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

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

Post by sf105 » Tue Mar 16, 2021 12:24 pm

Depressing. Not sure if orchestras in other countries are doing quite so badly.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/15/arts ... demic.html
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

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

Post by CalgaryTbone » Tue Mar 16, 2021 2:34 pm

Especially since the CEO and other senior management are still drawing their salaries! How much is there to manage when there are no productions being presented?

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

Post by FOSSIL » Tue Mar 16, 2021 2:53 pm

It's disgusting. How many more times will musicians be treated like unskilled servants ? These are people of vast talent, skill and commitment treated more than shabbily.

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

Post by Bach5G » Tue Mar 16, 2021 3:06 pm

CalgaryTbone wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 2:34 pm
Especially since the CEO and other senior management are still drawing their salaries! How much is there to manage when there are no productions being presented?

Jim Scott
Outrageous. I envision the CEO and senior management taken in tumbrels to Times Square and all that that implies. Maybe a little extreme but there you are.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Posaunus » Tue Mar 16, 2021 3:57 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 3:06 pm
Outrageous. I envision the CEO and senior management taken in tumbrels to Times Square and all that that implies. Maybe a little extreme but there you are.
Tumbrels! Nice image. Can't wait for the news video! :horror:

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

Post by 2bobone » Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:07 pm

When I was a member of the National Symphony Orchestra, a staff member was heard saying, " You know, if it weren't for the salaries of the musicians, we wouldn't HAVE a deficit" ! True story --------------
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by CalgaryTbone » Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:17 pm

I was told a story by a friend in another orchestra about one of his previous jobs. The musicians were locked out by the management, and the management tried to send a staff member to a school where the orchestra had been scheduled to play for the kids. He showed up with a boom box and some CD's - the Principal of the school escorted him out of the building. They often forget how important LIVE musicians are to an organization that supposedly presents LIVE music!
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:27 pm

If ticket sales only needed to cover the musicians' salaries, it would be fine. But if tickets need to cover the much higher salaries of administration staff, plus building operation costs, paying clerks/janitors/ushers, advertising, paying for insurance and whatever medical contingencies are needed for concerts...

There is no way the measly ticket fee pays for that -- there are usually only a few concerts or events in a week.

It is a shame about what is happening to these musicians, and the directors need to take a pay cut. But it is also unreasonable to figure that building costs, taxes (on PRIME real estate!), insurance costs, etc just disappear if there are no concerts. It's quite the opposite of that. I don't know if the Met owns and operates their hall, but that would be important information.

It's a business with no viable product or income stream that still has essentially equal operation costs whether there are concerts or not. Has the Met produced any product, like a recording or video (following safe procedures) to create any sort of income?
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Burgerbob » Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:50 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:27 pm
If ticket sales only needed to cover the musicians' salaries, it would be fine. But if tickets need to cover the much higher salaries of administration staff, plus building operation costs, paying clerks/janitors/ushers, advertising, paying for insurance and whatever medical contingencies are needed for concerts...

There is no way the measly ticket fee pays for that -- there are usually only a few concerts or events in a week.

It is a shame about what is happening to these musicians, and the directors need to take a pay cut. But it is also unreasonable to figure that building costs, taxes (on PRIME real estate!), insurance costs, etc just disappear if there are no concerts. It's quite the opposite of that. I don't know if the Met owns and operates their hall, but that would be important information.

It's a business with no viable product or income stream that still has essentially equal operation costs whether there are concerts or not. Has the Met produced any product, like a recording or video (following safe procedures) to create any sort of income?
Most other major orchestras are still paying their musicians, usually with a cut. And none of them have as large of an endowment as the Met does.

I know you want to be the devil's advocate here, but there really isn't a good reason for this to be happening with this orchestra.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:15 pm

Are they just paying the other salaries out of cash reserves? Or is sponsored seat money going to the CEO?

It would be a crime (ethically) for sponsored chair money to line a CEOs pocket
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:27 pm

2bobone wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:07 pm
When I was a member of the National Symphony Orchestra, a staff member was heard saying, " You know, if it weren't for the salaries of the musicians, we wouldn't HAVE a deficit" ! True story --------------
Gee. If it wasn't for the cost of goods sold, we'd make a nice profit! :tongue:

Seriously, if arts organizations tried to cover all costs with ticket sales, nobody would be able to afford the concerts. I'd certainly balk at paying $250 for a balcony seat at the Met Opera -- no matter how good they are! And I doubt the performers and staff would work at sub-minimum wage to keep the ticket costs down either.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Burgerbob » Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:31 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:15 pm
Are they just paying the other salaries out of cash reserves? Or is sponsored seat money going to the CEO?

