Have I Got A New Revenue Stream For You

Big or small, a new revenue stream is a new revenue stream. And if you can tap into it without investing any real time or treasure then all the better, right? What it you could have all of that and the new revenue stream would also improve operation efficiency? In short, I’ve got two words for you: monetized auditions…

No, I’m not talking about charging application fees or any other type of unethical practice that does nothing more than nickel-and-dime audition candidates. Instead, let’s look at the current audition system to see if we can’t apply a technology solution that will:

  • improve administrative efficiency (i.e. cost savings through improved productivity)
  • provide an improved audition experience for candidates.
  • increase the likelihood of attracting even higher levels of candidates.

Have I Got A New Revenue Stream For YouIf you’ve ever worked as a personnel manager, you already know that one of the more common requests from audition candidates is to be scheduled on certain days or times. Sometimes the requests are rooted in nothing more than baseless self-interests but in other cases they are quite sincere, especially if a candidate is juggling existing work in order to attend an audition and the ability to add some confidence to scheduling is a tremendous help.

Regardless the reasons, entertaining special requests can turn into a tremendous time suck for the audition coordination staff. Dozens of email messages, phone calls, etc. per request can turn into hundreds in short order. It won’t take long for the situation to degrade into a mess where a sincere effort to help turns into a situation that makes no one happy.

But imagine an online system that allows candidates to reserve a spot in a specific audition block via a nonrefundable fee on a first come, first serve basis through a completely automated system. This is precisely what is being put into place this fall as a feature for The Venture Platform. So if you’re a current Venture user, it’s on the way and if your group doesn’t use Venture, well, why not? You should be.

I can hear all of the doubts already, and there are answers to each potential deal breaker:

  1. How are we supposed to process credit card orders if we don’t already have an online payment gateway?
    All you need is a PayPal account. Groups that have their own payment gateway can use it if desired.
  2. What’s to keep an audition candidate an audition committee member from abusing the system (i.e. cronyism)?
    The audition monetizer only allows candidates to reserve a spot within an audition block, not a specific audition time.
  3. Reservations might be automated, but what if someone wants to cancel or make a change? Won’t the personnel manager have to deal with all of that nonsense?
    The system automatically sends out confirmation messages and can even be configured to allow candidates to directly cancel or move reservations (if open slots exist). Each individual group can determine on their own if they want to make the reservations refundable or not.
  4. What’s to keep anyone from making a reservation or one candidate reserving multiple spots?
    The reservation page can be password protected and hidden from the main navigation; meaning, the only way a candidate can get the link is when your organization sends out audition invitation notices. Additionally, the personnel manager automatically receives notices of each reservation purchase and can check names against a master list if desired.
  5. What are we supposed to charge?
    Whatever you want. $20, $50, $100? Whatever you think is fair. There’s no advantage in a candidate having an audition time in one slot over another so anyone who doesn’t reserve a slot will be placed in the same process that’s been used at each organization.
    You can even set a sliding scale based on numbers of candidates, type of position, etc. and track results from one audition to the next until you determine a reasonable monetization formula. And we haven’t even started to talk about scaling the reservation fee based on how far in advance the reservations are made.
  6. We don’t use Venture, so how can get in on this cool idea?
    Beats me. My team of programming ninjas are putting this into place to work exclusively with Venture so it makes the most sense if your group simply becomes a Venture user (not to mention all of the other amazing stuff you get with the system).

If the calculations aren’t already turning over in your head, let me get you started. If there are 132 audition candidates and 40 (approx. 30%) make an audition reservation at $35 each, that’s $1,400 (approx. $1,360 after paypal fees).

So that’s $1,360 for doing no extra work via something that was going to happen anyway. Plus your audition candidates receive an improved audition experience and your ops staff spend less time preparing the audition. All of this begins to add up to big revenue performance from a department that traditionally doesn’t generate any revenue.

Granted, we’re not talking about a revenue stream that’s going to turn back the tide of bankruptcy but when there’s money just laying there on the ground, why not reach down and pick it up?


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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0 thoughts on “Have I Got A New Revenue Stream For You”

    • I completely agree that charging a required audition fee would not only be a jerky thing to do but entirely unethical, which is why I wrote:

      No, I’m not talking about charging application fees or any other type of unethical practice that does nothing more than nickel-and-dime audition candidates.

      Instead, this system provides a way for audition candidates who need to reserve an audition block of time to do so.

