NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

All about making money.
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2316
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Mar 19, 2021 4:31 pm

robcat2075 wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 8:30 am
According to their 2019 annual report only 27% of their revenue comes from tickets. 53% is "Contributions, including Net Assets Released from Restrictions". In ten years their ticket sales have gone from 83% of capacity to 67%

harrisonreed wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:46 am
I'm assuming the "bonded debt" is another investment fund full of bonds or bond ETFs paying out 3%.
Per this Bloomberg article the Met's debt in bonds is at least $89 million. It is not clear what their annual payment is nor when the principle comes due.

I presume the interest they pay on debt is included in the annual report's "other expenses" of $73 million in 2019.

The Bloomberg article notes their debt has been classified as "junK" which doesn't relieve them of the obligation of paying it but does warn anyone thinking of lending them money in the future that they are unlikely to be able to pay on time or at all and it also indicates that if you bought any Met bonds in the past it will be difficult to resell them for anything close to their on-paper worth.
I took it is debt the Met owned, paying them interest, not debt they owed. That is some bizarro-world stuff if they actually owed others interest on "Met bonds" when they already beyond underwater.

Reading the article, you're right. Wow. I wouldn't expect any return on a "Met bond"...
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 3312
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Fri Mar 19, 2021 5:11 pm

You are much better off making a donation (tax deductible) than buying a "Met Bond". But there may be some tax advantages to the bond that I don't understand.

We as a people need to decide if it's worthwhile to support arts organizations like Operas, Orchestras, or Ballets. Many Americans think "Classical Music" is a song by Willie Nelson. To some extent it's the fault of the current crop of "Legit" composers who write obtuse music that isn't easy to digest and alienates people. Add to that the fact that performing organizations tend to play music that is very old. Now you have a reason the younger generation has no interest in what we do.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
"Almost Professional"
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Fri Mar 19, 2021 5:58 pm

The advantage of bonds such as the Met or GM or a local government offer is they typically pay a higher interest rate than you can get in a bank account, and they are predictable income... as long as they don't default. That lurking danger is why they must pay a higher interest rate than a bank, in which your savings are insured against failure, in order to attract buyers. Some are Federal tax-free.

i inherited some municipal bonds from my dad that were paying 5%. No bank pays that. Easy money! I also inherited some Puerto Rican bonds that went bad and have been "restructured" after a long court case. I will eventually collect about a third of what they were originally supposed to pay... if i live to the new "maturity" date of July 1, 2058.

I presume the Met sold bonds to finance some needed permanent improvement rather than just to pay operating costs. That is usually why bonds get sold.

The reasons for selling bonds need to be disclosed to the buyers along with substantial explanation of how they will be paid back. The "Prospectus". They were probably sold in better times when the Met was doing better than breaking even and had better future prospects. 10 or even 20 years ago? At the time, someone must have thought they were worth the risk.
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Sat Mar 20, 2021 12:16 pm

Excerpt from interview with Peter Gelb in a French outlet
https://slippedisc.com/2021/03/peter-g ... stands-me/
‘I know that there has been a lot of criticism of the decisions taken by the MET last spring, in particular to dismiss all the musicians and the choirs of the MET, but unlike other operas, like that of Paris, we do we have no government support, we are not financially supported, we have absolutely no other choice.

‘The contracts clearly stipulate that in case of force majeure, if there are no shows, the contracts are no longer financially honored.

Full article (in French): https://www.francemusique.fr/actualite- ... gelb-93875
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
sf105
Posts: 176
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 12:28 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by sf105 » Sat Mar 20, 2021 12:34 pm

robcat2075 wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:41 pm
Some of the European orchestras are "governed" by the players, like they get to choose their conductor, but they all operate with substantial state subsidies. I'm not sure what the state controls are in those cases but in recent years some of these orchestras are finding them selves on the state subsidy chopping block.
The US orchestras also run with substantial state subsidies in the form of tax breaks for funders, but the state has no say in who gets it. US sports facilities, on the other hand, get significantly larger direct subsidies.

