Two Items You Should Be Keeping An Eye On

Although it is undeniably easy to get occupied by issues associated with the economic downturn, there are two items of interest looming on the horizon we should be discussing that could have an enormously adverse impact on the entire business: net neutrality and health care reform. These two issues are something that can be addressed via government affairs activity on the local, state, and national levels so it is in our collective best interests to establish clear positions (you do have an active and influential government affairs apparatus don’t you?)…

Net Neutrality

Adaptistration People 058Composer and friend of this blog, Alex Shapiro, authored an excellent article about net neutrality that was published at NewMuiscBox on 1/6/2010. Shapiro’s article examines the negative impact of decreased net neutrality, which she describes as “the term for an open internet that is not owned, controlled, or censored by any corporation,” on artistic freedom, but for those entrusted with marketing the performance arts, decreased neutrality (especially any sudden reactionary changes) would undoubtedly result in significantly higher marketing costs, lower ticket sales, and diminished outreach.

Not only would the business endure a sharp decline in marketing performance but there would be no alternatives that are effective and readily available in the same way the internet has served as an alternative to traditional print, broadcast, and direct mail options. Consequently, every government affairs efforts throughout the business should be delivering a message to elected representatives and related bureaucratic agencies to stand firm against any measures that would reduce net neutrality.

Health Care Reform

Adaptistration People 134Undoubtedly a hot button social issue, nonprofit performing arts organizations (especially orchestras) can expect to be impacted by impending health care regulation. Even if health care reform completely fails, it is clear that health care costs, especially for mid to large budget organizations, are something that is growing beyond the capacity to control. Unfortunately, details about proposed regulation changes on a daily basis, thereby adding an additional layer of uncertainty to many organizations involved in or anticipating labor negotiations.

Levels of volatility such as these make it much more difficult for the business to craft a clear government affairs message, but that doesn’t mean the task is beyond hope. At the very least, performing arts organizations need to push elected officials to make certain that any new regulations don’t place undue burdens on nonprofit performing arts organizations. Ultimately, government affairs efforts should encourage representatives to reject measures that exempt the business from any proposed protections as well as block taxation efforts that target existing benefits or force employees to use less heath care services.

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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