Fort Worth Symphony Just Lost The First Half Of Their Season

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) just crossed another major threshold in their ongoing work stoppage in the form of cancelling all remaining event activity through the end of 2016. For orchestras this size, the winter holiday season is one of the most lucrative earned income opportunities over the course of the season so the decision to cancel the entire lot two months in advance is a bad omen for wrapping up the dispute any time soon.

Fort Worth Symphony Just Lost Half Of Their SeasonIt also moves the FWSO into one of the more traditionally dark waypoints during a work stoppage where an employer will attempt to ratchet up pressure by introducing heightened personal stress. The decision to cancel the holiday cash cow is a good indication that the FWSO is secure enough with existing cash flow to risk any lost revenue if it means securing desired concessions.

The decision also introduces another contentious element by way of enduring a major holiday season amidst a work stoppage. If you’re curious to learn more about the sorts of pressures that build during that period and time, we now have a detailed record thanks to the season killing work stoppage at the Minnesota Orchestra, which was chronicled with a great deal of detail as it happened.

You can visit the Minnesota Orchestra article archive and see for yourself just how much stress around the holiday season contributes to making a bad situation worse.

I suggest beginning here and working your way forward chronologically through the winter holiday season. Make sure you don’t miss the second round of holiday season work stoppage angst around this point in the timeline.

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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2 thoughts on “Fort Worth Symphony Just Lost The First Half Of Their Season”

  1. Drew, where would “existing cash flow” be coming from if the FWSO is not producing concerts that create earned income? Could only come from board contributions (which means tacit approval of management’s current position) and perhaps some grant funds that were already secured and could be used in the second half of this season should an agreement be reached.

    • That’s an excellent question and although single ticket income is going to be the primary source of earned income, the organization will still manage to secure a modicum additional ticket revenue from the tail end of subscription sales but the primary source will be unearned. Contributions, regularly scheduled grant and endowment disbursements, investment income, government support, etc.

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