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Detroit Symphony Orchestra - financial problems

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#61
And, I agree with the fewer musicians and those that are already trained seeking other employment. Right now, schools are generating about ten times the number of music majors needed to fulfill the employment opportunities.

The great wave of post-World War II market entry teachers (of all kinds) is now past, and opportunities there are currently limited. A similar opportunity in teaching is still some fifteen years off.

The commercial market is equally saturated. With hundreds of applicants showing up for bassoon auditions for third tier orchestras, there are a lot of (no doubt fully qualified) applicants chasing very few jobs. Supply and demand rules.

The solution is what many of us discovered many years ago: pursue a career where you can make the money for the house, the car, the kid's educations and medical insurance, and play music in your spare time.

You don't need a college education for this. Hell, you don't really need any formal education at all - you can learn what you need from a private teacher. And, you'll be happy, healthy, with a roof over your head and a full belly while you are playing.

Don't get me wrong - I've played pro jobs for a long time. And, I've also hired sidemen who are trying to make it as a musician alone. They are some of the least happy people that I've known.

I dated a wonderful 'cello player back when I got out of the service and was finishing my schooling. (Actually, I dated two of them, equally wonderful - see my Hollerith card story elsewhere hereon.) She was spectacularly good, Julliard-trained with (back then) tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt - and couldn't get a job anywhere.

When last we met, she was engaged to a violist (oh, the horror) with the Saint Louis Symphony. She still couldn't get hired anywhere. She was working as a secretary at the AAA office there. Very sad.
 
#62
Yes, we must also consider that music is so integral to the human condition that many will perform for nothing, like us community band geeks have. It is the same with other arts, but none so much as with music.

Very few by comparison will tackle the more arduous of tasks involving engineering, management, medicine, customer service, accounting, labour, agriculture, etc. for free. Music defines us in a way that nothing else does. If a StarWars like reality ever comes about with numerous other races and ours intermingling, we humans would probably be known as the bards of the galaxy.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#63
speaking of meltdowns
I find it interesting that a "full time" DSO musician apparently works 20 hrs a week.

http://www.freep.com/article/201102...s-balance-?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

HEADLINE: In DSO strike, season hangs in the balance
The next 24 hours in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike might rival a Hollywood cliffhanger. Management has set Friday as a deadline for the musicians to formally respond to its latest contract proposal, and a management decision to possibly cancel the season hangs in the balance.

With the strike in its 19th week, musicians turned down the proposal earlier this week, singling out conflicts over how to spend $2 million management says would primarily be paid out for optional community work. The players want more of it for base pay.

With both sides hunkering down today, predictions are folly, but here is some news and perspective:

• Cellist Haden McKay said today that the musicians had not offered a formal counter-proposal to management and declined to address whether one would come Friday. He said the negotiating committee would try to reach a settlement "without regard to any deadlines."

"We will keep trying to make the pieces fit whether it is tomorrow or beyond."

• What does canceling the season mean? Management said refunds or exchanges would be available to patrons if the season is canceled. Officials otherwise declined comment. It's unclear whether guest artists would be released from contracts, how quickly an ad-hoc winter-spring season could be reinstated if a settlement were reached and what the implications are for next season, which typically would be announced this month.

• An optimist would note that the sides moved closer this week, resolving major conflicts over pensions and tenure. A pessimist would note the philosophical gulf that remains over the $2 million for outreach - no major American orchestra has agreed to such an expansive optional-work model.

The musicians want more of the $2 million funneled into their base salaries as opposed to extra pay for optional work that would amount to up to five extra hours per week during 36 annual guaranteed weeks of work. Management says the money was pledged by donors specifically for new community outreach work like teaching and chamber music.

The musicians' current contracted week is about 20 hours, but maintaining skills at their level demands significant additional practice time.

• DSO music director Leonard Slatkin, who has steadfastly remained neutral, told the Free Press today that with the two sides appearing to move closer, he hoped the next few days would lead to settlement.

"We have been away from the Orchestra Hall stage far too long," Slatkin wrote in an email from Los Angeles, where he is guest conducting the L.A. Philharmonic. "Everyone needs to be reminded of who we are and what we do. It is still my opinion that despite everything that has occurred, we will become a stronger institution, committed to the public that has supported us in the past as well as nurturing a public who we must cultivate for the future."