It would be a crime (ethically) for sponsored chair money to line a CEOs pocket
Endowments, donations, etc.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:42 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:27 pm
2bobone wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:07 pm
When I was a member of the National Symphony Orchestra, a staff member was heard saying, " You know, if it weren't for the salaries of the musicians, we wouldn't HAVE a deficit" ! True story --------------
Gee. If it wasn't for the cost of goods sold, we'd make a nice profit! :tongue:

Seriously, if arts organizations tried to cover all costs with ticket sales, nobody would be able to afford the concerts. I'd certainly balk at paying $250 for a balcony seat at the Met Opera -- no matter how good they are! And I doubt the performers and staff would work at sub-minimum wage to keep the ticket costs down either.
That was my point. It's a bad business model from the get go. Once a crazy monkey wrench gets thrown in, you see the deep cracks.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:56 pm

Arts organizations in other countries get government subsidies. If European countries did not make massive supports to their symphonies, operas, ballets, museums, etc. they would all fold. For that matter, the Military depends on Government support for music as well. You think the local General wants to pay for a band instead of ditch diggers?
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Mar 16, 2021 9:07 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:56 pm
Arts organizations in other countries get government subsidies. If European countries did not make massive supports to their symphonies, operas, ballets, museums, etc. they would all fold. For that matter, the Military depends on Government support for music as well. You think the local General wants to pay for a band instead of ditch diggers?
(This is just my opinion and experience -- I am not writing authoritatively about military bands)

Usually the general is the biggest supporter of the band on a given post. They are the reason more bands haven't been cut. When the cuts were proposed, no general officer wanted to give up their band. The ones that are gone essentially did not fall directly under a major command or high ranking general. Places like Fort Bragg, where the band was playing on a parade field in front of the commanding general and his officers every day were defended by those same officers.

The comparison is apples to oranges -- Army Bands don't exist to make a profit (aren't allowed to charge, for that matter), and don't really exist for the American public's entertainment. The primary mission is always ceremonial and troop support. COMREL is where the public sees military bands, but it is just a small slice of the mission set. Places like Korea and Germany are different. The commanding general usually wants their band out in front of host nation audiences as often as possible, to build as much good press and create opportunities for command messaging in areas that have a US Military presence that might not be hugely popular. Funds are going to put an American soldier in front of host nation civilians, interact with them, and have a conversation that involves community leaders cooperating with the US military in front of their citizens. Used effectively, the dividends are huge.

The army bands have a different problem where we aren't allowed to charge tickets. So we have trouble playing in good halls. Imagine a decent municipal hall being approached by an army band for a concert engagement with the stipulation that tickets must be free. Even for the finest military bands around, that's a tough sell. I think this point is related to the OP -- halls are not cheap, and the best halls are in areas that are even less affordable. There are lots of cuts that should be made across the board, and the product (ie musicians) should be preserved intact. What do you have if you burn that bridge with your biggest asset? But, these groups exist on donations and goodwill, and ticket sales might just be the grain of sand that makes everything viable. Take away the ticket sales and the whole thing falls apart.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by CalgaryTbone » Tue Mar 16, 2021 10:39 pm

Sponsored seats are actually paid (not always in full) by a donation that is in the Endowment Fund. The interest is what goes towards the musician's salary, while the principal stays in the fund. Annual corporate donations are usually targeted towards specific events in the season, like "Joe's Mattress" sponsors the run of "Sleeping Beauty".

Organizations like the Met have an entire department of staff that is involved in fund raising, as well as a board of directors that is involved in that as well. There's no doubt that the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the works, but there is a huge endowment fund where the interest pays much of the budget. I don't think they own the building either, so they are probably not paying rent while they can't use the facility. Likewise, they would not have the costs of building staff like box office or ushers (when they are playing, they would have to cover those costs as part of their rent, but those are Lincoln Center employees). Also, no major singers coming in for each of those operas, so they are saving millions of dollars in those fees.

Also, when they are working, the Met is producing multiple Operas at the same time, and program 8 shows a week of Operas. There was a great NY Times article a year or so ago, that detailed the incredible work of the crew, etc. on a weekend with 4 different Operas in 2 days - Matinee and Evening each day - all different works with different sets, etc.