      The idea developed after interviewing a number of musicians who are actively auditioning. One of the chief complaints about the current system at most ensembles is the inability to request specific auditions time slots. The problem becomes apparent in auditions that have preliminary rounds on more than one day.

      For the candidate who is making a living as a per service musician, not knowing which day you’ll be assigned means having to risk turning down work until you find out which day you’re assigned. If the musician plays the risk and accepts a work date then discovers that their assigned time conflicts, they then have to choose between the audition and turning down the gig (and potentially upsetting a contractor).

      For musicians with a salaried orchestra position, they may not be able to get a leave request granted for one prelim day but the other day is already free in their schedule.

      If selecting an audition time isn’t an issue for a candidate, they simply get assigned to wherever the respective personnel manager needs to assign them, which is exactly the system that’s currently in place.

      On the other side of the coin, it isn’t the responsibility of the orchestra holding the audition to solve scheduling problems for candidates. Although most personnel managers do their best to accommodate requests, it isn’t always possible and it is a drain on time and resources. But this arrangement solves the “Sophie’s Choice” dilemma musicians have identified as problematic without penalizing any candidate that doesn’t need a specific day/time block.

  1. Look, I’m not a performer, but this idea is almost obscene. Performers already subsidize your company by working a day job so they can be a short-term worker for you. Even if you pay Equity wages, it’s not enough when your contract isn’t even long enough for a quarter of health insurance coverage! Maybe they should agree to kick-back 10% of their meagre salary to the employer, like in “On The Waterfront”.

    • Hi Tim, I don’t know if you’ve read the other comment threads or not but it seems that you may not be looking at the larger picture. I completely understand that it is easy to slip into an assumption that this idea is some sort of mandatory audition fee that is ham-handed applied to all candidates. But that couldn’t be more inaccurate (in fact, I mention that practice is unethical in the piece). Instead, it allows all of the part time musician employees you defined the ability to avoid the sort of Sophie’s choice style decisions about giving up the gigs they can secure just to leave their schedule open for an audition day they may or may not be assigned.

      So take a moment to read through the entire comment thread; there are a number of issues here that go deeper than most folks think about with regard to the logistics of the current orchestral audition scene. There are plenty of other readers who share your initial reaction (and as an aside, it’s an entirely fair reaction if you haven’t thought all the way through the issues,) but once you go through all of the replies I think you’ll begin to get a broader perspective and a clearer picture of what this is all about.

      I would be interested in hearing your thoughts once you’ve had time to go through the entire comment thread.

    • Hi Ciara, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion but it would be much easier to have a conversation about the topic if I knew why you thought that the idea was unethical. And since it would be unfair to you if I simply guessed at your reasoning, I’m going to suggest that you take the time to read through the entire comment thread in order to get a broader perspective. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts once you’ve had time to go through everything.

  2. A nicely written, cluelessly Hayekian yield-management approach to job interviews. Will there be fees for extra bows, mouthpieces, instruments, etc? I wonder if the trepidation of the auditionee’s family concerning whether the candidate will win the job and thus have the opportunity to better support his/her family can be monetized as well?

    • Sarcasm notwithstanding Dave, what exactly is your point of view here. I don’t know if you’ve read all of the comment threads before you submitted your comment but I think if you spend some time doing that, you’ll begin to see the benefit. So take a moment to do that, consider the reasons (and don’t miss the comment from Suzy, she brings up some good points I failed to mention), and then post a reply comment.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems like a “premium” service that could be offered…..Not a requirement. Maybe if previous auditions would have been more accommodating to many people, this wouldn’t even be a topic.

      • I think the economic downturn has helped make this more of an issue than in the past. Flying is more difficult and expensive, some orchestras have tightened up leave request procedures and/or reduced numbers of audition leave days, etc. combine this with tighter personal budgets and you have a situation where there is increased need.

        I didn’t ask any of the musicians about that in particular during the R&D stages so it’s just observational on my part but it would be interesting to find out with a reasonable degree of certainty.

  3. I agree with Frank. The audition scene is full of naysayers. We don’t need another game changer added to the mix. People will just complain more, and it won’t actually improve that many applicants audition experience. This will only be beneficial permitting that a candidate needs a specific audition day and the personnel manager is not willing to accommodate their request, which has been far from what I have ever experienced.

