Three Terrifying Things Arts Managers Never Want To Hear Before Breakfast

I’m not too proud to deny today’s headline is right from one of Lisa Hirsch’s recent posts at Iron Tongue of Midnight. Having said that, it inspired me to write a little something based on very real events, however, names and places have been changed.

1) “Good morning Herr Schmidt, I wanted to let you know we finished up the electrical for the musician housing ahead of ahead of schedule but I’m sorry to say the building won’t be ready for occupancy until six weeks after the scheduled delivery date*. We can find some time to talk about this after I’m back from holiday in 10 days.”

*this was already a cutting-it-too-close-for-comfort seven days before musicians were set to begin arriving.

Needless to say, coffee was prepared to go as key members of the executive team were split between finding pressure points to get the contractor to finish work on time and scouting Plan B housing solutions. I was happy to lead Team #1 and was even happier when those efforts produced the desired result.

2) “Morning boss, the ticketing provider just called. Good news, bad news: they apparently weren’t informed we sent out our season announcement and 24-hour offer this morning. Good news is it turns out response was six times higher than what we anticipated. Bad news is they didn’t it crashed their server and it won’t be back up for several more hours. Oh, I’m calling from my cell because we lost the box office land line too.”

I’m glad to say this is one I watched from the sideline as an observer.

3) “It turns out the storm was strong enough to engulf the underground parking garage next to the offices and the overflow went into our basement and lower instrument storage facilities. Most of the music library is destroyed. We don’t know yet how many percussion instruments are lost.”

As comforting as fully paid insurance premiums are, some assets are irreplaceable.

What about you? Have there been any early morning calls that he mere thought of still send shivers down your spine?

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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