Social Networking Enters The Labor Arena

At first thought, you might not consider that a social networking site such as Facebook could have much influence on a professional U.S. orchestra work stoppage. However, when the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO) lockout began, one JSO patron took it upon herself to establish the Facebook group, JSO Lockdown, in order to raise awareness about the situation. At the time this article is published, the group has attracted more than 800 members since it was founded on 11/15/2007…

JSO Lockdown’s
creator, Gina Gannon, has been attending the JSO performances for several years and studies with some of the JSO musicians at the University of North Florida. In an email correspondence, Gannon wrote that one of the reasons she decided to start the group was due to feeling frustrated by the lockout situation. Using the tools at hand, she established the Facebook group in an effort to make a difference and bring more voices into the discussion.

“I started the group because I felt that this whole situation is ridiculous and as many supporters that we could get, the better,” said Gannon. “I just wanted to get the word out and show the management how many people were devoted to this symphony…These musicians are amazing people who devote their lives to this symphony. They deserve to get a full pay and they do not deserve to be bashed [in the media] or downplayed by the management.”

Given that the role of an orchestra’s board is to represent the interests of their community and serve as the guardians of public trust, social networking sites are beginning to function as a new vehicle for community members to express their voice to board members. Based on the content and messages on their group’s “Wall” (a place where group members can leave personal messages), the 800+ voices at JSO Lockdown have been predominantly pro-musician. In addition to allowing community members an opportunity to post messages on their Wall, the group also posts links to upcoming JSO musician benefit events, relevant news articles, as well as photographs from protest events.

Although the group does not offer the sort of traditional opportunities, such as petitions, for like-minded individuals to collectively submit an opinion and/or request to an authority, one of the hallmarks of social networking sites is the ability for users to create their own applications. Currently, there are several existing applications at Facebook that allow users to create petitions and collect signatures. As such, it isn’t difficult to imagine that social networking could evolve into social activism with very little effort.

Learn more about the JSO lockout online:
JSO Lockdown webpage
JSO Association website
JSO Musicians’ website

Postscript: JSO Lockdown isn’t the only Facebook group created as a result of labor unrest. The 1000+ member Solidarity with Broadway Stagehands on Strike! group and the 9000+ member In Support of the Writers Guild of America Strike group were established soon after their respective work stoppages. Although quantifiable evidence measuring the influence of social networking tools on labor environments is not yet available, these groups demonstrate that tools such as Facebook groups have been useful at distributing information, organizing supporters, and framing topics for public debate.

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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