This Isn’t Our First Rodeo

Originally, my post today was going to dive into some of the doom and gloom posts making the rounds about how bad things are. My day got away from me, so we’ll aim for that post happening tomorrow.

What I will say now is even though organizations are decidedly in crisis mode, this isn’t the first time we’ve faced what seems like an existential threat.

And just like every other crisis the field has faced, it is separating organizations into two primary buckets:

  1. Those who prepared by building endowments, creating emergency operating reserves, diversifying revenue streams, and becoming relevant to their audience.
  2. Those who didn’t.

I recall the housing bubble downturn ripping off the veneer of stability for some groups to expose dysfunctional governance and overdependence on a handful of revenue streams.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, worst case scenarios saw those orchestras liquidate; but others survived and some thrived.

Undoubtedly, the coronavirus crisis will be one of the largest challenges the field has faced to date. While we navigate these waters, be leery of voices that promise salvation by way of empty sound bites.

More on this tomorrow but in the meantime, don’t let the prophets of doom and gloom cloud your thinking. And if you haven’t taken a moment to register your employment status for this week’s poll, please take a moment now to submit something:

This Survey has expired. You can view the results at the State Of Employment Series Archive:

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.

Related Posts