Perish The Thought

Joe Patti published an absolutely fantastic article on 3/25/213 that examines the notion of corporate boards inviting artists into the mix in order to help keep the company profitable and healthy.

150x150_ITA_Guy084The part that cuts to the quick is Patti’s conclusion where he touches on one of the more fundamental disconnects which contributes to the current undertow of recent labor disputes in the orchestra field.

In wondering why [having artists sit on corporate boards] doesn’t happen more often, I came to the not inconsiderable or illogical conclusion that corporations may not view those who ask them for money as equal to the task of helping them make money.

This honest and poignant observation helps define why the age old “us vs. them” attitude between orchestra boards/management and the musicians exists and why, despite many well-intended but ultimately ill-advised efforts, it is likely to persist for quite some time.

The good news is that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As it is, the traditional employer/employee relationship as defined by a collectively bargaining work environment has produced a great deal of success in the field. Arguably, far more than if the field chose a different path back in the 1960s.

With all the talk about new models, it would be nice to see more time spent on identifying the elements within this relationship that work and what we can do to help shore up those that don’t.

In the end, you can’t expect leopards to change their spots but it isn’t unreasonable to see an upgrade or two along the way.

You never know, by helping the system evolve instead of playing God, we may reach the point where observations like Patti’s may seem antiquated and passé. Just the thought of it puts a smile on my face.

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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