Compensation Report Update

It looks like the Annual Orchestra Compensation Reports will be delayed a little longer this year thanks to quite a few orchestras not having their reports available for download.

Most professional orchestras maintain a fiscal year structure that begins and ends at some point from June to August; as a result, they tend to file their annual return several months later than the typical April 15 deadline that applies to individuals.

When you add that time against the length of time the IRS takes to process and release the returns (anywhere from six to nine months), you arrive at the seemingly odd gap of the report being a season later than expected. The end result is the most recent season available with data for every potential orchestra in these reports is two seasons behind the current season.

Throw the pandemic into the mix and you’re now looking at even longer delays, which is exactly where we are.

While gathering the 990s for the 2019-2020 returns, I discovered a large share of the orchestras included in the review don’t have downloadable copies available. Of those, some have extracted data available from Pro Publica, which is a format recreated from the raw data in XML format.

The downside is that data isn’t downloadable and while it is usable, I prefer using copies from the actual filing. Fun fact: while Pro Publica is my recommend go-to source for researching nonprofit tax filings, you need to take their compensation reports with a giant grain of salt.

For example, during the tax year we will be examining, they list compensation for music director Marin Alsop as $283,973. But that’s an entirely misleading value in that it doesn’t present an accurate figure for total compensation.

Their figure fails to include these additional compensation items included in the filing:

  • Other reportable compensation in Schedule J, Part III, B.iii
  • Retirement and other deferred compensation in Schedule J, Part III, C
  • Nontaxable benefits in Schedule J, Part III, D
  • Compensation in column (B) reported as deferred on prior Form 990 in Schedule J, Part III, F
  • Reportable compensation from related organizations in Part VII, Section A (E)
  • Estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations in Part VII, Section A (F)
  • Payments made as an independent contractor, Part VIII, Section B

When you include the values from those categories in that reporting year for Marin Alsop, the total compensation figure is actually $808,621.

That’s not an insubstantial difference and given that this reporting period is the first to fall completely within the pandemic, I want to be as accurate as possible.

As such, I’m going to give another month for the downloadable versions to become available and use those to check against the extracted data versions. If they still aren’t available by then, we’ll aim for September 2022.

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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