S
sf105
Posts: 176
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 12:28 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by sf105 » Sat Mar 20, 2021 12:36 pm

Burgerbob wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 12:27 pm
What the Met is doing is pretty reprehensible. They are the richest orchestra organization perhaps in the world- there's basically no excuse for this.
It gets worse, now it turns out that they paid Levine $3.5 million while the staff got nothing. He must have had a fantastic agent.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/17/obit ... -dead.html

https://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2021/03/18/james-levine/
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 3312
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Sat Mar 20, 2021 1:37 pm

You realize that $3.5 million only pays for 15 musicians (out of over 100). Sure, it's bad optics but I would hardly call that worse.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
"Almost Professional"
Bach5G
Posts: 1367
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2018 6:10 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Bach5G » Sat Mar 20, 2021 2:55 pm

The Kenneth Woods piece is extremely powerful. No tears for J Levine.
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Sat Mar 20, 2021 3:47 pm

$3.5 million would pay 100 musicians $35K each. That might have been enough to avert complete disaster in their lives.

But regardless of that being paid to Levine, it's only a bit more than 1% of the Met's typical budget. They could have made such a payment with their available funds but they seem to have chosen not to because they weren't' absolutely obligated to.
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
Bach5G
Posts: 1367
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2018 6:10 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Bach5G » Sat Mar 20, 2021 5:47 pm

When you start talking about force majeure, it sounds like the lawyers got involved.

CEO: Do we have to pay the musicians?
Lawyer: “Under the agreement with the musicians, blah blah, force majeure, no.”
CEO: Screw ‘em.
Posaunus
Posts: 1578
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 9:54 pm
Location: California

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Posaunus » Sat Mar 20, 2021 6:08 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 5:47 pm
When you start talking about force majeure, it sounds like the lawyers got involved.
Darn lawyers! Never met one I ...
Oops, sorry 5G!
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:14 pm

On the other hand there aren't just 100 musicians to pay. According to this article there are 3000 Met employees.

3000? Full-time?

https://www.npr.org/2021/02/19/9693974 ... is-nothing
A union representing 800 backstage workers at New York's Metropolitan Opera began a publicity campaign today urging donors and government entities to withdraw support for the company because of a labor dispute.

The Met is the largest performing arts organization in the United States, employing close to 3,000 people, with an annual budget of over $300 million. When it shut down because of COVID last March, the company cited the force majeure provision of its agreements, and made the decision to furlough all its union artists and craftspeople.
In the midst of the furloughs, contracts with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE — which represents workers, from stagehands to box office personnel to make-up artists — expired. The two sides met for several negotiating sessions, beginning last July. The Met offered IATSE members a weekly "bridge" payment of $1,527 during the pandemic, contingent on a 30% pay cut when it was over. The union offered several counterproposals, says James Claffey Jr., president of IATSE Local 1: "We offered a significant reduction for a year's time, and we were prepared to actually go for a longer period of time, at an even greater reduction. But we never got there." Talks broke down in early December, and the union has been locked out since then.
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:35 pm

It turns out "force majeur" is French for... "force majeur"!

Huh.
Les contrats stipulent clairement, qu’en cas de force majeur, et qu’il n’y a pas de spectacles, les contrats ne sont plus financièrement honorés.
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 3312
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:42 pm

I don't know if you've ever seen a Met production. The number of backstage crew is impressive. Also, the same stage crew can't do all 8 performances in the week, so you have to have at least 2 full crews. This includes sets, props, lighting, stage management, costumes, makeup, and probably a few skills I have forgotten. Plus there's a chorus and a ballet company. Again, you need more than one crew for each because you can't expect the performers to do 8 performances in a week. Similarly, the orchestra needs nearly 2 full crews. Add it all up and there are an awfully large number of pigs feeding at the trough. That doesn't change the callous treatment of all the Union folks by the Management. Again, it's the Bottom Line Management style. And you wonder why workers don't have any company loyalty. They'd probably have more if the company showed some loyalty to them.

Btw, "force majeur" is also a legal term meaning "beyond our control".
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
"Almost Professional"
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2316
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:53 pm

3000 employees. Non-profit. Overblown budget even during normal times. What a disaster.

