Adaptistration Through The Years

This will be an ongoing project so drop in every now and then to see new entries.

Inagural Post

Mon, Nov 3, 2003: At that time, I could count on one hand the number of culture bloggers in the US. Blogging was relatively new and Adaptistration started off as part of the Arts Journal network of culture blogs. Although the first year was only two months, we hit the ground running with posts that questioned conventional wisdom as applied to board leadership and examining issues that had otherwise been taboo. And setting a pattern that would later define Adaptistration as an independent and responsible culture blog, we also examined governance issues inside the musicians’ union.

First Reader Response

Mon, Nov 6, 2003: Can you believe there was a time when blogs didn’t have comments? So until that functionality became part of Adaptistration, I used to publish reader emails from time to time (like old school “letters to the editor”). Direct reader communication was critical as this day and age also predated the sort of metrics and social media sharing we take for granted today.

Talk Is Cheap, Tickets Aren’t

Tue, Dec 16, 2003: This was the very first post on what would become one of the longest running topics at Adaptistration: ticket prices. Ahead of its time by a solid decade, the post advocates for orchestras to begin moving away from relying on subscription revenue toward a dynamic membership structure and finding a way to bring the cost of selling those alongside single ticket down.

Enabling Patrons

Thu, Jan 8, 2004: This was the very first post on what would become a much larger cornerstone topic of transparency at the dawn of the online era. the article not only encouraged patrons to learn more about how their orchestra works but it provided a resource list of sources to begin learning more about each respective stakeholder group along with financial transparency.

An Interview with Marianne Lockwood Part I

Wed, Jan 21, 2004: Adaptistration’s first interview with now retired Orchestra of St. Luke’s executive director, Marianne Lockwood, was important at the time because OSL was not a member of the League and as a result, it was next to impossible for arts managers to learn about groups outside of that circle. the interview went into a remarkable amount of detail for the time into a unique administration, governance, and stakeholder relationship structure.

Size Matters

Mon, Feb 16, 2004: The first installment in what would later become one of the most influential series of articles on contemporary concert hall design and construction. The series focused on concert hall projects at Dayton Philharmonic, Richmond (VA) Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, and Nashville Symphony.

Blog Search Is Introduced

Wed, Mar 24, 2004: Hard to believe but there was a time when the ubiquitous search feature we now take for granted was introduced as a new idea!

Are We Compensating Effort Instead Of Achievement?

Wed, Apr 7, 2004: The first article that, in hindsight, began to track what would become double digit growth in executive compensation within the field and cautioned against the trend without a similar increase in efforts directed toward earnest executive review.

Why the NSJO Strad Fiasco is Bad For Pittsburgh

Mon, May 3, 2004 : Adaptistration’s first expose style post, it was actually a tie-in to an earlier post at Neo Classical. At the time, it garnered threats of legal action from a NJSO and one of their board members (who has since left) attempted to get the article pulled. But those threats disappeared after the New Jersey Star Ledger and other traditional media sources came out with similar articles in August that year and the orchestra could no longer justify such an aggressive position.

The Wrong Way To Make A Decision Part 1

Mon, Aug 2, 2004: In what would become one of the most popular topics during Adaptistration’s early years, this post about the massive institutional changes that transpired at the Interlochen Center for the Arts triggered a flood of new readers and garnered the attention of international media. It was a groundbreaking article by being among the first to take advantage of the limitless space to present content and dive into detail normally reserved to foundation level reports. Gone were days of limitations defined by available physical print media and that wide open space provided ideal ground to explore issues in great detail alongside extended interview transcriptions. Welcome to the new era of culture blogging!

Metrics. Finally!

Aug, 2004: After nearly a year, metrics finally became available and as a result, there was a reliable source of data to track visitors. Back in 2004, a spike in traffic over 600 views was quite a thrill although today’s traffic spikes reach in excess of 10,000 (today = 2015). Since the data wasn’t available for download, I would take screencaps like the one below each week to document site traffic and enter all of that data into spreadsheets for analysis. #DataGeek

600 Page View Month

The first ever orchestra website review

Wed, Sep 15, 2004: The annual orchestra website reviews, which ran from 2004 through 2011 served as one of the most influential annual series of posts in that it helped shape and inspire the field as a whole to not only pay closer attention to integrating web presence into traditional marketing efforts, but recognize groups that served to stand apart from their peers as leaders. You can visit the website review archives for each year’s articles.

Eastman Students Negotiate Their Future Part 1

Thu, Sep 30, 2004 : Fall, 2004 was a good time; within the space of a single year, the blog had garnered the attention of the field as a whole and as a result, the number of speaking engagement offers shot up. Among those was an offer from the Eastman School of Music to serve as a guest lecturer for students in their Institute for Music Leadership and conduct a mock negotiation session. Great fun and good times!

First appearance at a major market radio station

Tue, Oct 26, 2004: I traveled to NYC to appear on the WNYC’s Soundcheck with John Schaefer, it was the first of what would become a regular series of appearances resulting from articles that appeared at Adaptistration. Ironically enough, it was the first time many readers heard my voice (remember, this is still the early day s of blogging) and you can listen to 30-something Drew via a copy of the show available for streamlining here.

