Value Of Recording Poll Results

The 132 responses to the Value of Orchestra Recordings poll from 3/10/2009 produced some intriguing results, my sincere thanks to all who took the time to vote and/or submit a comment. Although far from conclusive, the responses demonstrate that most respondents tend to feel orchestra recordings have the most potential as a less than substantial revenue stream…

If you read the original article, you know that this discussion was prompted by a blog post from David Stabler who lamented the current condition of recording rules. David was interested in writing a preview piece examining how the Oregon Symphony Orchestra brought together a new symphony written by Tomas Svoboda. As it turned out, recording fees made the project cost prohibitive and it was this point which ultimately led to the greater discussion of the value of orchestra recordings in the new economy.

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Although there are many layers to these issues, most points ultimately boil down to whether or not orchestra musicians should allow their respective organization to record services (rehearsals, concerts, etc.) without providing any additional compensation traditionally associated with recording duties. According to the poll results, just over half of the respondents tend to see the greatest amount of potential value in promoting orchestra recordings as a direct revenue stream, as illustrated in the chart to your right.

However, when you examine the responses in greater detail, the vast majority of those who see the most value in revenue streams tend to feel that the revenue potential is less than substantial. The remaining respondents believe orchestra recordings have most value as an educational tool or to help sell tickets while a tiny fraction indicated that recordings have no value at all. The chart below illustrates the complete results.

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click to enlarge

So what does this mean?

It is hard to draw many conclusions unless we have a better idea of what expectations respondents have about the core issue of recording costs. For example, In David’s piece his ire was focused mostly toward the musicians’ union position on recording compensation. Consequently, several orchestra musicians responded to David’s piece and at least one member of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, Charles Noble, has been exploring the issues of nontraditional use of recordings at greater length via his personal blog.

If you take the time to go through all of the material and related discussion you’ll begin to notice that this can easily become a contentious issue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those involved with the business for any length of time know that issues of recordings and musician compensation have produced intense debates for decades. The only new developments over the past few years in those discussions are how advances in online and digital recording technology impact the creation and distribution of a recorded product (although that is, in and of itself, the latest evolution of recording technology issues).

Nonetheless, if you really want to get the discussion going you merely need to focus on musician compensation and for those of you who enjoy conflict and heated exchanges, simply focus on the all-or-nothing debate. For example, of the 18 percent of those who indicated orchestra recordings have the most value as a marketing tool and 21 percent who indicated greatest value as an educational tool, should musicians forgo compensation altogether since those activities can potentially increase all revenue streams? Proponents of this argument indicate those augmented revenue streams will ultimately contribute to improved musician wages and benefits (think of it like a micro trickle-down economy for orchestras) so musicians should submit to any and all recording requests that have marketing or education potential.

Conversely, working with a wide cross section of orchestra musicians, the American Federation of Musicians has implemented a number of new recording rules over the past decade that provide significantly increased levels of direct control to each member orchestra. A number of these agreements help define different types of use along with methods of distribution and offer associated guidelines for classifying uncompensated, limited compensation, and additional compensation plans. The vast majority of these options favor establishing fair compensation through defined use over blind trust and unregulated trickle down benefits.

Nonetheless, I’m curious to know more about where readers stand on the positions that typically polarize these discussions within most institutions. In short, the discussion boils down to the following poll question:

[poll id=”8″]

Regardless if this discussion is new or well worn, I encourage everyone to consider submitting a comment.

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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