Improved Efficiency Through Technology

I was recently reading an article in the October, 2002 edition of Harmony by Douglas Dempster that talked about Baumol’s Curse.  One part in particular that struck me was this excerpt: 

“[Economists] William Baumol and William Bowen considered all “service industries,” (e.g., education and food preparation, as well as the performing arts) as opposed to manufacturing, to be vulnerable to the Curse. They single out the performing arts as the very best example of a stagnant service industry that benefited very little, in terms of productivity, from technological innovations. A string quartet still requires four musicians a fixed amount of time to perform, regardless of 250 years of technological innovation since the genre became well defined. Baumol and Bowen argued that, as an industry, the performing arts were at a technological disadvantage relative to other industries, and that this was enough to ensure that the performing arts would struggle with an ever-growing gap between earned income and expenses.”

Mr. Dempster goes on to partially refute this claim stating that improved distribution means for recorded products via the internet, better designed concert halls, and educational programming that requires less rehearsal time are in effect technological advancements.  While I agree with Mr. Dempster’s assessment, I also believe that there are a number of additional technological advancements available to be taken advantage of now, or in the near future, that will greatly improve the efficiency of orchestra operations while at the same time reducing expenditures. 

I’ll be detailing many of these specific technologies over several articles.  In the first of this series, we’ll talk about how orchestras can increase the level of communication between musicians and management while at the same time greatly reducing their operational expenditures on paper based documents.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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