And We Would Have Gotten Away With It Too, If It Weren’t For You Meddling Patrons

Regular readers know that the extended concert experience is a frequent topic here at Adaptistration but rarely does the topic intersect collective bargaining agreement negotiations. As it turns out, we were treated to one of those unusual occurrences last week from Bloomberg’s Manuela Hoelterhoff who delivered a journalistic spanking to the Metropolitan Opera (The Met) in her 2/27/2014 article about the organization’s underwhelming patron comforts.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-084Hoelterhoff covers common patron complaints including the lack of lobby space, miserable concession options, and inadequate bathroom facilities for women ticket buyers. On the last point, she laments that The Met spent millions on sets for the “Ring” cycle but would have been better off redirecting some of those funds to improving user experience problems.

The timing of Hoelterhoff’s article is apt in that The Met is already making additional headlines by way of what looks increasingly like an ugly labor showdown with its musician and entertainment industry unions.

The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, is coming under increasing fire from those same unions and other critics for failing to control design expenses, such as the “Ring” set Hoelterhoff referenced.

It will be intriguing to see how The Met emerges from the negotiations and whether public examination of user experience shortcomings, such as Hoelterhoff’s article, will thwart any of The Met’s bargaining goals.

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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3 thoughts on “And We Would Have Gotten Away With It Too, If It Weren’t For You Meddling Patrons”

  1. I have to point out that the last major arts organization that undertook a lobby renovation with bargaining on the horizon didn’t exactly win any plaudits for it – even though it may have made sense in and of itself, for similar reasons to those cited by Hoelterhoff.

  2. I was hoping someone would point out Minnesota; it certainly crossed my mind (to put it mildly) when writing the post but I decided against mentioning it because I would like to believe that their situation was more of a fluke and an engineered disaster to the degree that it won’t be repeated anytime soon.

    At the same time, there’s no denying that whatever benefits their renovations delivered, they were buried under the mountain of negativity surrounding the lockout.

  3. Don’t know about Minnesota’s hall and what was truly needed. Sometimes organizations could make relatively small changes that would dramatically improve patron experience, without spending $50 million. I have been to the Met and the bathroom situation is terrible; perhaps that could be changed without a major renovation.

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