Counting The Costs Q&A

Adaptistration People 131Last week’s mega-article examining how much orchestra string musicians spend to equip, maintain, and repair their instruments over the course of their career generated a tremendous amount of reader feedback/questions across social media and email. Throughout those discussions, a few items popped up more than others and I wanted to take today’s post to cover those.

Do the figures include purchasing the instrument and bow?

No. In addition to the exclusions mentioned in the article via the “What The Numbers Don’t Include” section, the figures do not include actual instrument and bow purchases.

Why doesn’t the employer pay for these costs?

Good question. Currently, the are no US employers who cover these expenses in full. Having said that, some do provide minor stipends for all musicians via the collective bargaining agreement while others absolutely refuse to provide any compensation or reimbursement.

Simply put, there’s no universally accepted best practice and thanks to this being a very sensitive and contentious issue for some stakeholders, the topic is rarely examined in an open forum.

If you’re curious to know if your local ensemble covers any of these costs for musician employees, I encourage you to ask them.

Can I get a copy of the information in text-only format?

While I appreciate this request, the reply is no. There are two reasons why the information is presented in an interactive infographic format as opposed to a text-heavy table based format.

First, it’s fun and looks cool. Those two elements help make otherwise stuffy numbers more interesting. Having said that, I fully understand that it precludes anyone from easily printing it out or taking the info via simple copy/paste. But that leads directly into the second point which is while I’m happy to provide this information freely, that doesn’t mean I give away all my high-value research free of charge.

When are you going to publish figures for other instruments?

It would be lovely if there was enough time to perform an equal amount of research to compile figures for woodwind, brass, and percussion musicians but without funding, I wouldn’t expect anything soon. If anyone is interested in funding the research and analysis, please get in touch.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to post them as a comment or get in touch directly.

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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