• While the strike has played out with the plot twists of a Russian novel, the fundamental issue has not changed: Management believes that the financially crippled DSO has to downsize to survive. Musicians believe the size of the proposed base pay cuts - about 21% in the latest offer - and the optional work provisions would mortgage the DSO's quality and top-tier status by making it impossible to attract and retain talent.

At the same time, the long history of distrust between the musicians and management of the DSO has only intensified during the strike, hampering the ability of the parties find common ground.

"I continue to believe that trust, process, and transparency are at the core of the conflict," said Chicago-based arts consultant Drew McManus.

The DSO has nearly collapsed under the weight of $19 million in losses since 2008, a depleted endowment, Detroit's shrunken economic base and $54 million in real estate debt hanging over its head like an anvil.

Under management's latest proposal the annual budget would drop from $30 million to an average of $26 million over the next three years. Base pay for veteran musicians would drop from last year's $104,650 to $83,600 in three years. Musicians who chose all the optional work would mean an extra $7,100 per year.
 
#64
speaking of meltdowns
I find it interesting that a "full time" DSO musician apparently works 20 hrs a week.
well, let's make sure we're being fair here. according to the article, that 20 hours is supplimented by hours and hours of independent practice to maintain skills.

So it's quite likely these musicians give 40+
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#65
well, let's make sure we're being fair here. according to the article, that 20 hours is supplimented by hours and hours of independent practice to maintain skills.

So it's quite likely these musicians give 40+
still, the contract supposedly says 20. It is hard to assume "40+" without hard numbers.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#66
http://detnews.com/article/20110202/OPINION01/102020317/Editorial--DSO-numbers-don't-work

here's a good summary of the stuff going on

Editorial: DSO numbers don't work

Long-term future of the symphony at risk in ill-advised effort to end the destructive musicians' strike

The Detroit News

Those in this community who believe the management and board of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra haven't done enough to end a musicians' strike that is stretching into its fifth month should take a look at the DSO's balance sheet. It's shockingly obvious that the board has already offered far more than is affordable in its bid to restore classical music to Orchestra Hall.

The numbers are awful and the strike is making them worse. As far as we can tell, nothing about the last contract offer from DSO will improve them for the long-term. Fortunately, the musicians rejected that offer, and the DSO board, which meets today, may need to return to a more fiscally prudent position.

The DSO's operating costs have exceeded revenue over the past five years by somewhere in the neighborhood of $34 million. That shortfall has been covered by depleting the unrestricted endowment — funds intended to provide the organization with a stable financial foundation — from roughly $80 million 10 years ago to $20 million today.

Meanwhile, the DSO is in a tug-of-war with the banks holding the $54 million debt incurred in building the Max M. Fisher Music Center. Without a favorable restructuring of the debt, the orchestra could be forced into bankruptcy, an option it has explored.

That's why last fall the DSO asked its musicians for tremendous sacrifice in a new three-year contract, cutting their pay by nearly 25 percent and asking them to do additional community and education work to help build a future audience for their product. At that time, the DSO was implementing a turn-around strategy aimed at increasing ticket sales, building its donor base and replenishing its endowment. Instead of acknowledging the precarious position of their employer, the musicians went on strike. And now the orchestra's financial outlook is even worse.

By late next week, the DSO board likely will make a decision to cancel the remainder of this year's season, if the strike is not settled. That will be a pivotal event, pushing off the likelihood of an agreement for months, and leaving orchestra officials with even less resources to settle the contract.
The offer of $33 million over three years that the DSO made in September was a stretch. It would have required the orchestra to meet ambitious fundraising and ticket sales goals. That offer was later moved to $34 million, an amount management freely admitted would guarantee operating deficits of $2 million to $3 million a year.

In December, Sen. Carl Levin and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who brought no money to the table, prodded the board to settle the strike by increasing the offer to $36 million.

The DSO was able to do that because a group of foundations offered to put up $2 million, but only if the musicians agreed to do community and education work. An offer was structured that allowed musicians to excuse themselves from such work by accepting a smaller paycheck.

Still the musicians balked. And now the board has a difficult decision to make.
There is no more money to increase the financial offer, and if it backs off the community work, it loses the $2 million in foundation funding.

Asking musicians to do five hours of non-performing work a week is not a punitive request. It's recognition that the audience and donor base is shrinking, and if the DSO hopes to maintain its status as a world-class orchestra, it has to have more than world-class salaries. It has to have a world-class audience.

