Catastrophic Tunnel Vision

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the byproducts from the ongoing Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) labor dispute is discussions about the connection between artistic excellence and compensation. After all, that issue seems to be at the heart of the PR oriented end of the DSO’s struggle: musicians claim artistic levels will crumble in the absence of certain compensation levels and management claims all will be fine. Unfortunately, the entire argument (in and out of Detroit) suffers from catastrophic tunnel vision…

One of the more notable posts in the culture blogging community that touches on this is from Barry Johnson on 8/30/2010 at arts dispatch. Johnson’s article and the resulting comments do a pretty good job at paraphrasing the way most of these discussions progress; poignant first hand perspective et al.

Unfortunately, all of these discussions, including perennial ankle biters like “cost of living” squabbles, miss a point of gargantuan dimension. I’ve been meaning to get to it for a few weeks now but it requires more time than the typical blog post and time is precisely what I have in short supply at the moment. And since I’m heading off to Las Angeles and San Francisco for a week long business trip (albeit fun business), I’m going to wait to dive in until after I return.

However, you can get a head start on what I’m dancing around by visiting two articles I published way back in 2004: The Money Drug and Looking Back At The Money Drug.

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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