The Cost Of Ownership

One of the aspects I don’t write about much is the consulting work performed on both sides of the management/musician fence with individual overscale contracts. It is actually fascinating work, right from the biggest budget principal contracts through the smaller budget groups. So when the folks at the Strad contacted me to ask if I had any article ideas for their upcoming “money” issue, I said yes; yes I do.

Most folks are already aware that string players pay small fortunes to purchase quality instruments and bows with the individual musician absorbing most, if not all, of that cost. But what isn’t so well known is the cost of owning that instrument; meaning everything from purchasing strings and having the hair in their bow replaced along with regular maintenance adjustments and repair work to the instrument and bow.

Between my work with individual musicians and orchestra associations on overscale contracts and being married to an orchestral violinist for 15 years, I have a comprehensive idea of how these numbers add up. But for whatever reason, there’s never been a wide-ranging survey of these costs compiled into a single, tidy reference source.

Fortunately, the Strad folks liked the idea so you can expect to see the article in the December issue. Assuming all goes to plan, it should be accompanied by a cache of superb infographics; if you don’t already have a subscription, head over and get one today so you don’t miss out on the article (which actually comes out in November).

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Postscript: If you aren’t familiar with individual overscale agreements, these are the contracts that certain orchestra musicians utilize to negotiate terms above and beyond those set forth in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). They are negotiated outside the auspices of the CBA between the musician and the association. In short, individually negotiated overscale is the vehicle that allows orchestras to be competitive when attracting and retaining specific talent.

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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