As the orchestra business watches Cleveland and Seattle with bated breath, it is difficult to wonder if events at these two larger budget organizations will have any impact on the business as a whole. And it isn’t just insiders who are paying attention, music critics, cultural reporters, bloggers, and just about any other stakeholder with a social media account is wondering aloud how events will unfold…
In Seattle, much has been written about the negotiations, including a very comprehensive examination by Zach Carstensen titled Are SSO contract negotiations a canary in the coal mine?. Carstensen goes the extra mile by focusing on issues related to the bargaining sessions such as operational leadership, strategic planning, historic development, and the broader impact on the Greater Seattle community. Likewise, there are a number of thought provoking reader comments that are worth your time.
In addition to Carstensen’s article, the 12/30/09 edition of the Seattle Times published an article by Janet I. Tu that, at the time this blog post was published, has garnered 165 reader comments. That’s not a typo; there are no less than 165 comments.
In the more than six years of publishing Adaptistration, I can’t think of a newspaper article examining a labor negotiation which generated that many responses. If nothing else, it demonstrates that classical music resonates with the Seattle public to at least some recognizable degree. Lastly, the Seattle Symphony Musicians website has been doing an exemplary job at informing their public with status updates.
For example, on 1/4/2010 the musicians published a notice stating that they had received a last, best, and final offer from management and “will take management’s demands to our members for their consideration” in the coming week. At the time this blog was published, there is no mention of the negotiations at the Seattle Symphony website.
In Cleveland, the public conversation isn’t as expansive as the one unfolding in Seattle but that is likely due to the Cleveland Orchestra and its musicians remaining comparatively quiet. However, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has been following events via articles from Zachary Lewis (apparently a popular first name with culture journalists), the most recent of which was from 12/31/2009.
Cleveland’s case is intriguing as the musicians have stated that they have proposed a one year wage and benefit freeze but there is no word from management as to whether or not the organization’s cash flow is such to ensure payroll and other debts are paid on time under that scenario. However, the orchestra has released data indicating that ticket revenue, endowment income, and contributions have declined since the onset of the economic downturn but there is no word as to how that interacts with the proposed one year freeze.
Undoubtedly, we’ll be reading more about each group in the near future. What do you think; are these groups representative of the business as a whole, islands unto themselves, or something else?