How Much Did That Meeting (Or Rehearsal Error) Really Cost?

Adaptistration People 138In 2007, I published an article with this very title so as to highlight a handy online tool designed to calculate the cost of meetings. Unfortunately, that tool faded away over time but something new from Harvard Business Review (HBR) has more than filled that void.

HBR’s Meeting Cost Calculator is a wonderfully simple and effective tool to help calculate the labor costs related with meetings. I published an article at ArtsHacker that includes step by step instructions on how to use the tool but you can easily expand on that administration orientated example and apply it to an on-stage setting.

For instance, some simple math can help determine exactly how much it costs an organization due to something like lost rehearsal time to fix a part error.

HBR’s calculator provides a max of 50 attendees and 15 minutes as the shortest length of time. Consequently, in order to find out something like the cost of fixing a part error that took three minutes of rehearsal time for a 100-piece ensemble where the average musician salary is $60,000/year is pretty straightforward.

rehearsal error cost

  1. Use HRB’s calculator to determine the cost of a 15 min meeting for 50 people earning an average of $60k/year.
  2. Multiply the total meeting cost by two to account for 100 musicians: $525 x 2 = $1,050.
  3. Divide by 15 for the per-minute labor cost: $1,050 / 15 = $70.
  4. Multiply that figure by the number of minutes it took to correct the part error and you have the total cost: $70 x 3 = $210.

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 “How Much Did That Meeting (Or Rehearsal Error) Really Cost?”

  1. Does this tool really apply to a part error? I would have thought that the cost of the rehearsal would include the cost of the conductor, and his assistant, and the stage crew, and the piano tuner, and the building costs, and the administration, without whose vision none of this would be possible. I would argue that fixing part errors is an intended use of a fixed cost. Those musicians probably do go to a lot of meetings, but not on company time.

    • The calculator can incorporate a wide range of individuals at varying salary levels so go nuts and apply it however it best suits your situation.

      I’m not sure I agree that part errors are acceptable uses of rehearsal time. If so, music librarians would have far less to do than their current duties and responsibilities, which include correcting as many part errors as possible before anyone even sits on stage.

  2. Not trying to bicker, I respect and enjoy your perspective and articles very much. I often think of a particularly cacophonous train wreck in one rehearsal with a famous old school maestro. After a suitable pause, he said, “Well, that’s why we have these little get-togethers.” We all do our best to be perfect but most of us aren’t, so we rehearse. If we make enough mistakes of any kind to be a burden, we are “encouraged to embrace career change.” Mistakes in the part are a fact of life, and there are lots of things that take time, from bowing disagreements to Maestro’s stories. There is valuable management to be done in identifying wasted time and effort, but I think rehearsals should be a refuge of sorts. If things go so well that Maestro dismisses us three minutes early it is not a cost to the organization, that money was spent regardless. In that light, an isolated mistake may have an artistic cost but has no distinct economic cost. At least that’s how it seems to me. I’m probably missing the point.

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