a million a year should then give up part of their paychecks.

Our economy did not get to the state it is in because some people are considered overpaid for their services. It was because of poor investing and bad business decisions.

Artists and the like earn what companies are willing to pay them. If you want a world class orchestra you need people with the talent. One can't just put any person with a stick on a podium. That is why the conductors get paid the big bucks. You get what you pay for. The CSO reached the status it has because of great artists at the helm.
ozlock

Chicago, IL

#9 May 17, 2009
Jeff wrote:
you can all suck on your orchestra
Not sure if this qualifies for "Report Abuse" but it sure adds nothing to what has been a respectful and illuminating conversation until now.

I would have hoped for better from Columbus--or maybe we are talking Buckeyes and Illini?? When did conversation deteriorate into vapidness?
Johnny G

Quinton, AL

#10 May 17, 2009
These fees may seem high until one realizes that many of these artists such as James Levine could make ten times or more of these amount in the entertainment industry.
empty

Chicago, IL

#11 May 18, 2009
So we're not even proofreading article headlines anymore?
Lynn

United States

#12 May 18, 2009
Not only does a side-by-side comparison of US vs. European salaries not work, but it also doesn't work for different orchestras here in the US. A $100,000 salary in NYC does not have the same buying power as $100,000 in Cleveland, not to mention all the variances in work rules, pension and health care benefits, etc.

I'm thrilled to hear of a major orchestra finally putting its foot down about exorbitant artist fees. I'm so tired of hearing top-name classical musicians talk about the importance of arts/music education and then charge fees that make it impossible for the orchestra to even think of recouping costs. How does that bring in new recruits to the art form?

The music director compensation structure for major orchestras is, overall, appalling when you remember that most major orchestras' music directors are only around "their" orchestra approx. 12-15 weeks per year.(Yes, I know there are exceptions to that. I'm speaking generally.) Then THEY'RE globe-trotting just like guest soloists, demanding huge fees. Nice gig if you can get it. One glimmer of hope I see is that I think most music directors of US orchestras are starting to understand that they are critical to an orchestra's fundraising, marketing and PR success. Barenboim's outspoken disgust of such things is/was completely out of touch with the US orchestra system and unfortunately projected an image of snobby selfishness that couldn't be bothered with the tangible needs of the CSO. I'll be interested to hear/see how Muti does with those things, as his history shows he has had similar attitudes. If he is equally disdainful of those responsibilities, shame on the CSO.

FWIW, Atlanta's Bob Spano has also taken a pay cut, along with the entire orchestra and staff.
John Q

Chicago, IL

#13 May 18, 2009
I felt bad about not signing up for any CSO subscriptions for the upcoming season for the first time in a over a decade due to personal financial concerns. That is - until I read this article. I'm all for the musicians getting paid what they're worth and appreciate the sacrifices and givebacks. But yes, the numbers at the director and management level seem a bit out of line to strapped (would be) audience members like me.
Blair Tindall

Pasadena, CA

#14 May 18, 2009
Didn't I write this story five years ago in the New York Times? http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/04/arts/the-pl...
paukenkiger

Port Washington, NY

#15 May 19, 2009
I have one thing to say....Obama and the democrats gave $4 billion to ACORN (Obama's re-election operation) and only $50 million to the arts.
why don't you have a problem with that, Mr. Rhein?
If I were a democrat and had been worshipping obama for the last two years and screaming that bush hates the arts, I might be a little peeved that the arts just got screwed.
but that's just me....
as an orchestra musician, I often wonder what the scene would be like if orchestras had to compete in the market-place...I imagine there would be more melody and less cacophony.
Anonymous

Chicago, IL

#16 May 19, 2009
Regarding the large payments to conductors, the orchestras are sort of in a prisoner's dilemma. If they had said, "No, that is simply too high a fee to be sustainable, Maestro," then they wouldn't get to work with the top conductors (or guest soloists, for that matter), because another orchestra WOULD pay the fee. No orchestra can risk negotiating too hard on fees when the economy is good, because no one orchestra can effectively set the fees for all the others.