The offer the musicians rejected would have made them the 12th-highest paid symphony in the nation. That's not bad in a city that has been economically ravaged, and in a state where household incomes have dropped 22 percent in a decade, and now stand at 37th lowest in the nation.

This stand-off seems destined to become a disaster. It could be headed off, of course, if all of the folks who have been begging the DSO board to settle the strike would buy more tickets and make more donations. Management contends 70 percent of those in the Save Our Symphony group are not DSO donors.

The DSO is where it is today in large part because it signed a labor contract in 2007 that depended on overly optimistic fundraising and ticket sales. If it makes the same mistake again, the long-term prospects for the orchestra's survival are grim.

Both sides of this dispute should take a hard look at the financial numbers. They don't lie, and they don't work.

This strike should be settled with a contract the DSO can honestly afford, that recognizes the economic conditions in Metro Detroit, and that assures the future viability of quality classical music in this community.


From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110202...itorial--DSO-numbers-don't-work#ixzz1DeydtyeA
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#67
there's alot of slinging going on on the public forums with the DSO.

With what has gone on in Detroit and southeast michigan, and michigan as a whole in the past several years one only has to drive around the corner from the MAX to see the worst effects of the economic downturn.

Or, in the past several years, drive around in the affluent suburbs just to see all the "foreclosure/for sale" signs as further indication. Or just check it online. Michigan was "foreclosure capital" for a while there even in top dollar neighborhoods. All this driven by massive job losses in Michigan.

I just hope that the musicians see what is going on in other orchestras and don't opt for self-destruction.

Especially for a musician.

They talk of leaving the ship and auditioning elsewhere. Like where?
There aren't many openings out there.

And then ... they'd have to sell their house, for probably half of what they paid for it.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#68
With what has gone on in Detroit and southeast michigan, and michigan as a whole in the past several years one only has to drive around the corner from the MAX to see the worst effects of the economic downturn.
I've been in Detroit on two occasions. I used to live in Buffalo, NY and know the Lackawanna area relatively well -- that's the area where they had steel making stuff. That area looks like it's been hit by a nuclear bomb. Detroit (in several areas, at least) looks like it has been carpet bombed with nukes.

Or, in the past several years, drive around in the affluent suburbs just to see all the "foreclosure/for sale" signs as further indication. Or just check it online. Michigan was "foreclosure capital" for a while there even in top dollar neighborhoods. All this driven by massive job losses in Michigan.
After that my city and state took those honors.

============

As I'm interested in the discussion regarding musicians and work, I'll move that and create a new thread. Un momento. Strike that. I'll just continue here, because we've got too many posts that are wrapped up with the DSO stuff.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#69
Musicians and pay. That's an extremely long subject. Let's start a bit with me -- and I'll summarize:

* I volunteered in a church orchestra for about a year until the church offered to hire me part time as the assistant to the director, part time as a housekeeping staff guy and give me a monthly stipend for computer work. While this wasn't exactly minimum wage, it was close. Additionally, I did a lot of work above and beyond my part-time hours as assistant to the director, so you could say I was working 50+ hours a week AND going to college ...

* I went to college for music education. At least, initially. I was practicing 6+ hours a day and I really enjoyed it ... until I realized I was getting only incrementally better. I then switched my major ... and was offered a job as the music department head at a church. Fun how that works out. However, I was still not making all that much $ -- and then the church went bankrupt (not my fault!).

* I got a succession of jobs WAY out of my field of study until Apple took pity on me and hired me as a computer tech. I realized that a) I was really good at this and b) I could make an awful lot more $. I permanently became a computer tech and then started volunteering at different churches' music departments -- sometimes singing, sometimes playing, sometimes doing other interesting things, like running sound.

Interestingly, the thing I'm the most recognized for is the creation of saxpics.com -- and I created that because I was trying to learn HTML. In other words, working as a computer tech is what gave me the idea to do my music stuff, online.

============

OK, so enough of my history. Why I pointed it out is because I generally tell people that want to "make it" in music that they're NOT. At least not with the aspiration to become the next Coltrane or something. You need to redefine what your ambition is, sometimes. Hey, ask me if I had a successful music career and I'll say "Yes." I'll also say that it was extremely time consuming and paid very, very little. However, I got to do a lot of things I really liked and that's my definition of "successful." Financially, that's a little different.

