I Feel Like I May Have To Say This A Lot Over The Next Several Weeks

We’re only a month or so away from this year’s installment of the Orchestra Compensation Reports, where we take a deep dive into compensation trends among orchestra executives, music directors, and concertmasters at more than 65 professional U.S. orchestras.

Each year, there are always some readers that presume the figures are for the most recent year, but the reality is the most recent season available with data for every potential orchestra in the reports is two seasons behind the current season.

That means the upcoming figures will cover the last full season before the pandemic hit and if trends continue.

Each report includes percent increase/decrease in compensation from the previous year and when you combine that with the two-year lag in timing, you probably see where this is going.

I fully expect some readers to think the data coming out next month covers the pandemic season but that won’t be the case. I fully expect to make these same points again in the wake of outrage filled comments.

All of that is perfectly fine but I need your help and here’s my ask: don’t hesitate to step in when you see these conversations unfold to point out the timing gap. Resist the urge to let fury unfold. While it may feel cathartic at first, it’s only going to add unnecessary pressure at a time where there’s plenty to go around.

Speaking of the annual compensation reports, did you know you can tap directly into the knowledge by picking up your very own copies of every 990 in the report for that past 19 years? They are available for immediate download at the Adaptistration Store and deliver the following benefits over trying to gather the data on your own (good luck finding copies going back that far!):

  1. They are grouped by season.
  2. The default random alpha-numeric filenames have been changed to the orchestra name (because opening a bunch of files to find the one you need is for chumps).
  3. The files have been processed through Adobe Acrobat’s optical character recognition (OCR) scan. This will make the files keyword searchable (a huge time saver!).
  4. Each season comes with a corresponding notes document pointing out any need-to-know items. For example, when an orchestra changes its fiscal year it is common to find two IRS filings, one that covers time through the end of the previous fiscal year and one to cover the extra time through the end of the new fiscal year.
  5. You’ll be able to download the file immediately after completing your purchase and the password to unzip the file will be included as a separate pdf file download.

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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