    • I think you’re getting closer to the idea Brian, I don’t know if you read my reply to Frank above or not, but you are correct in that the personnel managers (PM) I interviewed indicated they do their best to accommodate special requests. But they also indicate that the pressures of cutbacks and having more work to do with less time and resources can make handling these requests a greater strain.

      As such, something like this reduces work hours and makes it easier for candidates to reserve a time if needed so they don’t have to unnecessarily risk losing a gig (or an entire service run) of income. And since it is optional, no other candidates are inconvenienced in any way.

      Among the musicians I interviewed, their complaints also identified when PMs try to make accommodations but there a long breaks between communications (which in turn, increased their stress). Perhaps unsurprisingly, each PM is different but for those PMs who are maxed out with their current work load, having an option to be more accommodating without taking more time is a win-win.

    • Brian, I’m sure everyone would love to have your audition experiences but what about when personnel managers give certain candidates preferential treatment over others? I’ve been in a situation where my request for a specific day was turned down and I was told “we don’t entertain requests for specific audition days.” But when I show up to the audition, I talk to a few other musicians there only to find out two of them were allowed to select their day and guess what? Both of them knew the personnel manager!

      That’s fair? I think the buddy system of handing out favors is bad enough in the audition process as it is, if we can get rid of it with a first in line system to reserve dates, great. It beats getting screwed over in favor of someone’s friend! And Brian, are you going to pay me the additional $90 I had to spend on my airline ticket because I couldn’t pick which day to audition?

  4. Are the standards of living so high for musicians and other artists that it makes sense to ‘pick up’ money from their pockets?

    Maybe orchestra musicians can afford a spare $35 a shot to actually have an audition that fits their schedule, but certainly other artists who audition, like actors, can’t throw around that kind of money.

    Really what we need is a new way of doing things entirely, so that the artists aren’t expected, at the drop of a hat, to race off to an audition that might not get them any work or money in the end.

    But by forcing them to be in that kind of disrespected hamster-wheel, racing around to auditions for free in the hope of getting work, and then to charge them money for the privilege of being respected as an equal partner in the hiring process, seems like insult to injury.

    How about, instead, if standards were set up in different communities about regular times and locations for auditions, so artists could simply know that all their auditions would be in a small geographic area on a specific day or two each week, and could always hold that time for auditions if they chose.

    It would be more restrictive for the auditioners, of course – more focus and efficiencies would have to be found to make it work – but then the people doing the hiring could just set up a coffee bar between the casting rooms and probably make even more money.

    Can we look for ways to partner the institution with the artists as equals, instead of trying to find more ways to make money off the artists?

    • I wholeheartedly agree Douglas, artists (or anyone for that matter) don’t likely have an additional $35 laying around. And since I don’t know if you’ve read my replies to some of the previous comments or not, I’ll simply add that the system is designed to allow the audition candidate to avoid the Sophie’s Choice dilemma of losing work due to not knowing which day their audition will occur (which for orchestra musicians could be as much as a $1000 or more since many are required to miss an entire run if they can’t make one service). In that instance, the optional fee for reserving a specific day becomes not only a big money saver but it adds piece of mind.

      I like how you’re thinking outside of orchestra musicians though. Certainly, in the parameters you’ve defined via the theater world, the system has a different level of impact since the audition system is different enough from the orchestra/opera field.

      I didn’t think about creating a system that interlinks several different organization’s schedules but it’s a fascinating concept although it could be logistically very tricky plus it would assume that the orgs would be willing to play nice with one another.

    • One of the issues for me in past auditions is plane ticket prices. If I can save $100 by traveling on a desired day, the fee would be worth it. Also, if there are gigs that are conflicting with one of the audition days, I would want the option of guaranteeing the gig, still getting the opportunity of the audition on the day I chose. To me, it’d be a win-win. And the small OPTIONAL cost would be an investment in keeping my sanity, desired gig, or plane fare logistics.

    • Thanks for mentioning the airline ticket costs Suzy, that was one item a few of the musicians mentioned as well with regard to scheduling and costs and just goes to show how a system like this can help audition candidates save money through a reliable fee based reservation system.

  5. You know, it always gets me down to see thoughtful idea picked at unnecessarily. As someone who has been on the receiving end of complaints from musicians at auditions I can say that this would have been a great thing to have when I used to do PM work. the other thing no one has mentioned yet is how difficult it is to schedule the audition dates and times with the actual audition committees.