I think a lot of folks that want to become musicians want to be compensated for all the time that they spent practicing up until this moment and for all of the instruments that they had to buy. Welcome to the real world: that rarely happens. Reality is why I think these DSO members are idiots. Two reasons why:

* It's the economy, stupid. People are getting laid off all over the place and people are having problems finding jobs. I'm sure not making $50 an hour anymore! Hey, we even have furloughs in a lot of industries. So, the DSO is essentially telling you to take a couple furlough weeks. My heart bleeds for you. At least you can make up the difference by teaching lessons or something.

* As I kinda hinted at in my above summary, if you love music, you're going to keep doing it, using any and every avenue you can. If someone's paying you either extremely well or current market price for doing all things musical, be happy! That's just gravy. However, remember that it IS a market -- and YOU don't set your market value, the market itself does. In the DSO's case, I think they're pricing themselves out of a job.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#70
Second verse, same as the first...

As long as the sentiments listed above are made plain when people are preparing for an education, and then when they are getting an education, I have no problems with the philosophy expressed.

However, all too often colleges (and high schools, and private instructors) don't even hint that this is the case. There are far too many education tracks (English, drama, music, art) where people are being trained for careers that (to put it frankly) just are not there. No ifs, ands, or buts - there are no "careers" (in the classic sense of "I can make a living off of this and support my family") there.

Now, if these same tracks (English, drama, music, art as examples) were up front and direct about their chances in the employment end of things, then no problem. But, these folks are incurring huge student loan liabilities with absolutely no chance of their being able to pay them off (and still keep their room and board). That's not just a bad way of doing things - that's close to fraudulent behavior on the part of all concerned.

In the good ol' days, young ladies majored in these fields with the almost certain knowledge that they would end up marrying well, and then have the leisure time to pursue their "interests" all the while. Nowadays, with a two income standard being almost essential for adults, that's no longer the case. And, the problem is compounded by the student loan issue.

I have musical friends in their thirties who are still burdened by their student loans. I can't imagine having that sword over my head, but I am old-fashioned, so what do I know, right?

You can be a plumber, make a damn'd good living with no student loan debt, and still have a normal family life plus enough practice time to become a very good musician. Or, you can be a very good musician with huge student loan debt, no employment commensurate with your training, and an existence scrabbling around for work in fields for which you have minimal training. It's an easy choice for me...
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#71
I think it's more that the student's guidance counselor should tell him about that. Preferably in high school and definitely before college. Hey, in Japan they have an aptitude test that tells you whether you should go on for college or should be doing something else with your life.

It's really kind of difficult for the instructors involved. If I made it known that I want to be, say, an English teacher and talk to my English instructor, I really don't want him crushing my dreams in a velvet-wrapped iron fist. However, I do think that a bit of reality does need to be injected into the conversation. Therefore, I don't know if I admire someone deciding to become a full time artist (say) or think he's just nuts.

I probably should take a survey: how many of y'all have (or have had) a musical career like mine: satisfying, but really doesn't pay the bills? How many of y'all have decided that music is the only thing and you devote your full-time life to it? For me, the final nails in the coffin were ones put there by family. I had to make money to provide wife and kids with stuff.

As a final side note, there's a restaurant out here called The Macaroni Grill. On some (seemingly random) nights, they have a couple of singing waitrons. They're good. They sing solos from operas and stuff. So, they're getting tips from singing and tips from being servers. Interesting gig.
 
#72
I've been perusing the Detriot Symphony musician's website, http://www.detroitsymphonymusicians.org/index.html and have to say that the site is nice.

However, their arguments have a limited range, going only between vapid and vaccuous.

They only touch on the realities of the area, economy, and audience base in passing in token fashion before launching into the core of their arguments which have nothing to do with the above. They focus on musical tradition and the value of their own claimed worth. They lay blame for the whole affair on management instead of truly addressing the economic problems.

Their critisizms of management clearly indicate that they are over their head. I mean, they blame management for figuring the cost of payroll taxes into the salary cost figures of the symphony musicians. and call the complexities of covering costs of running the Symphony a "Shell Game". They also want management to take further paycuts (which they have in recnt years), even though the market for administrators and managers isn't nearly as depressed as it is for classical musicians. This isn't about fairness, it's about sustainability.

