2021 Orchestra Compensation Reports: The Big Picture

Each year, one of the most popular items in the orchestra compensation reports is a big picture overview of all compensation alongside Total Expenditure figures. If you’ve been looking for something that shows all the report values in a single chart, this is your article.

Did you know? Direct links to most of the orchestra’s financial disclosure documents at guidestar.org are available in the Orchestra Financial Reports or you can save yourself dozens of hours by picking them up by season at the Adaptistration Store.

20 Year Trends

Although the Orchestra Compensation Reports have been around since 2005 (which covered the 2003/04 season) my 990 archive extends back through the 1999/00 season. Consequently, this overview article is an excellent vehicle for reaching back into those archives, which are usually reserved for consulting work, and extracting information to share.

To that end, let’s take a look at how each stakeholder group has fared over the years.

While the whipsaw patterns the last few year make things a little less clear, adding some trendlines projected over the next three years help make it clear where you can expect things to go.

At the same time, the next two reports include pandemic years so it’s quite likely we’ll see some of these figures reset. What is even more interesting are the next three years after that and whether each stakeholder will realign with historic trends or if the pandemic genuinely shook things up in a permanent sense.

The Deliberation Continues

When the compensation reports were launched back in 2005, there was a great deal of reader discussion about each stakeholder group’s respective value. Those were paired with questions about why stakeholder groups didn’t share comparatively equal gains and losses across seasons.

Since its inception, the purpose of the Orchestra Compensation Reports is to help reinforce the value of transparency and inspire patrons to create a stronger connection with their local orchestra and how it functions.

To that end, it has been wonderful watching discussions across social media and other media outlets unfold, doubly so during a period where the sector is just now starting to emerge from an enormously challenging time.

Yes, there’s always going to be an element of salaciousness that comes with reviewing compensation but that quickly melts away into more meaningful discussions surrounding the systems used to determine whether the field is rewarding effort or achievement.

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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2021 Orchestra Compensation Reports: The Big Picture

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