Detroit Symphony Orchestra - financial problems

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Steve, Dec 11, 2009.

  1. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Well it looks like the DSO is getting shocked in this economy around here. With Detroit city having a feasible 50% unemployment rate and the suburbs probably close to 30% and the BIG 3 auto companies at one time supplementing alot of artistic venues, the DSO is now getting involved in the domino effect.

    http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti...cit-soars-to-3.8-million&template=fullarticle

    excerpt
     
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  2. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    The Detroit Symphony has a long and storied history. One would hope that they are able to come out the other side of this. Have they begun to diversify their offerings at their venue? Symphony Center in Chicago has had a jazz series for a number of years now as well as appearances by artists like James Taylor.
     
  3. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    There's nothing new there, or outside of what many other symphonic organizations have experienced over the past thirty years or so. Anyone who "takes" the Musician, the American Federation of Musicians' newsletter, can chart a similar course for any number of other orchestras, and the overall outlook is not "bright".

    (For that matter, the salaries offered by even the most august of American orchestras are laughable, especially considering the level of attainment that the candidates at the auditions have to have reached. Most are well below the limits of a GS-11 Federal employee, not exactly the highest level of attainment in employment history. I've heard all of the arguments about how people are willing to suffer for their craft and so forth, but suffering doesn't play for a middle class lifestyle.)

    "Art music" has been heavily subsidized for many many years (hence the major presense of the Pittsburgh Symphony in the past - huge subsidies from the heavy industry folks there in the period 1890 - 1940 made what should have been a small town organization into a art music powerhouse), and with times again getting tight, such support is drying up.

    With the possible exceptions of Los Angeles (where Disney money has supported the LASO), Cleveland (again heavy industry folks, but more of them and a more diverse mix than Pittsburgh) and New York (a major center of everything, including investments), I think that it is safe to say that all such organizations, if not on life support, are in poor health. If San Diego, a wealthy city by most standards, cannot (or is not willing to) support a symphonic orchestra (the SDSO has gone under at least two times to date), then times are going to be tough for the balance of them in places like Orlando (out of business), Saint Louis (several funding crisies) and others.

    The root cause of it all is that you cannot maintain a body of professional musicians at the top of their form at a minimum salary cost of 60,000 per annum per head without funding from somewhere. Ticket prices don't begin to cover the cost, and programming boners like performing the collected works of Bruckner only compound the problem.

    Push comes to shove, there is a limited audience for the type of music that an "art music" operation is capable of generating. No butts in the seats translates to budget shortfalls, and astronomic salaries for "stars" and conductors.

    (What is it with all of the Euro conductors? Don't we produce enough here? At least you can understand the American ones, even my arch nemesis Lenny Slatkin.)

    Which concerts sell the best? Pops and gimmick one-shots, not a Brahms symphony. When they do draw folks to non-pops music, the popular ones are filled with warhorse material, not with leading-edge "contemporary" works.

    It's a sad development (says the bass clarinet player who loves Russian works from the late 1800's), but as inevitable as the morning sunrise. Without the kind of goverment subsidies provided by European governments, "art music" is going to be increasingly marginalized here in the Western Hemisphere. Once the United States government finally steps in to keep them afloat, it's going to be too late.

    However, if it means that I never have to play a clarinet part in a Bruckner work again, it may well be worth it. I really hate Bruckner - a typical organist who got out of his comfort zone...
     
