[Dixielandjazz] OKOM & Classical Music have similar problems

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 23 08:07:15 PST 2004

Seems that all forms of music in the USA are having similar problems related
to declining audiences, and/or declining ticket revenue. Generally speaking,
Rock, Jazz, Classical, all suffer the same malaise. LESS "LIVE" AUDIENCE.

Some are bucking this trend. Hope you (band leaders and event promoters) are
among the more fortunate.

Hey Randy, how does your "left coast" symphony package compare to those

Steve Barbone 



A Tightening of Belts for Symphony Players

Many of the people who bring you Mozart and Mahler from some of the nation's
greatest symphony orchestras will be working harder over the next few years
and without raises this season.

They will be paying more for health insurance and retiring, at least for
many in the near future, with the same old pensions. Yet they will still be
making solid six-figure incomes and will have new opportunities to have
their performances heard on radio, Internet and CD.

Labor season in the world of Big Orchestra is over.

By a quirk of timing, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland
Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra all had
contracts that expired in late summer. With ratification of a new contract
in Philadelphia this weekend, the final terms have been sewn up, and some
general trends have emerged.

Administrators say they hope the contracts will both improve the orchestras'
current financial condition and solidify their futures. A holdback on
salaries in the early part of the contracts, for example, will help the
administrators repair deficits, and looser work rules will allow more Sunday
and educational concerts, to build audiences, they argue.

In one of the costliest future areas, pensions, Cleveland and Chicago will
keep them frozen, and the New York Philharmonic put the matter off until the
second year of a three-year contract, in a move seen as a time-buying
exercise to improve financial health before dealing with the issue. The
players in all orchestras got raises, but only starting in the second year
in Cleveland, Chicago and Philadelphia, and after six months in New York.

"Orchestras in general are being a little more temperate, a little bit more
careful," said Rita Shapiro, executive director of the National Symphony
Orchestra in Washington, which also reached a settlement this month. "We
tend to be making shorter deals. Everybody's hoping for an upturn in the

Negotiations this time around were generally more bitter than in the recent
past. Attendance and endowments were down, and costs and deficits were up.
Strikes loomed, angry rhetoric flew and mediators were called in. Jan Gippo,
president of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians
and a piccolo player with the St. Louis Symphony, said he was convinced that
a strike somewhere was inevitable. "In each case, reason and true bargaining
took over," he said.

Even after settlements, there was criticism of orchestra managements.
Stephen Lester, a bass player and head of the musicians' committee at the
Chicago Symphony, blamed the bloating of management and the loss of focus on
playing concerts for financial problems.

"The boards all of a sudden woke up and said, 'Man, we can't afford this,' "
he said. "They did the thing American industry is world-class at - taking it
out on the employees."

Joseph H. Kluger, president of the Philadelphia Orchestra, countered that as
ticket revenues have shrunk, as a means of covering costs fund-raising - and
robust staffing for development and marketing staffs - became crucial.

"Orchestras are more complex today," Mr. Kluger said. "We're doing more than
servicing audience members who want to come every Saturday night. We're
serving school systems and communities. That's our mission. It's what donors
want to support."

Most strikingly, the musicians in Chicago and Philadelphia agreed to
reductions in the number of full-time positions through attrition,
developments bitterly opposed by orchestra players in a world where hundreds
of people can audition for a single job.

Mr. Lester, the Chicago musician, said his committee knew it was setting a
"dangerous precedent."

"We felt that we had to show willingness to cooperate," he said. "We also
expect to see a willingness to support the orchestra down the road."

After big-time orchestra players made major gains in salaries and job
stability starting in the 1960's, work conditions on their factory floor -
the stage - became vital .

Many musicians say peace of mind is important to good performance, and that
limits on their playing are important to their health, when blasting brass
can cause hearing loss and constant minute movements of fingers can cause
repetitive-stress injuries. Rehearsal and concert time, they argue, is only
one part of a daily routine that includes practicing and teaching.

"Happy musicians make great music," Ms. Shapiro, of the National Symphony,

Managers say that time can be better organized, and musicians who may not be
on stage during a smaller Mozart concert, yet are still being paid, should
be prepared to put in some work hours. They also say that concerts should be
played on the musicians' sacrosanct Sunday, when it is easier for many
audience members to attend.

That is exactly what will happen in Philadelphia, where orchestra players
have agreed to 30 more concerts a year by the end of the contract, including
four Sunday dates. The extra concerts include performances for students and
families. The Clevelanders and Chicagoans will also play more Sunday and
educational concerts. The New York Philharmonic musicians agreed to play one
concert without pay to raise funds.

But with all the extra work, the minimum salary is still decent,
representatives of players and management say. (Virtually all players earn
more with seniority pay, overtime and extras, and principals can negotiate
much larger packages.) By the end of Year 3, the players in Philadelphia and
Chicago will make at least $2,200 a week; the New Yorkers will make $2,180
(unless a penalty for failure by management to increase pensions enough
kicks the pay grade up to $2,330); and in Cleveland, which has a smaller
budget and endowment, weekly pay at the end of the two-year contract will
hit $2,010.

In one ripple effect, the contracts will provide a big pay bump for the
Pittsburgh Symphony, where the weekly minimum is $1,735. The contract there
calls for next season's minimum to equal 95 percent of the average salary of
the four orchestras.

The relatively flush Boston Symphony Orchestra, the only one of the
so-called Big Five orchestras, with a contract in course this season, will
end next season at a salary of $2,170.

Several orchestras negotiated provisions designed to increase their presence
on the airwaves. 

In Cleveland, the contract permits the broadcast of 60 concerts over the
next two seasons on radio and through streaming on the Internet. The
Philadelphia Orchestra players agreed to terms allowing for 26 national and
international broadcasts a year.

The Philadelphia players also broke away from the national American
Federation of Musicians recording contract to allow four audio recordings on
separate, less costly terms, which include revenue-sharing, Mr. Kluger said.

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