Is It Possible To Manage A Large Budget Orchestra Using Mostly Consultants?

It certainly isn’t unheard of for larger budget orchestras to hire consultants for everything from temporarily filling staff holes to serving as the architect for marketing or development campaigns but relying on third party providers for the majority of admin functionality is decidedly not the norm. Nonetheless, that’s where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is headed so if you’ve ever been curious about how that might work out, you may have a case study to reference in the near future.

Adaptistration Biz GuysAccording to an article in the 7/14/2016 edition of the Baltimore Sun by Mary Carole McCauley, the BSO started shedding admin staff like there’s no tomorrow. Four existing marketing staffers have been replaced by third party providers while another two were in the education department.

This confirms information I started receiving on 7/13/2016 from several sources close to the cuts, all of which confirmed lay-offs and attrition related departures in marketing, education, design, and box office.

Norman Lebrecht initially broke the news at with a post that projected a markedly darker tone not to mention an intriguing exchange in the comments between him and the BSO’s outsourced communications spokesperson.

It will be interesting to see if the BSO plans to adopt this structure as an ongoing administrative arrangement or if it is a short term strategy.

If nothing else, that position would almost certainly have a great deal of impact on the sort of CEO they hire (one of the now numerous executive leadership positions vacant).

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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