Lastly, Symphony Orchestras and Opera companies are not designed to make a profit either - they are designated as not-for-profit organizations, which is what makes them eligible to receive tax deductible donations. Obviously, they are also not supposed to lose money either (at least not in perpetuity).

The Met's management would be probably be justified in asking for a different deal from their musicians and chorus for the duration of the current situation, but just sitting on the hundreds of millions the are in their endowment fund, and any cash in their annual operating budget with none of it going to their loyal employees who have given them years of highly respected service is criminal, in my opinion.

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

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Mar 16, 2021 11:16 pm

So perhaps the best route ethically is to cash out assets in the fund to ensure everyone on staff can continue on a reduced paycheck. This, of course robs your organization of pay at the original rate in the future because you're not just using dividends to pay people, but reducing your total wealth ...but that would absolutely be more agreeable to everyone is they know they can keep getting paid at a reduced rate and will have to continue on a reduced rate after resuming operations until the fund can catch back up. I don't know how these funds are managed or how the assets can be used, but that would make the most sense.

The CEO and board presidents are probably terrified of dipping into the fund holdings, if they are even allowed to do so.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Burgerbob » Tue Mar 16, 2021 11:28 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 11:16 pm
So perhaps the best route ethically is to cash out assets in the fund to ensure everyone on staff can continue on a reduced paycheck. This, of course robs your organization of pay at the original rate in the future because you're not just using dividends to pay people, but reducing your total wealth ...but that would absolutely be more agreeable to everyone is they know they can keep getting paid at a reduced rate and will have to continue on a reduced rate after resuming operations until the fund can catch back up. I don't know how these funds are managed or how the assets can be used, but that would make the most sense.

The CEO and board presidents are probably terrified of dipping into the fund holdings, if they are even allowed to do so.
Again, every single other major orchestra in the US is doing exactly that.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Wed Mar 17, 2021 12:41 am

Yeah. I like playing devil's advocate but without the musicians... In other words without The Met... What do you have? It's a no brainer.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by MagnumH » Wed Mar 17, 2021 10:45 am

I appreciate all the devil's advocacy, and it's certainly not black and white, but there's really no excuse not to pay them when there's money in the bank. This is, hopefully(!), a once in a lifetime situation we're in, and it's exactly when you should dip into those funds. Otherwise there's a very real risk of there not being an orchestra to come back when all is said and done. It's not like NYC is a cheap place to live!
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by sf105 » Wed Mar 17, 2021 12:57 pm

I can't help thinking that all the US orchestras should go self-managed, given how often they get locked out by the management and the donors who prefer to pay for buildings.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by spencercarran » Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:13 pm

Never play devil's advocate for union busters. Met management is in the wrong and they're sabotaging the future viability of a major cultural institution when they treat the musicians like this.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:36 pm

spencercarran wrote:
Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:13 pm
Never play devil's advocate for union busters. Met management is in the wrong and they're sabotaging the future viability of a major cultural institution when they treat the musicians like this.
It's not just musicians. They are treating EVERYBODY like dirt. Stage hands, scene designers, production staff. Every unionized group is getting stiffed in some way. They are just itching for a strike to kill their resumption season.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Posaunus » Wed Mar 17, 2021 3:04 pm

Speaking of the Met, James Levine passed away (probably from Parkinson's Disease) on March 9.

An exceptionally talented musician, but apparently not a good person. Very sad.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Burgerbob » Wed Mar 17, 2021 3:05 pm

spencercarran wrote:
Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:13 pm
Never play devil's advocate for union busters. Met management is in the wrong and they're sabotaging the future viability of a major cultural institution when they treat the musicians like this.
:clever:
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by CalgaryTbone » Wed Mar 17, 2021 5:53 pm

spencercarran wrote:
Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:13 pm
Never play devil's advocate for union busters. Met management is in the wrong and they're sabotaging the future viability of a major cultural institution when they treat the musicians like this.
Self management is tough thing, particularly in the US where fund raising is a major part of the management responsibilities. Also, it would be a non-starter for an Opera company. Who is in charge - the musicians, the chorus, the stage crew? There are multiple pieces to the puzzle.

All that really needs to happen is that no one should be hired to run an arts organization without being firmly committed to the idea that the people who produce the art are the most important asset of the organization. Arguing about raises or workload is fine, but provide people with emergency funds during a pandemic!

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

Post by robcat2075 » Wed Mar 17, 2021 11:18 pm

After reading several articles I'm still not sure of the financial relationship between Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera Company and the Metropolitan Opera House. They all seem to be distinct entities.

