Late last week, Columbia Artists Management Inc. (CAMI) announced that after 90 years it was shutting down. Any time a company with such a long history and prominent influence in the field shuts down is an event of note. Having said that, it shouldn’t be interpreted as the canary in the coal mine event I’m seeing in some social media discussions and classical music outlets.
What I’m about to provide is a remarkably oversimplified overview but in a nutshell, artist management firms have never been known as being the paragon for particularly flexible or resolute business plans.
It’s important to remember that artist management firms are commercial businesses that operate mostly within the nonprofit sector.
CAMI’s decision to close comes after about six months after the onset of shutdowns. This is the minimum amount of time most financial experts recommend businesses operating in a stable sector have in cash reserves. Those operating in more volatile sectors should put away enough to cover even longer periods of time.
I have no idea if CAMI applied for or received any PPP or SBA loans but if they did, their shutdown is potentially more indicative of internal cash reserve policies than anything related to the condition of the field as a whole.
All of this is to say, don’t panic. Job losses are always a serious event, but individual performing artists, agents, and ensembles will land on their feet. They are a tenacious group of professionals and CAMI’s closure will not be the last commercial business operating inside the orchestra/opera sector that will shut down or restructure.