I guess the lesson is, at the end of the rainbow when you've won the audition of your life and you've made it, you still might just be employed by Enron-esque house of cards. It wouldn't hurt if better tabs were being kept on how these organizations operate so people know what they are getting into.

I suppose if you ran it "for profit", you wouldn't even get off the ground though, no matter how efficient.
Last edited by harrisonreed on Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Bach5G
Posts: 1367
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2018 6:10 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Bach5G » Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:53 pm

“ Add it all up and there are an awfully large number of pigs feeding at the trough.”

I might be inclined to put this differently.
sf105
Posts: 176
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 12:28 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by sf105 » Sun Mar 21, 2021 2:19 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:53 pm
“ Add it all up and there are an awfully large number of pigs feeding at the trough.”

I might be inclined to put this differently.
Exactly. Given that most everyone working at the Met will be at the top of their profession. But one of the problems is the huge cost of living in New York. That's one of the reasons the salaries have to be so high.
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2316
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Sun Mar 21, 2021 3:30 pm

sf105 wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 2:19 pm
Bach5G wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:53 pm
“ Add it all up and there are an awfully large number of pigs feeding at the trough.”

I might be inclined to put this differently.
Exactly. Given that most everyone working at the Met will be at the top of their profession. But one of the problems is the huge cost of living in New York. That's one of the reasons the salaries have to be so high.
All 3000 employees? Let's say 200 of them are musicians (probably too many) and another 200 are the best stage hands who have ever lived (again, that seems like an awful lot of stage crew... But they actually have 800!!!). Maybe they have 200 ballerinas on staff, also at the top of their game. Chuck in 100 wardrobe people. Heck, let's say there are even 100 librarians/coaches/agents/lawyers all of which are necessary for music organizations and who need to be very specialized. Give each of these 1400 skilled people a bare bones NYC salary of $100K and you're at $140M before you've paid anyone else. Under normal conditions, the musicians and especially the section chairs would be expecting a much larger salary than that, along with most of these other skilled people.

What are the other X2200X ... 1600 employees at the top of their game at? Buffet coordination? Bruce hit on something at least - there are far too many employees for that organization to be called efficient, and there are much deeper issues at work than the initial OP and outcry would suggest.

It's not that just the musicians aren't being paid, it's more of "how was anyone getting paid to begin with? And why are management (sic) still being paid?"
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:13 pm

IN the 2018-19 season the Met produced 26 different operas with 4 or 5 in rotation in one week, often with two different operas in the same day.

That's a lot to manage and build and herd into the right place at the right time.

You could do that with fewer people if they were all working 14 hour days and seven day weeks but you couldn't do that for long.
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2316
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:33 pm

Well, not when you're giving $3.5 million to an alleged pedophile a year after you've fired him for it (cheaper than court, I guess?), and not paying your employees (cheaper than paying them?), no. Couldn't keep up with that for long at all.

Surely 800 stage hands is enough, right? That's enough for 100 stage crew per show, working only two or three days a week. What are the other 55% of the staff doing though, who aren't directly involved in productions?
Last edited by harrisonreed on Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 3312
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:39 pm

Also remember that things need to be rehearsed. Lighting cues need to be set and timed. Costumes need to be made and change logistics set. Scenery needs to be built. Scenery changes need to be designed and rehearsed. Set props and personal props need to be procured.

All this takes time and manpower that isn't "salable". There's a lot more to an opera performance than the stuff you get to see. I saw a little of this since I was Stage Manager of my college theater.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
"Almost Professional"
CalgaryTbone
Posts: 379
Joined: Thu May 10, 2018 1:39 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by CalgaryTbone » Sun Mar 21, 2021 5:32 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:33 pm
Well, not when you're giving $3.5 million to an alleged pedophile a year after you've fired him for it (cheaper than court, I guess?), and not paying your employees (cheaper than paying them?), no. Couldn't keep up with that for long at all.