    Getting the musicians, the music director, and everyone else involved in the audition to find times within the master schedule (and their personal schedules) is hard enough and sometimes produces some pretty screwy audition schedules. I always thought it was unfair to ask musicians auditioning to set aside so much time in their schedules due to preliminary round schedule then the off chance they get promoted to each additional round. So finding a way to cut down on those expectations is a good thing.

    And something else all of the musicians here complaining need to think about is this: do you think managers are having an easier time fitting everything they need to do into their daily routine? If so, think again. We aren’t here to make life easier for audition candidates but I’m all for any idea that reduces administrative work loads AND allows auditioning musicians the ability to improve their personal schedules without making more work for the staff. That’s nothing more than asking the institution to subsidize your livelihood so as to make room for your schedule, and that’s not fair either!

    So long as no one would make this a mandatory fee, I like the idea.

  6. When I first read this, I thought it was a fabulous idea, though I do understand the trepidation others feel about monetizing auditions. But I think having the ability (as long as it’s not mandatory as Retired Manager says) to reserve a spot would be an optimal solution for a freelancer or per service musician, if not also for orchestral musician already fully employed. With regards to travel expenses, like Suzy mentions, it could actually save money (on top of insuring a date thus not having to free up a whole block of possible times which could be spent gigging).

    I think Douglas’ suggestion would be so very helpful, but obviously that would depend on the organizations playing nice with each other. Then again, it could be a built in feature of Venture that any organization that uses this particular feature, they could opt into a larger and more inclusive shared database (not unlike social networking sites, I guess).

    Anyway, Drew, when I read one of your earlier posts about Venture, I was impressed with the functionality, and almost wish I had my own orchestra if only to get a chance to play with a new site building tool with excellent calendar features! Kudos!

    • Thanks for the kind words about Venture Jon and I completely understand when a number of folks have an initial, negative knee-jerk reaction to the idea becasue anything that treads on the line of charging mandatory fees is always a justifiable worry for musicians and artists. As such, I don’t mind explaining the idea repeatedly in order to help folks get past their trepidation. In some ways, it’s even productive becasue they should always be on guard against an idea that would saddle a mandatory fee onto the audition process. At the same time, they hopefully won’t let that blind them to seeing other opportunities that benefit everyone involved in the process so long as that process doesn’t penalize anyone for opting out.

      I’m glad you mentioned Douglas’ idea again. When we designed Venture’s event manager, we did so with the mindset of automating something like a community calendar; meaning, being able to take events entered into the system by the respective organization and allowing that event data to populate an outside event calendar (like an RSS feed driven calendar system). I never thought about that perspective with this system and although it would be a bit more complicated, it’s worth exploring. I’d have to do some more R&D on the idea but my guess is the political hurdles of getting groups to work together might be more of a challenge than the pushing the code around.

      • I guess there could be room for abuse of the system if, say, an Orchestra were to fully automate audition scheduling and make it a requirement to use the online system with a mandatory usage fee, but I would like to think that an Orchestra wouldn’t try something like that.

        I remember some years ago in Florida an enterprising Arts manager did set up such a system and was able to convince a number of the more local Arts Organizations to create such a standard (I think this was pre-RSS,maybe he used RDF?) for their calendars that could then be imported into a regional arts calendar that would be a one stop site for folks, especially the high tourist population, could search for events by region, city, or genre (Orhestra/Ballet/Opera).

        Sure, there are events sites like that out there now, but few dedicated specifically for arts events an often you have to rummage through a generically designed site through hundreds of events to, if you’re lucky, find the arts events which usually have next to no information in them (if the event listing is even correct in the first place) other than the Orchestra, and possibly the venue.

        I think from consumer standpoint, it would be nice to have a more dedicated site with all the relevant information that is easily searchable on the net (as well as by phone app) in general, but especially for visitors or tourists who are unfamiliar to the area and just may not have to the time to go search through the local newspaper or do a net search for any existing Performing Arts companies.

        I think it’s as much of a community building idea as anything else–if folks were to come to a website and see the amount of arts activities in any given place, I think it could do much to bolster the reputation of the region/city as well as the individual Performing Arts organizations listed. But, yeah–the hurdle would be getting the groups to work together, which I’m afraid just may not happen.