Who owns what? Who owes who? Who pays who to be where they are? Which is most disadvantaged by current lack of activity?
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by FOSSIL » Thu Mar 18, 2021 3:18 am

robcat2075 wrote:
Wed Mar 17, 2021 11:18 pm
After reading several articles I'm still not sure of the financial relationship between Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera Company and the Metropolitan Opera House. They all seem to be distinct entities.

Who owns what? Who owes who? Who pays who to be where they are? Which is most disadvantaged by current lack of activity?
This complexity is not unusual....Scottish Opera bought the Theatre Royal Glasgow from Scottish Television for £1 in the 1970s !! By the 1990s it was a huge financial drain and the company leased it for 25 years to a specialist Theatre group. That lease will expire soon and who knows what will happen next.

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

Post by robcat2075 » Thu Mar 18, 2021 7:49 am

Are there any self-supporting, living wage, symphony orchestras or opera companies? Something where the audience tickets pay the bills and they don't need a "board" of well-heeled donors to keep things afloat?

The nearest example I can think of is possibly(?) Andre Rieu's "Johann Strauss Orchestra" which maintains a barnstorming tour schedule of one-nighters to play waltzes and polkas.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:04 am

Lincoln Center (comprised of the Met Opera House, the NY State Theater, Philharmonic Hall (now renamed), the Beaumont Theater, and the Library of the Performing Arts) was built as an entity to be home to several New York City cultural organizations. None of the organizations actually owned the buildings and the upkeep was handled by the Center management. All of these organizations used to perform in other theaters in New York City (the Met had its Opera House on 39th Street, the Philharmonic performed in Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet performed in City Center, and the Music Library was located on the East side).

The Metropolitan Opera has its chorus, orchestra, scene shop, stage crew, etc. Principal singers are independent contractors and are hired for a particular production.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by ssking2b » Thu Mar 18, 2021 9:11 am

Y'all seem to forget, it's not about music and arts - it's about greed. We musicians are just a necessary evil for these rats to line their pockets are our expense with our money.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Bach5G » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:17 am

An argument might be made that, from a business perspective, managing an arts org through a pandemic requires even greater senior management skills, given the unusual and extraordinary circumstances.

Nah, I’m not buying it either.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by BGuttman » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:45 am

Understand that ticket sales are generated by the featured singers and the opera presented. Not by the orchestra, not by the chorus, not by the scenery, and not by the stage crew. All of the above are costs of goods sold. Although a crappy orchestra, out-of-tune chorus, sloppy scenery, and clumsy stage crew can all negatively affect repeat sales.

We have to get beyond the "bottom line" management style that has taken over everything and start a more balanced system where you value the people who are creating the product as much as the people buying it.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by CalgaryTbone » Thu Mar 18, 2021 2:33 pm

robcat2075 wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 7:49 am
Are there any self-supporting, living wage, symphony orchestras or opera companies? Something where the audience tickets pay the bills and they don't need a "board" of well-heeled donors to keep things afloat?

The nearest example I can think of is possibly(?) Andre Rieu's "Johann Strauss Orchestra" which maintains a barnstorming tour schedule of one-nighters to play waltzes and polkas.
First of all, I don't know the details (I don't have an online NY Times subscription), but it looks like the Met management has just agreed to start paying the musicians. That is good news!

I'm not sure there's any way to have an Orchestra without a Management that provides any real steady employment in a long-term manner. The J. Strauss Orch. is a small group that must tour constantly to earn a living. They play the same limited repertoire constantly, which means that there is no way to present concerts in the same general area other than for a week or two consecutively. That might be OK for a young player with the debts from school, looking to make some cash to set themselves up somewhere, but no one is going to do something like that for a long career, with no chance to have a life - a house with a yard, kids, a dog, etc. There are gigs in the music business in all genres that involve constant travel - very few people do them longterm, and they aren't necessarily stable for longterm. When Andre Rieu doesn't want to tour anymore, that gig is gone. I won't go in to my personal feelings about that "music" for more than a week either.

I don't think that the model for running orchestras is broken, but occasionally you find that an individual or small group of people leaves their conscience at the door, like in this situation. In a small way, online discussions like the one here may have been helpful in bringing it to the attention of the reporter who wrote the NY Times story that brought the Management back to the table. A critical story had something to do with their offer of some compensation to the players.

