Economies of Scale and Orchestras

As quantity of production increases from Q to Q2, the average cost of each unit decreases from C to C1

A recent post by Drew McManus at Adaptistration reminded me of a brief argument I had with Greg Sandow at his blog.  In my previous post I talked about one way to increase performance or earned revenue through Price Discrimination for Orchestra Tickets.  Another way to increase performance revenue as well as lower costs is by changing the scale of the operations.

This is commonly referred to as Economies of Scale, and no, this has nothing to do with reducing pay or cutting back a season to lower costs.  The reduced costs comes about as the result of increased production, thus lowering cost per unit.  As the Investopedia defines it:

The increase in efficiency of production as the number of goods being produced increases. Typically, a company that achieves economies of scale lowers the average cost per unit through increased production since fixed costs are shared over an increased number of goods.

Continue reading

Are Orchestra Musicians Replaceable?

Drew McManus pointed out a piece written by Michaela Boland which had some interesting quotes by Greg Sandow with whom I don’t necessarily agree on many points though he is one of the critics of the current status quo of Classical Music in the US.

Among the orchestras that have shut their doors and dismissed players there are some groups that have survived due to radical restructuring, which is where Sandow sees the future of the industry. Columbus Orchestra, by way of example, staved off closure in 2008 and retained 53 full-time players by reducing salaries by 27 per cent. Detroit Symphony Orchestra is engaged in similar talks with players.

Sandow argues that players in America’s top orchestras have traditionally been well paid, with salaries above $100,000, and the cuts are having an invigorating effect. “It’s interesting to talk to young musicians about this; they don’t see it as a problem, they’d consider themselves lucky to get any of these positions,” he says.

Historically, however, because of the status and the good pay, few of them could secure such jobs.

Sandow says that if the Philadelphia Orchestra were to suddenly discharge all its musicians and replace them with young players on contract, what might be lost in polish could easily be made up for in pizazz.

“I wonder if that wouldn’t be more exciting to hear,” he says. “It might really surprise people.”

This echoes some things said by Eric Edberg during the Detroit Symphony Orchestra debacle

I’m living in New York this semester, and have met a number of young free-lance players, some of whom are graduate students at big conservatories.  Guess what?  Most have little if any sympathy for the DSO players (who have not managed to successfully reframe the conversation and are losing the PR war, even with music students). They love all sorts of music in addition to classical music.  Plenty find traditional symphony (and other) concerts boring.  There are plenty of classical-change advocates, in various stages of self-awareness, among them. Right now, they have little or no work.  Student and, in many cases, instrument loans to pay.  Fantastic players.

Many see the union as the problem (even if they’re not going through one of those college-age Ayn Rand phases).  The players have been successfully characterized to/construed by them as greedy, selfish, and/or out of touch.  A lot of these incredibly-accomplished young players (and I bet there are bunches more in Baltimore, Bloomington, Cincinnati, Cleveland, LA,Miami,  etc.) seem excited at the idea of going to Detroit to work in a “new model” symphony.

While Unions may or may not be the problem (cf. Michael Kaiser’s recent post, Are Unions to Blame?) there is this sense that for good or ill, with younger musicians (many of whom are, as Eric says, struggling as freelancers much less in this economy) who haven’t matured in the Union environment, few are going to have as much sympathy as those musicians who rely on collective bargaining to sustain their livelihood.

On the other hand, a question I’ve been exploring–or rather, I could reframe the title of this blog post in a different way–is, “Are Western Orchestras Replaceable?”

Continue reading

Orchestra News

Dixon of Who's Minding the Score has this to say about the Philly Orchestra situation

Officially, the Louisville Orchestra currently employs no musicians.  Yesterday was the deadline for the bankruptcy reorganization plan to be submitted by the orchestra (which was actually filed on Monday), and midnight Tuesday is when the musicians current contract expires.  There was no new CBA agreed upon, hence no employed musicians.

Earlier last week, the concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Emmanuelle Boisvert, leaves for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra after 23 years in that position with the Detroit SO.  Drew McManus has linked some interesting pieces regarding her departure which happens, of course, after the Orchestra and Musicians finally settle a months long dispute which resulted in a strike by the musicians.

And similarly like the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra earlier this year, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra has risen from the ashes as the New Mexico Philharmonic.

 

In Ethnic Orchestra News

The Liverpool Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra recently got more funding.  There are a handful of Chinese Youth Symphonies in the US, many of which are feeders into the adult Chinese Orchestras in their respective regions.

I’m continuing to find even more Ethnic Orchestras in the US, a massive updating of my Ethnic Orchestras in North American Page is imminent.  At some point I will create a more useful database to correlate the growth of ethnic populations with the ethnic orchestras to give a better picture of the nature of the growth of these non-Western Orchestras throughout [especially] the US.

 

International Orchestra News

I found a recent blog about orchestra management that has a bit of an international focus that has some good reporting on some general issues as well as specific events reportage (such as the recent FIM International Orchestra Conference in Amsterdam).  The blog is simply titled, orchestramanament: Develop the Orchestra World.

 

“DSO: Change tune or be replaced”

Was going to get in a little practicing before leaving to go teach when I saw the latest development regarding the Detroit Symphony Orchestra current predicament after the Orchestra musicians vote no to the latest offer by the DSO this weekend.  A brief snippet below:

Players pressured to take tougher deal than they rejected

Lawrence B. Johnson / Special to The Detroit News

A very different Detroit Symphony Orchestra could emerge in the coming months unless the DSO musicians reverse themselves and agree to terms even more stringent than the offer they rejected over the weekend.

The DSO administration is prepared to move forward with a newly assembled group of players that would include only those members of the current orchestra who agree to unilaterally presented terms, DSO Vice President Paul Hogle said Sunday.

Advertisement

Without setting a date, Hogle said the time has come for a new symphony model to emerge, an ensemble that not only plays traditional concerts but also fully engages the community as ambassadors, educators and performers.

DSO cellist Haden McKay, shocked by the news that management may simply move on with replacements, said the plan is the equivalent of “an atom bomb.”

DSO violinist and musicians’ spokesman Joe Goldman said, “What kind of orchestra does (board chairman) Stanley Frankel think he’s going to have without any professional musicians in it?”

The full article is at the following link:

http://www.detnews.com/article/20110221/ENT01/102210354/DSO–Change-tune-or-be-replaced

Drew McManus has posted a good synopsis of the situation as it unfolded as well as some more info here:

http://www.adaptistration.com/2011/02/21/detroit-goes-dark/

EDIT (03:11):  and my old cello teacher (and still a mentor, even if he may not know it) makes some very good points in his recent blog post about the situation:

http://ericedberg.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/dso-making-them-an-offer-they-cant-accept/