The Cost Of Ownership Is On The Rise

Over the past year, I’ve noticed a larger than usual increase in the cost of strings every time my wife orders new sets. Price increases certainly aren’t unusual and the rate of increase has been steady over the past decade, but 2019 year-to-date increases are around twice the usual rate.

This has an obvious impact on the overall cost of ownership for orchestra string musicians, where anywhere from 11-19 percent of total career spends are for nothing but strings.

Given that most of the strings used by professional musicians are imported from a country in the EU or China, I was curious if the tariffs from the ongoing trade wars between the US and those countries were the source of the price spike.

I contacted one of the largest accessory dealers in the US, Shar Products Co., to see if tariffs had anything to do with the recent uptick in price increases.

At the time this article was written, they have yet to reply, and if I don’t hear back within a few days I’ll reach out to a few of the larger manufacturers to see if they have any information to share from their perspective.

In the meantime, if you aren’t already familiar with the Counting The Costs; career cost of ownership for orchestra string musicians resource site, do yourself a favor and visit.

It’s remarkable how much orchestral string musicians spend just maintaining their instruments and bows.

For example, a violinist on the upper end of the career spend scale, such as concertmasters, principal seconds, and those in assistant/associate positions, can shell out more than $325k. That’s $100k over the 2019 median home price in the US.

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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