Vertically Integrated Mahler

The orchestra field isn’t one to benefit from microeconomics like other fields; case in point, vertical integration holds limited value for performing arts organization business models. At least, not until you drill down into hyper-niche sectors.

What is vertical integration? Let TV explain…

As Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, realizes, there’s a dark side to vertical integration but what if we could take that same approach and turn it toward something fun?

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-129While enjoying a wonderful dinner earlier this week with one of my fav composers, he mentioned he was writing something that required a Mahler Hammer and as a result, the group performing the piece had to construct said musical sledge-mallet.

“I didn’t realize there were precise specs for a Mahler Hammer,” I said. “I thought groups made them as needed based on their own personal taste.”

“There aren’t,” said the composer. “I mean, it isn’t like you can go online and find a kit or just order one from Amazon, there’s not really much demand.”

[Light Bulb]

“So why not patent a design then start writing more pieces which call for that particular design of Mahler Hammer?” I replied.

Eureka! Classical Music meets the dark-ish side of vertical integration.

Granted, this is just a silly little example fueled by good food, better company, and alcohol but it did get me thinking about the bigger picture and perhaps it is time to re-examine if the there are some meaningful ways the nonprofit performing arts field could benefit from some form of vertical integration.

What do you think? At the very least, it should serve as good fodder for an Arts Admin thesis or two.

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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