I know the Musician's have been "sucessfull" in putting on some shows in the meantime, but I can't imagine it's supporting any more than $25k salaries, or less

They also like painting faux disenginuity on the part of management. Clueless.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#73
All of this discarding of musicians to replace them with lower priced folks points very strongly to an orchestra musician no longer being a "professional" and instead their being members of a "trade" - just like it was in the old days.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#74
...
I know the Musician's have been "sucessfull" in putting on some shows in the meantime, but I can't imagine it's supporting any more than $25k salaries, or less

They also like painting faux disenginuity on the part of management. Clueless.
I believe with all of their concerts since the strike they have put any revenue into a general fund to help the musicians.

such as the information found one their facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Detroit-Symphony-Orchestra-Musicians/133724713335209?v=app_4949752878
Please help us save your orchestra. Donations will support continuing the level of great music the Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have provided in the past. All donations will be directed to the DSO Musicians Fund and will help defray the expenses of our upcoming concert productions and related strike expenditures.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#75
This should be interesting ...

http://detnews.com/article/20110216...sents-final-offer-to-union-as-sides-negotiate

Last Updated: February 16. 2011 10:12AM
DSO presents final offer to union as sides negotiate

Michael H. Hodges / Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Detroit—Detroit Symphony Orchestra officials, citing positive talks with its striking musicians over the weekend, said they presented the union with their final offer on Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement today, management said it asked the union present the new offer to its full membership for a vote by the end of business Thursday.

"If we have an agreement by then, we can successfully present the remainder of the orchestral season and announce an exciting summer and fall season," the statement from spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said.

The new offer to end the more than four-month-old strike incorporates unspecified changes in health coverage
sought by the union, DSO executive vice president Paul Hogle told The Detroit News. It also conforms to the framework of $34 million in orchestra costs over three years and the $2 million in community outreach funds that management has long sought.

The two sides initially communicated indirectly through intermediaries, whose identities neither side would reveal, but by Sunday night management and musicians met face to face in a session that went until 5 a.m. Monday morning.

Hogle said the two sides have agreed not to go into much public detail about the talks that started Friday evening and went through the weekend, but said, "It's a day of optimism and hope. We're very optimistic about the proposal we've now put in front of them."

However, musicians' spokesman Haden McKay was a little less upbeat than Hogle when contacted early this morning. McKay declined to go into specifics, saying the union wanted to discuss the terms with its members before addressing the media.

When asked whether he'd characterize this weekend's talks as positive, McKay said, "Well, we don't have a tentative agreement yet."

Hogle said in the best of all possible worlds, if an agreement is reached Thursday, the orchestra could be back on the Orchestra Hall stage by Sunday with a little juggling in its schedule.

Right now, the DSO's youth Civic Orchestra is scheduled to perform Sunday afternoon with music director Leonard Slatkin conducting.

In the meantime, the "Camilo Returns" concerts scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which would have featured DSO jazz pianist Michel Camilo under the direction of Slatkin, are canceled.
mhodges@detnews.com


From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110216...fer-to-union-as-sides-negotiate#ixzz1E8dpW6bh
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#77
Today ?

well, maybe not ...

DSO to vote Friday on final contract offer


With the finalfour
months of the season hanging in the balance, the striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians will likely vote Friday night on management’s final contract offer.

Violinist Joe Goldman, a member of the musicians negotiating committee, said today that a full membership vote
would be conducted through a secure Web site and start at approximately 7 p.m. Friday, lasting until the next morning.


With the strike in its 20th week, DSO management made what it called its final offer to the musicians on Tuesday night. Management had originally established a 5 p.m. deadline today for a response, but in lieu of a union bylaw requiring a 72-hour waiting period before a contract vote can occur, management officials have agreed to an extension.


Management has said that if the contract is rejected, they would likely cancel the season.


Goldman said that while it was theoretically possible for the orchestra to override the waiting period and vote after today’s full membership meeting, he expected a Friday night vote.
but on a positive note. It looks like the Robocop statue has raised enough money to put that needed expense into the city of Detroit.
 
