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.