  7. This idea is very interesting to me. Retired Manager summed up my feelings so I won’t repeat them here except to add on that organizing a national audition is yet another thing on top of everything else and the process goes on for months, not just a few weeks. I do differ sightly with Retired Manager in that I think that part of my job as an audition co-ordinator is to make the auditionees’ life a little easier so that we can attract the best possible candidates and make the audition process as smooth as possible so they can play their best which in the end will help our organization.

    I read your explaination of the process and saw similarities to reserving seats on an airplane. On a trip last year I had the opportunity, for a small fee, to reserve my seats in advance. I chose to do this so my spouse and I were assured that we would sit together. Some people reserve aisle or a window seat or an exit aisle with extra leg room. If an auditionee has a specific time requirement because of a gig, or plane ticket costs, or they just want to go later in the day because they are coming from a different time zone or they just like to sleep in, this would allow them to make that time reservation and be assured that you will play at that time (within a group).

    This isn’t something my orchetra would be doing anytime soon, but the concept is interesting to me and I am enjoying the discussion being generated.

    • Current PM wrote:

      I do differ sightly with Retired Manager in that I think that part of my job as an audition co-ordinator is to make the auditionees’ life a little easier so that we can attract the best possible candidates and make the audition process as smooth as possible so they can play their best which in the end will help our organization.

      Kudos on that 🙂

      I think you’re getting the idea and it is worth noting again that so long as the offering is strictly optional then it doesn’t place any undue burden on any audition candidate.

      And kudos on thinking about the different time zone/sleeping in for adequate rest. That’s something that wasn’t mentioned by the research group and I didn’t think of it either but it is an excellent observation.

  8. For orchestras such as St. Louis, Seattle, and a few others that have prelims scattered over a week or two, it would be a great option to assure oneself a desired time. Why should anyone have to lose money or sleep conforming to the randomness or whim of an audition coordinator. If I want to go on a Tuesday instead of a Wednesday, give me my Tuesday! In one aspect, it gives more control to those dishing out the travel and lodging and effort in preparing for the audition, which anymore is turning into a futile effort since so many groups are NOT PICKING A WINNER! So to paraphrase, if I want to bang my head against a wall, let me choose which wall.

  9. Has anyone ever considered doing what the Opera world does for auditions? (I’m married to an Opera singer.)

    They basically have an audition season in NYC Usually late Oct- early December. During that time almost ever major and regional company hears candidates.

    I think its great because everyone knows general when it is each year. They can then plan to come to NYC everytime that year and block out time. Plus both management and musicians are out of pocket to have the auditions, so the field is a little more even. Its also great because you can come one location and take a bunch of auditions within a month’s time.

    As someone who plays the double bass, travel is quite expensive and I would love to see the Orchestral World adopt something like this.

    As a former professional audition taker, I love the idea of gearing up for an audition “season” in one place rather that trying to fly around at what appear to be random times for each orchestra.

    Maybe there is a different time that would work for Symphonies?


    • Those are good thoughts Louis. Personally, I do hear talk about this centralized audition idea every now and then but I’m not aware of anywhere where it has caught on for permanent positions. However, showcase auditions where some orchestras go in order to listen to musicians to be included in their substitute pool is something I see from time to time.

      The typical argument I hear against this idea for rostered positions center mostly around scheduling. Since the music director has to be involved in the final hire, getting all of them together in one city, at one time is a logistical challenge of mind boggling proportions (not to mention all of the audition committee members etc.). although if anyone knows of an instance where rostered positions in a per service or salaried orchestras has functioned like Louis described, I’d love to hear about it.

  10. Hong Kong Phil comes to NYC for auditions.

    And if the opera world can do it so can we. They get a panel and rent a room. It’s not rocket science.

    It could also make a better pool of candidates previously unavailable.

    ex: NY Phil has an audition, well if I knew that a few days later Seattle would also be hearing people in the same place and a days after that Tampa… you get the idea.

    It could be a smart way to for orchestras to actual get better candidates to show up, plus standardize some audition material. Ie- Tampa would normally not be able to attract the same candidates as Seattle and NY-phil, but in this case they would be. So everything benefits everyone.

    Its also possible that some orchestras won’t be able to ask ridiculously long lists or hairball excerpt rarities because because no one would be able to accommodate them and still take the other orchestra auditions with “reasonable” lists.

