“All musicians ever do is complain!” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that from an orchestra manager; well, you know. But the fact of the matter is if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a musician complain about the workplace, I’d probably have just as much money (if I could collect from both; cha-ching, hello early retirement!).
But the other side of the bitchy musician coin is the reality that most employers don’t ask them what they like about their jobs and since human nature compels most of us to opt for complaints over compliments, the general negativity should come as no surprise.
The economic downturn is having a diverse impact on the field; some groups are doing just fine and others are managing debt without incurring any long term damage, but some groups have undeniably dropped out of their traditional peer group and won’t be rejoining it anytime soon. Simply put, they can no longer provide traditional wage and benefit benchmarks for non-executive managers, staffers, and musicians.
So how does an orchestra in this situation expect to continue attracting the same caliber of office and artistic talent?
Workplace satisfaction surveys for employees who work on and off stage are a good place to begin. Even if your orchestra isn’t the highest paying 52, 42, or 32 week orchestra (you get the picture), that doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance at cultivating comparatively higher levels workplace satisfaction than orchestras in your peer group.
The only thing keeping the field as a whole from embracing this type of benchmarking system (besides funding) is anxiety over what the results might produce.
No one wants to discover they might have mortifying workplace satisfaction levels while others who are more confident might be afraid to implement initial surveys during periods of economic downturns when a number of groups have implemented wage concessions or freezes.
But that’s exactly the right time to begin gathering data. The economic climate will change; fiscal cycles go up and down so having reliable data from the peaks and valleys will produce invaluable evaluation parameters for decades to come.
We examined some specific solutions and how an employee satisfaction survey for orchestras can get up and running in an article from 9/22/2010 and those recommendations are just as valid today.
So who wants to get the ball rolling? Think of this as an open call-to-arms. I’d love nothing more than to hear from board members, managers, musician representatives, union leaders, and philanthropic foundation officers about their ideas and willingness to set this in motion.