Self Test Results

As promised, here are the summaries from the little self test I offered last week complete with nifty color pie charts.  I think it’s important to stress that the answers to these questions are, for the most part, irrelevant although certainly interesting. 

The questions were never presented with the intention of coming to any sort of conclusion; rather, they were designed to simply create the opportunity for you, the reader, to think about issues that you may have otherwise never previously devoted any of your time.  And I was quite pleased to see many respondents sending in very lengthy answers that eventually led to one conclusion or another, most involving a sort of “either/or” answer.

Question #1: If they programmed the same repertoire in the same concert, which orchestra would you prefer to hear: Boston or Buffalo?
My Observations: This question was probably the most “loaded” question in the group and the one that contained the highest number of variable answers.  Many of you based an answer on such variables as who is conducting, what type of repertoire is being played, etc.  In the end it hopefully leads us to hone what is important to ourselves when it comes to who we wish to hear.


Question #2: You’re at a music store to buy a recording of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and you find three different copies, one by Chicago for $19, one by New York for $17, and one by Nashville for $8; which would you purchase?
My Observations:  I had on overwhelming number of responses that said they would only buy the Chicago CD – but only if they could locate a used copy.  It just goes to show that people are tired of paying high prices for CD’s. 


Question #3: Is an orchestra with a $20 million annual budget twice as good as an orchestra with a $10 million annual budget?
My Observations: I was pleased to see nearly every answer including a statement along the lines of consistent artistic quality/output is more of a determining factor than budget size. 


Question #4: Is an orchestra that has performed in Carnegie Hall better than one that hasn’t?

My Observations:  Here’s where I encountered my largest surprise.  I was pleased to see that so many readers don’t consider Carnegie a benchmark of success so much as a positive promotional tool.  It just goes to show that the listening audience is savvier than people give them credit for.


Question #5: The executive director at the Boston Symphony must be better than the executive director at the Columbus (OH) Symphony, true or false?
My Observations: This question generated the largest number of responses from administrative professionals.  I don’t think anyone would be surprised that the managers for larger orchestras agreed and the managers for midsize and smaller orchestras disagreed.  But perhaps even more interesting is that a larger number of responses were generated from the latter group.


Questions #6: Which orchestra has a better low brass section, Philadelphia or Kansas City?
My Observations: The majority of responses ended with something along the lines of ” because I’ve never heard the KC section before”.  I guess it goes to show that recordings are valuable, even if you only offer real-time streaming.  Several respondents hypothesized that they KC might have a better section because it probably attracts younger players so this shows that perhaps listeners equate youth with quality when it comes to brass playing; interesting


In the end, it was quite a bit of fun conversing with readers about why they answered the way they did and most conversations with non professionals resulted in generating more questions and interest in orchestras than previously existed which was the real goal all along.

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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