    FYI- my wife has worked at many companies including the Met. She just told me that she’s only had to travel to maybe 3 professional auditions outside of NYC in the last 10 years. I’m just sayin’

    • Hong Kong – good example.

      I still think the logistical hurdle would be too high for groups to get over. One item a manager wrote in to point out via this issue is the cost to orchestras. Travel, lodging, per diem etc. for the audition committees, staff, etc. is more than can be budgeted for when the current system provides the candidates they want while placing the travel burden on those taking the audition.

      I’m not saying that’s fair but it is a reality nonetheless.

  11. Drew,

    I am going to refer your blog entry and the description of Venture to the gentleman in our company who coordinates the annual Steinway Young Artists Competition (www.steinwaychicagocompetition.com).

    Every year, pre-collegiate pianists compete in our Solo and/or Concerto Competitions. The winners receive scholarships and opportunities to perform.

    Also every year, there is a fuss over the assignment of audition times. Invariably, someone is upset that (s)he did not get scheduled at a time convenient for him/her. Now, it’s almost never the students themselves who complain. It’s some of the parents who are insisting that their piano student also participate in soccer, dance class, class for their ethnicity, etc. on the same day as Competition auditions. The students are generally not stressed out, at least visibly. It’s a number of the parents who are pushing the limits and, as a result, making our staff feel belittled and frustrated. We would often hear such complaints, true or not: “My friend’s child got the time that they wanted. Why can’t we?”

    We already ask for plenty of information from the student on the Competition’s online registration (the website captioned above needs to be updated with our new address, company name, and dates for the 2012 auditions). It would seem natural to include the Venture system on the same web page. I’m trying to think of a reason why the Venture system wouldn’t be appropriate for this purpose, and I can’t come up with one. Can you think of any element of the Venture system that would not be compatible with our Competition’s registration process?

    • I wasn’t even thinking about competition scheduling when designing this component but it certainly can be implemented to fit the sort of needs you described. Without seeing your current process I can’t say for certain Steve but I’ll send you a note and we can chat about it.

  12. Drew, I don’t know how much experience you have on the audition scene, but many people will complain about their time no matter what. (I hate playing first; I can’t believe they scheduled everyone from Conservatory X in the same hour; I wish I didn’t have to play in the same group as Big Shot 1 and Big Shot 2; I have to play at 9 at night and finals start at 8 tomorrow; etc.) You say you’re doing this to accommodate musicians with scheduling problems, but most of the people who take advantage of this will do so to get a desired time, even though they have no conflicts. The amount of disdain a system like this will generate from musicians is not worth the relative pittance it will bring in.

    It’s a bribe, plain and simple. Candidates are gaining an advantage by paying money to the orchestra. It’s completely unethical. If people have legitimate scheduling problems, the PM should be willing to accommodate them. MONEY should not be the deciding factor.

    • I’m glad you brought up those points TR; in particular, the issue of audition candidates who feel that performing at a certain round/day, etc. provides an advantage. There was a good deal of discussion about this among the musicians and operations professionals I interviewed. The consensus is that there is no evidence to support that performing in any round provides an advantage over another. The only impact is in the mind of the audition candidate but those are going to be as varied as individuals.

      At the same time, there was enough evidence of candidates already inventing scheduling conflicts as pretense for requesting certian round/days (or simply making a request for the sake of a request), so it would seem that your concerns are actually in place within the current system.

      In the end, the fairness of the typical audition system (by way of scheduling candidates for round/days) is completely unaffected by allowing candidates to make an online reservation. But what’s important to state again is there is no evidence to support that playing at any one time over another provides any advantage.

      Consequently, the only way a candidate can bribe his/her way into a position is to directly offer money/gift to any of the coordinators or audition committee members.

      Thanks for bringing that up.

  13. In the symphony that I work for, multi day auditions are necessary with the amount of candidates we have and the orchestra’s schedule. We say up front that we schedule on a first come first serve basis. Everyone who hands in their deposit in a timely manner will get the date that they select as their first choice. Once that day is full, we move on to the candidates second choice date, etc. If a candidate can only make it to one date and the date is full, they are added to the waiting list and once someone inevitably cancels, they are offered to switch their date. I strongly agree with the poster above who mentioned that we are trying to make this a pleasant experience on both ends. In no way are we trying to sabotage everyone, and just say no for the sake of saying no. Having been on both sides of the audition process, I understand this is a stressful time for all.

