2016 Orchestra Compensation Reports: Introduction

As is the case with every annual orchestra compensation report, the most important element to keep in mind is these figures encompass the 2013/14 season and not the current season. Although it isn’t unusual to expect that the most recent figures available would cover the previous season, that’s not how things work thanks to a few key elements:
Orchestra Compensation Reports 2016 Introduction

  1. Most professional orchestras maintain a fiscal year structure that begins and ends at some point from June to August; as a result, they tend to file their annual return several months later than the typical April 15 deadline that applies to individuals.
  2. When you add that date against the length of time the IRS takes to process and release the returns (anywhere from six to nine months), you arrive at the seemingly odd gap of the report being a season later than expected. Interestingly enough, if the IRS ever adopts standard open data practices, the additional gap will all but vanish and the data would be made available in a searchable format. Having said all of that, don’t hold your breath for it to happen anytime in the near future.

The end result is the most recent season available with data for every potential orchestra in these reports is two seasons behind the current season.

Notable Events

Although we’ll be examining each of the items below in greater detail via their respective report article, you can look forward to the following topics.

  • The number of orchestras failing to respond to requests for clarification and/or refusing to release required information is at one of the lowest levels since the reports started in 2005 and that’s a very good thing!
  • A number of traditionally highest paying executive and music director positions which went unfilled for a number of years were finally filled. The end result is a more reliable average for those respective stakeholders.
  • For the second time in row, a new orchestra crossed the reporting threshold for concertmaster compensation.
  • The overview article at the end of the series will include a live chart showing the average of all stakeholders over the course of 15 years!
  • With the exception of concertmasters, each stakeholder enjoyed sizable increases in average compensation. Likewise, the average total expenditure for each orchestra in the review increased by nearly three percent.

Are The Musician Compensation Figures Back?

Unfortunately, no.

The 2013 Compensation Reports saw the single largest change since they were launched in 2005; namely, the exclusion of base musician compensation figures. Although the reports have always maintained a goal of providing as comprehensive an overview as possible between stakeholder compensation, the 2015 reports are still unable to incorporate base musician compensation figures due to the same root problem related to the unreliability of the source data. Hopefully, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and its player conferences that gather the data will make necessary corrections and allow those figures to return for next year’s reports. You can learn more about this change in the 2012 Compensation Reports introduction article.

Publication Schedule

  • Tuesday, 6/20/2016: Executives
  • Wednesday, 6/21/2016: Music Directors
  • Thursday, 6/22/2016: Concertmasters
  • Friday, 6/23/2016: Overview and multi-year averages

Curious About Figures From Previous Seasons?

Then visit the Orchestra Compensation Reports archive where you’ll find links to each article in the series dating back to 2005. Articles from this year’s installment will be added as they are published.

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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