All Sorts Of #TestFail Going On For The “How Much Do You Know About Musicians” Quiz

Last week, I published a fun little quiz to see how much readers really knew about musician wages, benefits, and working conditions. On the positive side of things, participation was fantastic thanks to nearly 500 readers completing all twelve questions. On the other side of that coin were the results: readers either aced it or bought the farm with absolutely nothing between those extreme grades.

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As one reader justifiably pointed out in a comment, although the test was only twelve questions long, correct answers typically required research. But the whole point of the exercise wasn’t the final grade; instead, it was designed to help stakeholders break out of cycles where perceptions are formed more by conventional/anecdotal wisdom than not.

If we can debunk a few bigger budget = better terms/benefits/conditions myths along the way, then it’s a happy twofer. In the end, sparking curiosity among stakeholders and triggering some inspiration to learn more about how things work across a broad cross section of organizations would just be icing on the cake.

Let’s take a look at one of the questions from the test that best demonstrates this idea:

Question 1: Which of the following orchestras has the longest season?
The correct reply was Grand Rapids Symphony

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As illustrated in the chart, most respondents selected Indianapolis Symphony. It’s fair to say that most stakeholders assume that since it is the largest budget orchestra on the list, it should have the longer season because traditionally, season length has been a competitive benchmark. But in reality, Grand Rapids’ season is two weeks longer.

Adaptistration People 011Ultimately, even though failing grades dominated the results, there were still a few questions where respondents tended to answer correctly more often than not.

  • Question 3: What is the most common number of maximum services (rehearsals and performances) per week an employer can make musicians work?
    The correct answer was Eight Weeks and 56 percent of respondents answered correctly. This is the question respondents answered correctly most often.
  • Question 7: Which of the following orchestras maintains the lowest number of maximum days per tour (domestic or international)?
    The correct answer was Nashville Symphony and 27 percent of respondents answered correctly.
  • Question 9: Which of the following orchestras does NOT maintain revolving string sections?
    The correct answer was Cleveland Orchestra and 45 percent of respondents answered correctly.
  • Question 10: Which of the following orchestras does NOT include the music librarian as part of the bargaining unit?
    The correct answer was Oregon Symphony and 28 percent of respondents answered correctly.
  • Question 11: Which of the following orchestras has the smallest number of full time (also known as core or salaried) musicians included in the bargaining agreement?
    The correct answer was Virginia Symphony and 32 percent of respondents answered correctly.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the question respondents were most likely to answer incorrectly was Question 5: Which of the following orchestras provides a $0 office visit co-pay with no deductible for in-network doctor visits as a benefit of their health insurance plan? The correct reply was Cincinnati Symphony but the majority of respondents selected either Boston Symphony or San Francisco Symphony.

Once again, both of the latter orchestras have larger budgets than the correct answer thereby reinforcing the danger of assuming that bigger budget always means “better” benefit.

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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4 thoughts on “All Sorts Of #TestFail Going On For The “How Much Do You Know About Musicians” Quiz”

  1. I answered 10 services for question number 3. Yes, most orchestras have 8 services per week as their usual week. But, many contracts allow up to 10 services in a week, if adjacent or balanced to a lower service count week. Since the question doesn’t ask “average” services, but maximum, I believe 8 is an incorrect answer.

    • According to the data, the maximum is in the 7-8 range for most orchestras included in the cross section (leaning more toward eight). The point about allowing more than that is an interesting item as it varies from one group to the next in that some do spell out the maximum contractually and others don’t, leaving it as a matter to be considered on a case by case basis.

    • Thank you, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about that. That used to be the case but it changed following their labor dispute a few years ago. the last season they were 52 weeks was 2011/12 and beginning with the 2012/13 season, their length changed as follows: 38 weeks, 38 weeks, 40 weeks, 41 weeks, and 42 weeks.

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