  4. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    the DSO is quite diversified. youth ensembles, 4th of July, Christmas, free family concerts, etc concerts for Classical, Pops, Jazz

    for example tonight

    they seem to be quite diversified ... just in a really bad economic climate around here
     
  5. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    oh yeah .. if you read that article in full you would have seen the MINIMUM salary of a DSO musician is $104k + benefits. I'm sure that doesn't help balance the books either
     
  6. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    they're at it again

    http://detnews.com/article/20100730/ENT01/7300388/DSO-contract-talks-stalled
     
  7. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians set concerts

    http://www.freep.com/article/201008...oit-Symphony-Orchestra-musicians-set-concerts


    Concerts
    8 p.m. Sept. 11 and 3 p.m. Sept. 19
    Kirk in the Hills, 340 W. Long Lake, Bloomfield Hills
    $20-$50
     
  8. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    No offense to the nice folks in the DSO, but they're getting a 28% pay cut in one of the most economically depressed cities in America -- and are complaing about a lousy 6%? Hey, they still have JOBS. I've had to take over a 30% pay cut over the last three years. To top it off, $20 to $50 tickets? I can buy an awful lot of MP3s for that price.

    ========

    I really don't mind trying to get as much money as you can, but I think that the DSO is being a tad unrealistic.
     
  9. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    I agree

    If they don't like the mgt structure of the DSO then maybe they should strike out on their own and then realize that salary is heavily dependent upon income. And thus if income drops alot then something has to happen to salaries.

    I'm not against them wanting to get their artistic value, but if that local value drops then having a job is much better than not having one.

    We'll see how it works out.
     
  10. JfW

    JfW

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    I believe I agree with Pete.

    I am somewhat alarmed that the DSO has been drawing against the principal of it's endowment. Every dollar expended from there means a permanent loss of future economic viability for the Orchestra.
     
  11. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    one their websites they also mention how the DSO mgt mad bad real estate decisions in opening and overpaying for their 'mad max" extension several years back. This during the overpriced real estate market anyways .... now it's upside down i guess .. which is the scenario here in most if not all places in metro detroit. I wonder if all their homes are not in the same scenario.

    but, the endowment is also a collateral for the banks. So they are in a precarious position. I wish them the best.
     
  12. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    It doesn't look so good

    http://detnews.com/article/20100827/ENT01/8270449/1361/No-agreement-reached-in-DSO-talks

     
  13. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Opinion: there will be a compromise at around 25%. It will allow both sides to save face. The orchestra members will say how they won against management and the management will say that they won because 25% was really the number they were looking for.

    Do not underestimate my powers: I've guessed my company's current stock price, + or - 5%, for the past week. And I don't follow stocks. I also was $0.01 off in my prediction for the MSRP of the iPad.
     
  14. JfW

    JfW

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    I don't know about that as it all depends on the money issues. Management has no reason to agree to anything short of long term financial solvency, and they're the ones sitting on the numbers. It really depends if there's room for compromise or not.
     
  15. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    it's all driven by revenue .. and that has been downwards trending for years.

    EXCERPT:
    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/...e-but-it-wont-happen-yet&template=fullarticle
     
  16. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    now they are on strike

    http://www.freep.com/article/20101004/ENT04/10040337/1318/DSO-strike-set-to-begin-today


     
  17. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    interesting strike information at other symphonies

    Strikes at major orchestras
    Salary disputes have been at the heart of most orchestra strikes, but benefits, work rules and artistic issues can also play important roles. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra's 1982 strike, for example, was mostly about how much say the players would have in selecting a new music director. Here's a list of some other notable strikes and how long they lasted.

    2010: Cleveland Orchestra, 1 day
    2005: St. Louis Symphony, 8 weeks
    2003: Houston Symphony, 3 weeks
    1996: Atlanta Symphony, 10 weeks; San Francisco Symphony, 9 1/2 weeks; Philadelphia Orchestra, 9 weeks
    1988-89: Baltimore Symphony, 21 weeks
    1987: Detroit Symphony Orchestra, 12 weeks
    1982: Detroit Symphony Orchestra, 10 days
     
  18. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Their input may already be too late - they hired my buddy Lenny Slatkin, so things should go downhill shortly...
     
  19. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I know an awful lot of really good players that would love to make $61,200 a year playing ....
     
  20. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    plus benefits.
    I'd love to make that amount making music .....
     

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