    I think the idea of paying extra to get the slot you want is interesting, but for our organization I don’t think it would be necessary. For us, hand your forms in a timely manner and you’ll get the date that you want.

    • Thanks for that APM, for the sake of perspective, can you share with the readers how many staff members your orchestra allocates to a typical audition?

      One of the interesting bits to come out of the R&D stage when talking to ops personnel is the individuals who “are” the entire ops department expressed similar sentiments as yours but paired that alongside the reality that they simply didn’t have the time to address each concern in a timely manner that it deserved. And in some cases, the numbers of candidates invited to an opening was on part with the numbers larger budget groups invited, in provided a tangible juxtaposition.

      In short, they felt overwhelmed and that regardless of how hard they try, they always come up short (and inadvertently upsetting some audition candidates).

      • Hi Drew,

        I manage auditions myself; however, on the actual audition day we have the PM there and a volunteer (or 2 depending on if I think we’ll need another helping hand). I am also nowhere near our entire Operations Department.

        I would 100% agree, if you don’t have the staff, auditions can really be a nightmare. You’re dealing with hundreds (literally) of people who all have very specific needs. I was hoping to transition us to an online scheduling module for this round of auditions (without a fee), where candidates could just go on a website, see what dates and times were open and schedule their slot themselves. I just ran out of time.

        I think someone else mentioned this above, but regardless of how accommodating you are to candidates, someone will still always be upset, and think that you have a personal vendetta against them. That’s life!

  14. Drew,

    I think the reality is that Opera is way more complicated, and more expensive. The logistics they deal with for a show are so much more complex (than symphonies) when they have to handle other stuff its comparatively easy.

    If Opera is the most complex, difficult, and expensive thing to pull off and they don’t have a problem adding this audition cost to the budget… they why should we?

    As far as the size of the committee is concerned… for Opera panels 3 is pretty much the max. So gone would be the days of 11 person panels.

    Sorry for such a tangent on your Venture thread.

  15. While this is an interesting idea, its implementation would create more problems than it solves. It has the potential to raise whole new levels of suspicion about fairness, anonymity, and equity in the audition process. Regardless of how smoothly and ethically it is executed, there will be candidates who won’t be any better accommodated. There will be those who “fall through the cracks” due to technical glitches. There will be others who don’t feel comfortable using an electronic system at all.

    There will also be challenges with adapting this system into a collective bargaining agreement. I can’t imagine that the union would accept this without a high degree of justifiable scrutiny and investigation into the integrity of this concept, and that will take time. Measures would need to be taken to adjust not only the audition elements of a CBA, but also the grievance and arbitration process. The result could potentially be a negotiating SNAFU that just isn’t worth the hassle.

    • Those are entirely valid concerns Brian (fairness, anonymity, and equity) and we have gone to the trouble to make sure that anonymity is preserved in the system (only the PM sees names associated with reservations). Likewise, a candidate can never reserve a specific time or any other spot within a reservation round. As for fairness and equity, I think this system actually improves upon the existing element by removing some of the human factor and by working with a first come, first serve approach. Of course, that means candidates will have to be notified at the same time but that is mostly what happens already.

      You’re absolutely correct in thinking that some candidates may not be able to reserve the slots they want. For example, if there are four rounds on Tuesday with each round holding 10 candidates, the first 10 candidates to reserve times in each round get the reservation. But that’s precisely what happens now in the manual system and I don’t see any way of avoiding that. I also agree that the audition committees will have to sign off on it as well, but given the amount of thoughtful consideration that transpired when talking to musicians during the R&D stage, I think that equally thoughtful committees that see the value in the system as a tool to increase the value of the audition will be willing to at least test the model out under mutually agreeable terms. to that end, we are building a great deal of flexibility into the system so groups can tweak the end product to their preferences.

  16. I think Retired Manager has some great points. Something else to consider is that while this service may not generate significant revenue, many big orchestras have an assistant personnel manager who is a full-time employee in part because dealing with the audition scheduling issues described in this article can take up huge amounts of time. An orchestra that utilized this service could save thousands on staffing costs if this could mean an assistant PM could be a part-time employee. As an arts administrator of course, the idea of someone losing a full-time job with benefits is a bad one, but we all want to put as much of an orchestra’s resources as possible into the artistic product and this could be a clever way to re-allocate time and staffing resources into what could be seen as more important artistic expenditures.