#78
I believe with all of their concerts since the strike they have put any revenue into a general fund to help the musicians.

such as the information found one their facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Detroi...app_4949752878
yeah, I think they're huring. Problem is, i don't think that you can collect unemployment while on strike, even in Michigan. Hopefully, having to manage their own events and find a way to fund a bunch of poople used to six-figure incomes opens their eyes to the difficulties the DSO management sees.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#79
yeah, I think they're huring. Problem is, i don't think that you can collect unemployment while on strike, even in Michigan. Hopefully, having to manage their own events and find a way to fund a bunch of poople used to six-figure incomes opens their eyes to the difficulties the DSO management sees.
normally when unions are on strike they pay strike pay. I don't know if one is eligible for unemployment because isn't it the employee who walks out ? and thus is not eligible for unemployment due to the employer releasing someone, and then that has criteria.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#80
The past is prologue (sort of)

This is a very fundamental difference between the strike (which is always an employee bargaining unit action) and the "lockout" (which is an employer bargaining unit action almost exclusively). The first, being a voluntary action, is not eligible for the dole, while the second almost always is.

There is often "strike pay", which is paid either by the union or by a coalition of affiliated unions, but this is often "pennies on the dollar", unless the union is a strong one (in a "non-right-to-work-state", where membership is compulsory once a certified election has been held) and has amassed a considerable strike fund. This was much more common in the past, and was more common with unions like the United Mine Workers. Nowadays, all existence being much more "on the edge" and with diminished "liquid" savings like savings accounts, strike funds don't go nearly as far.

Labor history is a complicated (and often partially or wholly obscured) subject, something that few outside of labor law pay much attention to these days. However, like other unions that penetrated deep into the American lifestyle, there have been some interesting turns in the path that the American Federation of Musicians has taken up to the current day.

Something can be divined from where the AFM was born. Local 1 came from Cincinnati; Local 2 is based in Saint Louis. Both are heavily German-American communities. Unlike the English or the Irish, Germans are very gregarious folks, and organization seems to come to them naturally. Germans dominated the early musician's unions, and brought them together into the national federation that once held sway over a good part of entertainment.

Over the years, the AFM successfully (through collective bargaining agreements) organized most aspects of the musical workplace. Hours of work, workplace condition and rates of compensation were the initial issues (as they have been in most workplaces), and it took about sixty years to get it all set up.

And then came recording, both the record and the talkie movie...

To his credit, the union's president (Petrillo) saw this headlight coming down the tunnel very early on, and his historic "down tools" action to gain rights to recording reimbursement was commenced delta-close to the last possible moment at which it could have successfully occurred. Even so, acts like the Mills Brothers worked hard at breaking the ban, and only a strong leader like Petrillo could have guided the union through the long, dry spell that the strike had to weather. The recording compensation agreements that grew from this work action still stand today (if somewhat weathered by the experience), and ensure that at least a portion of professional musicians have a viable profession.

A few years later, and the union would have been decisively broken over the "no pay for recordings, no work" issue. The advent of "mass produced music", where chorded instruments became the norm and the entry level was thus reduced, brought us "groups" where vocals were the predominant element. Tastes changed, and what non-group music was necessary (and it always will be necessary to some extent) could be met by small groups of highly paid professionals (through compensation for their recording activities) and modern recording equipment.

Think about it: when was the last time you heard anything larger than a combo in a restaurant setting? In the good old days of the 1930's, hotels often employed what was called a "house band", which provided entertainment through the afternoon and into the evening. All gone now

And, in any event, the field of employment was greatly diminished for musicians once recording became viable (i.e., past the point where fidelity ensured that you heard more than tinny scratching for three minutes once the needle was dropped). We complain about DJs these days, but in my Grandpa Will's day, union membership dropped off by about 75% within a year or two, this due to the advent of "recorded" music better than the original Edison cylinders. (A good part of this was also due to "talkies" replacing the silents in the movie theater.)

Imagine an occupation where, in a matter of months, three out of every four of your co-workers are laid off or fired. It does tend to put the whole DJ problem into a proper perspective.

Regardless of the organization for which their members work, the American Federation of Musicians is a very much diminished union these days. The days of the Petrillo-led AFM are long past, and the fragmentation and "professionalization" of the membership, combined with the general weakening of unions in a "union busting" environment, have brought union actions down to the level of an inconvenience for a few, rather than a threat for the many.

But, even those inconveniences are transient. If Detroit goes under, there are at least twenty other orchestras the world over that can replace their output (in recorded form), and at least ten here in the United States that can do so with face-to-face work. "Good music", even "good live music" is no longer as rare as it once was. And we can thank Edison and the good folks at Telefunken (an early pioneer of wire and tape recording) for that.

Nowadays, if musicians were to threaten a general strike (like that put on by Petrillo), the public would shrug and throw a CD onto the player (or an MP3 "onto" an iPod. Such is life...
 
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