Something Special In St. Louis Part 1

Tue, Mar 15, 2005: Although commonplace today, peering into lives of stakeholders embroiled in a nasty labor dispute was unheard of in 2005 but the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s labor dispute and lockout changed that forever. After both sides reached an agreement, I traveled to St. Louis to attend a musician organized concert conducted by Benjamin Zander and interview a number of musicians. It also marked the first time a culture blog garnered the ire of a traditional print media music critic…which is a story I need to remember to write about one day.

Take A Friend To The Orchestra Is Born

Mon, May 2, 2005: An outgrowth of existing patron empowerment posts, the Take A Friend To The Orchestra (TAFTO) initiative become an annual event that ran from 2005-2013. Featuring posts written by critics, bloggers, musicians, classical music enthusiasts, and administrators about how patrons can invite friends who don’t regularly participate in live music events to a performance in their area. It was a smashing success and I am continually honored that the initiative attracted such an esteemed list of contributors, each one offering up their contribution as a volunteer. To this day, TAFTO remains one of the brightest points in Adaptistration’s history by serving as a positive force for change.

Traveled to Venezuela to learn about El Sistema

Tue, Jun 14, 2005: Before anyone in the US (outside of a handful of folks from Boston) knew what El Sistema was or even heard of Gustavo Dudamel, I was invited to travel to Caracas, Venezuela as a guest of the New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic Orchestra to write about what I encountered. Needless to say, it was a profound experience and although hastily put together at the invitation of Benjamin Zander, I’m glad it was an opportunity that didn’t pass by unrealized. Unknown to me at the time, Ben was an avid reader of the blog and believed in the value of having an independent observer along for the ride. I’m grateful Ben found the resources to bring me along and as a result, I published a quartet of in-depth articles at Neo Classical.

Orchestra Compensation Reports Launched

Tue, Jul 19, 2005: In what has become one of the most influential and longest running series of articles here at Adaptistration, the very first installment of the Orchestra Compensation Reports was published. Picked up by international media, it became a viral hit and helped shape and influence what is now the growing patron stakeholder group movement by providing a conduit to institutional transparency and ushering in a positive discussion about compensating effort vs. achievement.

Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts

Aug – Dec, 2005: Hours after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast Region; Adaptistration established an extensive relief effort to aid displaced musicians and administrators. Over 300 offers providing shelter, direct aid, and work opportunities from across the country resulted in more than 60 musicians and managers finding temporary or long term solutions until they could return to their homes. Relief efforts were featured in a Sunday edition of the New York Times and served as the subject of a special American Symphony Orchestra League emergency bulletin.

This is a unique milestone in that it was the first time a culture blog initiated a major, coordinated effort to wield positive influence to help marginalize a field-wide crisis. Undoubtedly, this effort serves as one of Adaptistration’s greatest moments.

Adaptistration's earliest know screencap

Oct, 2005: It seems to quaint by today’s standards but at the time I recall being thrilled at the ability to implement modest branding elements such as the color palette and logo (which predates the existing wireframe globe version).

timeline 2005 screencap

Canadian Orchestra Included In Annual Website Reviews

Sun, Oct 2, 2005: Expanding on the previous year’s success, a mutually exclusive installment that focused entirely on Canadian orchestras was launched and continued through the conclusion of the series in 2011.

Adaptistration Used To Sell Print Publications?

Wed, Oct 12, 2005: Another one of the “hard to believe” items is there used to be a time when downloadable content wasn’t easy to deliver and a user’s internet speed could be slow enough to make such an effort unreasonable. As such, there used to be a series of print publications based on the compensation reports and website reviews. In addition to the material available online, they would typically include unique material only available in those editions. I still have most of the old pdf files!

Messiah Organist On Crack

Fri, Dec 23, 2005: This was the very first installment of a now annual holiday tradition: the audio clip from the infamous Messiah Organist On Crack performance.

Comments. Finally!

Early 2006: Although I don’t recall the actual date, embedded commenting was finally introduced as a standard feature to all blog posts within the larger Arts journal blog platform. This introduced a sharp uptick in reader participation that continues to this day, albeit more in the form of social media discussion.

Attended the Chamber Music America Conference To Speak About Blogging (gasp!)

Fri, Jan 13, 2006: In what seems like another quaint throwback, the 2006 CMA conference was actually groundbreaking in that it offered attendees a session dedicated exclusively to the benefits of blogging. By this time, the culture blogging community had grown quite a bit and it was an honor to sit aside fellow culture bloggers and friends, Alex Shapiro and Jerry Bowles for the session (which garnered a wild amount of positive feedback from attendees). As it turns out, I still have the original conference pdf handout available if you’re interested in knowing more about the hot culture blogging topics were in 2006.