    • I wasn’t thinking about that perspective Becky but I’m glad you brought it up. It’s exactly that sort of dynamic consideration that makes something like this useful. I agree, cutting back on jobs is never a good thing but if those resources can be reallocated toward another administrative department and/or artistic expenses then it will eventually have an equal amount of positive impact elsewhere in the institution.

  17. I feel this is not a good idea. The monetization of audition scheduling will garner far more ill will from the candidates than it will collect money for the organization.

    I cannot imagine an orchestra applying this system to other job interviews. If an orchestra has an advertised opening for Development Director, or ED, or MD, or any other staff position for which they would advertise nationally, they will typically fly in and pay all expenses for the candidates, one at a time, for a one- or multi-day interview. Committees try to schedule these in a short period of time. ED candidate A may have a Sophie’s Choice issue wherein they cannot come on Monday or Tuesday. Would the orchestra tell them that they could guarantee a Thursday interview for a $100 fee?

    In my experience on both sides of the screen, personnel managers will accept “special requests” to the extent that they are able. I have often requested a morning or afternoon session, or day B rather than day A and have seldom if ever been denied the request. Final schedules aren’t constructed until the resume deadline has passed, so two people asking for an afternoon time are not going to be denied them because there are no more left.

    I could not come up with an example of “baseless self-interests” in scheduling requests from audition candidates. I’m surprised that your panel of consulted musicians didn’t mention time-zone change issues. I and colleagues I have talked to find that this is a top reason for preferring a morning/afternoon slot, particularly when traveling coast to coast.

    Finally, here’s a thought: if scheduling is an additional burden for the PM and their staff, what about offering the option to all candidates to log in to the web site and pick a round, or indicate that you don’t care which round you are in? The entire schedule could be developed automatically by the software. Assuming this additional software feature doesn’t have an additional charge or that charge is less than the estimated staff time required to construct the schedule, this process has SAVED the orchestra money. To charge the candidates on top of that does not feel right to me.

  18. 1: is it optional? I read a lot of the comments and saw that some of the posters assumed it was, but I got no clear indication that it was from you, Drew.

    2: If it’s not optional then I feel like the only perk is separating the wheat from the chaff and getting a new revenue stream, because you could easily have the same organizational software, except instead of paying for a position you simply sign up.
    if it’s supposed to cut out people who whimsically choose a block then requiring a fee for everyone won’t solve anything.

    3: why not have it be a bidding system where anyone can sign up for a certain block for free, but if they want a guarantee they can pay for that block. If somebody who didn’t pay gets bought out, then they’ll just receive an email saying that the spots in that specific block have been taken.

    • My apologies for the delayed reply but allow me to provide some answers now:

      1. I strongly recommend that it be made optional. I don’t see any real value in making it mandatory.
      2. Those are precisely some of the reasons why making it mandatory is not recommended.
      3. We actually looked into an idea like that but it wasn’t very popular with musicians, the majority of which indicated they didn’t want any sort of required additional step in the traditional application process. Ultimately, making it an optional step geared specifically toward those needing a certain block ended up making the most sense.
  19. As one who has auditioned for orchestras large and small for more years than I care to think about, I have never had a problem scheduling a ‘special’ time that worked into my travel/work schedule. To their credit, PMs have always been very understanding and helpful. I always made a point of thanking them in person once I got to the audition as well.

    I don’t know how many requests a PM has to deal with in a typical audition. If it is in fact an overly large number, then perhaps some “Google Schedule-like” system might be employed to assist in the scheduling process. I know of one ‘name’ music school that sets up their lessons via weekly online sign up.

    On a side note, I find it interesting with the state of the industry and the many issues this site has dealt with over the years, that an article on auditions would generate the largest volume of and most passionate responses that I can recall.

    • On a side note, I find it interesting with the state of the industry and the many issues this site has dealt with over the years, that an article on auditions would generate the largest volume of and most passionate responses that I can recall.

      That’s an excellent observation and one of the new features following the blog’s theme upgrade is the “Most Commented On” widget located in the footer. If you take the time to go through those articles, you’ll see that they have a common theme of a majority of comments coming in from musicians. This isn’t unusual as I know that from a comparative perspective, a number of managers don’t feel as comfortable posting comments. And although there’s no shortage of passion within the administrative side of things, musicians are known for expressing those passions more frequently. Regardless, it all makes for some fascinating online discussion.

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