The Louisville Orchestra has seen a bad year. They nearly filled for chapter 7 bankruptcy, but were saved during the 11th hour by a $465,000 pledge by the Home Builders Association of Louisville, contract concessions by the musicians, and fundraising efforts by the board. Since then, orchestra leadership has abandoned ship. Management is currently without an Executive Director, a Director of Development, a Director of Marketing & Public Relations, a Public Relations Manager, an Operations Manager, as well as several staff positions in the development, marketing and education departments.
Problem: I recently learned that an Executive Director of a small orchestra left her position to work as a development director for managed care facility. How are these two businesses related? They aren’t.
A leading problem in this industry is there are too many managers that have no real stake in the medium of performing arts, specifically orchestras. Several recent studies regarding the current crisis in the orchestra industry, list administrative turnover as a significant impediment to improving the current situation. They go on to state that the reasons for such a high turnover rate are insignificant pay coupled with a difficult working environment. Conventional business wisdom states that you have to pay orchestra managers an equivalent to their for-profit counterparts in order to retain quality individuals. The resulting solution has been higher and higher executive salaries.
As an avid reader of my colleague Andrew Taylor’s blog, The Artful Manager, I would like to start this piece with a quote from one of his writings: “The world doesn’t work the way we thought it did, the way our common knowledge thinks it should, or the way our training prepared us for. Either the world is broken, or our eyes and brains aren’t seeing it right. One, I suggest, …