Surely 800 stage hands is enough, right? That's enough for 100 stage crew per show, working only two or three days a week. What are the other 55% of the staff doing though, who aren't directly involved in productions?
The productions at the Met are among the most elaborate in the world. Multiple scene changes in every performance, and remember, they are doing different operas within every single week. 8 performances every week, but that is likely 4 different operas or more. The same opera can't be done too many times in the same week or consecutively for the sake of singers who need to rest voices between performances. They have stage hands who literally work all night to reset for the next performance - those people are obviously not working the next day. Operas are long - some performances run from 7PM to 12AM, so again it would be a different crew setting up in the next morning.

I don't think the Met's problems are particularly "business model" related (they've been doing this for well over 100 years, and other major opera companies like La Scala, Vienna, Covent Garden have similar numbers of employees). I think their recent problems are more tied to their front office leadership, who hasn't been popular with the public either for some of the programming and the choices of major singers.

The lack of big government support is tough, but those documents show significant donations of approximately $100,000 in the last 2 years on record. They draw that kind of support regularly.

Jim Scott
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Mon Mar 22, 2021 10:03 am

I think their recent problems are more tied to their front office leadership...
One recurring argument I see online, but am not sure of the validity of, is that the HD theater-cast availability has cut into their ticket sales.

If you live in the boroughs or Long Island or New Jersey and you can see it "live" at a movie theater for $20, would you still trek all the way to Manhattan to see an opera for $100?
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
sf105
Posts: 176
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 12:28 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by sf105 » Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:15 pm

robcat2075 wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 10:03 am
I think their recent problems are more tied to their front office leadership...
One recurring argument I see online, but am not sure of the validity of, is that the HD theater-cast availability has cut into their ticket sales.

If you live in the boroughs or Long Island or New Jersey and you can see it "live" at a movie theater for $20, would you still trek all the way to Manhattan to see an opera for $100?
er, yes. I prefer to avoid a floor sticky from spilled sodas and a sound system designed for superhero movies. Nowadays, I suspect streaming at home is a bigger challenge. If I were further away, I might not do the whole overnight trip any more, though, because it's become so expensive.

But perhaps a bigger problem is that high art has become even more of an elite activity in the US, and is sold as something that comes after a dinner with silver candelabra. And the Met is too large and too conservative to attract the new generation. In a better world, instead of taking it out on the staff, they'd be looking to reset the whole enterprise.

S
TomRiker
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2020 8:48 am

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by TomRiker » Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:59 pm

Looks to me from the article that the Met is using this as an opportunity to reduce the permanent salaries of all their union employees including the musicians. They are dangling these temporary salaries as a carrot to get them to bargain.
User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Mon Mar 22, 2021 6:38 pm

sf105 wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:15 pm
er, yes. I prefer to avoid a floor sticky from spilled sodas...
But for those of us who prefer to spill our sodas, the theater is the clear choice.
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 3312
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Mon Mar 22, 2021 6:50 pm

robcat2075 wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 6:38 pm
sf105 wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:15 pm
er, yes. I prefer to avoid a floor sticky from spilled sodas...
But for those of us who prefer to spill our sodas, the theater is the clear choice.
Plus, it's quite a drive from Texas to New York City. My wife has a subscription to the Met. She arranges for all her operas to be within 1 week, drives to New York and stays at a hotel, and overdoses on Met. Does this twice a year. She also subscribes to the Live Casts, which are done in a theater only a few miles from here. I don't join her because it interferes with my musical activities around here.

As to using this as a sledge hammer to try to reduce salaries, it won't be the first time this has been tried. If the Met management had their way everybody would be a contractor working for minimum wage.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
"Almost Professional"
User avatar
harrisonreed
Posts: 2316
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:18 pm
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Contact:

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Wed Mar 24, 2021 5:23 pm

You guys don't realize that those sodas aren't spilled -- no one is foolishly dropping their sodas on the floor. They are
enthusiastically throwing them at the screen during the HD opera shows when they realize they aren't in the showing of Spiderman 28.

You say opera is high art, but soda throwing should be part of it!

User avatar
robcat2075
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:58 pm

Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Wed Mar 24, 2021 10:38 pm

At the Dallas Opera you're allowed to bring drinks into the theater, but it's mostly petite little alcoholic ones.
>>Robert Holmén<<

Hear me as I play my horn

See my Spacepod movie
Post Reply

Return to “Music Business”