Now that the economy has decimated endowments, orchestras have a much needed reason to rationalize these fees, and should get to it forthwith.
Ken

Chicago, IL

#17 May 19, 2009
No disrespect to John von Rhein's abilities as a critic or even the thorough job he did researching this article, but... what qualifies him or anyone else here to comment on the finances of these organizations? It's none of our business what an organization feels it can and/or should pay its employees. If the market can't sustain their salaries, it won't. We don't need to add to the fun by scolding them.

Since: Feb 09

Southern Pines, NC

#18 May 19, 2009
Jones wrote:
<quoted text>
This comment absolutely makes me wince. I've heard the Park Ridge orchestra and it is in no way, shape or form comparable to the Chicago Symphony or even the smaller orchestras in Chicagoland. These kinds of sentiments eventually boil down to "Well, why should I pay top dollar for the CSO when I can hear this other group for free?" I'd agree that conductor salaries and soloist fees are unnecessarily high and due for an adjustment, but as with any other profession, you are paying more for the very best, and that's what the orchestra business is -- a profession.
Free performances would be a boon in these times, but it doesn’t serve to punish the CSO or any other well-paid orchestra for making the living they deserve to make for being in the “major leagues”. So let’s not turn our backs on a world-class institution simply because they have the audacity to reap the benefits of a strong economy that rewarded everyone else at the top of their game.
Are you saying that the CSO musicians who play in Park Ridge check their talent at the steps of City Hall when they are playing for the PR Fine Arts Orchestra? I would hope not!

And like one of the other posters said, it's an alternative. Would you rather there be silence on Friday nights?

The board of the PRFAS is putting out a FREE way for people to get exposed to classical music, and Barbars Schubert is very talented as a conductor.

Disclaimer: I used to be on the board, so go ahead and accuse me of being prejudiced in this regard.
Alexander

San Francisco, CA

#20 May 19, 2009
It's amazing how the general public doesn't seem to mind the exorbitant salaries paid to athletes or pop entertainers, whereas the salaries of those "pretentious" and "spoiled" classical musicians always seem to generate an overall sense of disapproval and condemnation. I guess it all comes down to one (very) popular opinion: who cares if they are some of the best musicians in the world, how dare these fat cats make over $100k - aren't all musicians supposed to be poor? How about this: over the past 15 years we have seen tremendous economic growth that was certainly reflected in the size of orchestras' endowments, administration as well as their salaries. In the case of the Chicago Symphony, only 1/3 of its annual budget covers actual salaries of the orchestra. What about the $40 million that goes to "administrative expenses"? Speaking of conductors, it might be worthwhile to point out that the 1.5 million-dollar salary is paid for the period of no more than 20 weeks per year (that's roughly $11000 per day!). How come in the past 15 years nobody exclaimed: "Gee, the markets are doing so well, isn't it time to raise the musicians' salaries?" Now that the financial situation is obviously different, the great solution has been revealed: "THINK SALARY CUTS" for classical musicians. Does it seem right that in order to adequately manage the functions of a world-class symphony orchestra (108 musicians), its administration must spend $40 million on itself?
oh really

Roselle, IL

#21 May 19, 2009
What about the executive directors of NPR, WBEZ, WTTW?
Bryan

Ann Arbor, MI

#24 May 19, 2009
KerryH20 wrote:
It is almost as if this article's author is suggesting that everyone should make what is considered a "reasonable" amount. Who makes this decision? What is reasonable? By the same principles during economic hardship everyone making a large sum of money should relinquish part of their earnings. Athletes, musicians, doctors, lawyers, actors and anyone else who makes over a million a year should then give up part of their paychecks.
Our economy did not get to the state it is in because some people are considered overpaid for their services. It was because of poor investing and bad business decisions.
Artists and the like earn what companies are willing to pay them. If you want a world class orchestra you need people with the talent. One can't just put any person with a stick on a podium. That is why the conductors get paid the big bucks. You get what you pay for. The CSO reached the status it has because of great artists at the helm.
I agree with you in every way, brilliant post.

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