I Haven't Always Been Drew McManus, Chicago Based Arts Consultant

Wed, Feb 15, 2006: Before moving to Chicago, I lived in Baltimore, MD where I founded and grew my consulting business in 1994. At this point in time, I sold my first entrepreneurial venture, a very successful music studio business that is not only still operational, but thriving to this day, and focused the bulk of my professional efforts on consulting and the ever expanding blogging activity.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Seattle (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Mon, Jul 10, 2006: This series of articles is particularly special to me because it served as the first, detailed examination on a national basis within the field of the other musicians’ union. I’m enormously pleased to say that to this day, I still receive regular stream of thanks from both manager and musician readers for the information.

Schermerhorn Symphony Center Series

Tue, Sep 12, 2006: Serving as another titular offering, this series of articles explored the grand opening of the Nashville Symphony’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which Adaptistration had been following since 2004. Providing a previously unknown level of detail, the series provided those inside the field and out an illuminated look at the inner workings of what a major capital campaign project looks like. The articles included a number of interviews with board members, executives, staffers, musicians, and patrons as well as a dedicated article at Neo Classical about the acousticians from Akustiks, who at the time were the new kids on the block but are now the heaviest hitters in their field.


UW-Madison Mock Negotiations

Mon, Oct 30, 2006: By this point in time, I was serving as a regular guest lecturer at a number of academic institutions and I had the honor of carrying out a mock orchestra collective bargaining agreement negotiation with the MBA students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Bolz Center for Arts Administration program. What makes this scenario stand out is although some of the students were rather upset at the time with the methods employed (you’ll have to read the series to learn more and don’t skip the respective comments), they accurately predicted the hostile labor environment that was waiting just around the corner in 2008. An article some years later in 2013 provides an excellent perspective.

Adaptistration in 2007

Feb, 2007: Not much has changed in the design but that was par for the course at Arts Journal (and most blogs) back in the day. The only real improvement was the ability to add images into sidebar content.

timeline 2007 screencap

Left Neo Classical

Mon, May 7, 2007: After more than three years of authoring Neo Classical, my column on the future of classical music that was initially hosted at The Partial Observer, I left as the primary author and handed it over to it’s current author, Holly Mulcahy. The demands of Adaptistration and a rapidly expanding business made maintaining the regular column unsustainable; fortunately, the blog has done consistently gang-buster business and is more popular now than the years I served.

The First Readership Segmentation Survey

Fri, Jun 15, 2007: As Adaptistration’s readership continued to grow and comments were now available, it became clear that the readership was more diverse than anticipated. In order to gain a clearer idea, a reader survey was created and it became the first of an annual occurrence that has since been immeasurably useful in helping shape the blog’s overall direction and content. Unfortunately, the results from this initial survey were lost but we do know that it was the first time we quantified the nearly 1/3+1/3+1/3 division among administrators, musicians, and patron readers.

Branching Into Examining Musicians' Union Issues

Thu, Jun 21, 2007: Although the blog was established with a focus on the business of orchestras, musician union issues have always been tightly intertwined. But it wasn’t until this article that Adaptistration began to examine the internal political issues within the American Federation of Musicians and it’s orchestra focused player conferences: International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, Regional Orchestra Players Association, and Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians.

The Fragile Powerhouse

Thu, Aug 23, 2007: Although the number of phrases and ideas coined here at Adaptistration are almost too many to keep track of, one of the strongest that is routinely picked up at other outlets is “The Fragile Powerhouse” concept. It was designed to clearly describe the risks involved with damaging institutional growth through overly aggressive austerity measures and/or artificially exaggerated labor strife. This article marks the first time it appeared in print.

Bringing Staffers Into The Limelight

Mon, Aug 27, 2007: One of Adaptistration’s strengths over the years is bringing attention to otherwise overlooked elements within the field and this article marked the first time we examined the distinction between staffers and executive administrators within the context of a labor dispute.

A Chart Is Worth A Thousand Words

Thu, Sep 27, 2007: As the capability to insert larger, more complex images into content became available, Adaptistration began to capitalize on this feature by using more charts and graphs. This article marks the first time we used a chart to illustrate the base musician compensation trends over the course of seven seasons (99-06) for musicians inside ICSOM ensembles. This post also reinforced Adaptistration’s continuing commitment to examining issues on both the goose and gander side of the labor fence and functioning as a fair and independent voice within the growing cultural blogging community.

Sticks and Drones Launched

Mon, Nov 5, 2007: Wasting no time to see where the new found independence could lead, the very first Adaptistration Blog was launched: Sticks and Drones; two conductors on the beat. Serving as a supporting editor, the authors, Bill Eddins and Ron Spiegelman, were given free reign and their posts became instant hits within the culture blogging community.

Providing voices with the means to make a difference in the field became a growing mandate for Adaptistration alongside its regular mission driven content.

These new Adaptistration blogs were branded Inside The Arts and that brand would ultimately become its own unique domain name and platform.

Inside The Arts Grows

Nov-Dec, 2007: Over the course of the final two months in 2007, two new blogs were added to Inside The Arts: Jason Heath began writing Arts Addict (which was later consolodated into Heath’s other blog, the Double Bass Blog) and the existing culture blog, Brian Dickie, Life as General Director of Chicago Opera Theater, joined the expanding network.
2008 and later - in progress, stop back again soon to see what's new


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