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

Post by robcat2075 » Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:41 pm

ssking2b wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 9:11 am
Y'all seem to forget, it's not about music and arts - it's about greed. We musicians are just a necessary evil for these rats to line their pockets are our expense with our money.
There are far surer ways for rats to line their pockets than running an opera company.

But maybe they're not very smart rats.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:56 pm

robcat2075 wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:41 pm
ssking2b wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 9:11 am
Y'all seem to forget, it's not about music and arts - it's about greed. We musicians are just a necessary evil for these rats to line their pockets are our expense with our money.
There are far surer ways for rats to line their pockets than running an opera company.

But maybe they're not very smart rats.
This is why I think it might come down to how the fund managers are allowed to manage the funds. It's possible they are not allowed to liquidate any of the holdings. Perhaps a wealthy patron didn't just hand over a huge portfolio and say here you go. There is probably a legal document in place that says what they can do. But that is all just a guess.

Does anyone know how much of a fund they are sitting on? For example: Even $100 million in a fixed income ETF would give you only about 5 million dollars of cash a year to play with, and that is nothing if orchestra members are expecting a living wage in NY. Still, putting myself in that position, it would be worse to dip into it to pay salaries if grants and sponsorships and ticket sales dry up. Now your $100 million is $90 million, and $500,000 dollars of dividends have vanished, every year. Better to stretch that fund yield as far as you can in the most equitable way possible.

It all points to a bad business model, managed in a pretty gross way.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Thu Mar 18, 2021 11:03 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:56 pm
Does anyone know how much of a fund they are sitting on?
https://observer.com/2020/12/metropolit ... t-pay-cut/
Although the Metropolitan Opera has an endowment of $270 million, it also has a significant amount of bonded debt, and is still relying upon a letter of credit that is backed by the enormous Lincoln Center Chagall murals in order to affirm the institution’s reliability.
They've hocked the furniture

$270 million is less than the Met's typical annual budget of $300 million

by way of comparison the Dallas Symphony has an endowment of $96 million and typical annual budget of $40 million.

So the Metropolitan Opera is pretty much living hand-to-mouth.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by JohnL » Thu Mar 18, 2021 11:38 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:56 pm
This is why I think it might come down to how the fund managers are allowed to manage the funds. It's possible they are not allowed to liquidate any of the holdings. Perhaps a wealthy patron didn't just hand over a huge portfolio and say here you go. There is probably a legal document in place that says what they can do. But that is all just a guess.
It's a good guess. People who can afford to make big enough donations to be referred to as "philanthropists" often place very specific conditions on their gifts in order to insure that they're used in the way the donor intended.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:46 am

robcat2075 wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 11:03 pm
harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:56 pm
Does anyone know how much of a fund they are sitting on?
https://observer.com/2020/12/metropolit ... t-pay-cut/
Although the Metropolitan Opera has an endowment of $270 million, it also has a significant amount of bonded debt, and is still relying upon a letter of credit that is backed by the enormous Lincoln Center Chagall murals in order to affirm the institution’s reliability.
They've hocked the furniture

$270 million is less than the Met's typical annual budget of $300 million

by way of comparison the Dallas Symphony has an endowment of $96 million and typical annual budget of $40 million.

So the Metropolitan Opera is pretty much living hand-to-mouth.
So this is where the cracks start showing. Someone who has no investments looks at this and says, oh they are horrible, sitting on $270 million and not paying anyone. Well, they aren't getting that ever year, and it isn't cash. It's some fund started by a wealthy opera lover (maybe?) that is all stocks and maybe some bonds, probably in the form of a blue chip stock fund. At 5% yield (which is generous) you're not even getting $15 million a year out of that in cash. That probably would barely keep all the musicians afloat on wages to help them keep their homes and feed themselves. It's not a lot of money. This says nothing of the management, who no matter how horrible they are, has to eat and pay for housing too. So even if everyone takes a big pay cut, no one is making it on that. If the organization has 200 employees total, you're getting no more than $75k each, in NYC... better than nothing, better than the current situation to be sure. But there will still be other expenses besides just employee's pay, maybe much larger expenses.

I'm assuming the "bonded debt" is another investment fund full of bonds or bond ETFs paying out 3%. It would be interesting to see what they have in bond assets.

I think it would be foolish to dip into the fund when you realize how tenuous that is, and like I said they are most likely not allowed to do so anyways.

The real issue is the fact that their annual operating budget is $300 million dollars, more than their endowment fund... What are the sets made out of, gold? That is ridiculously high, and you'd need billions of dollars invested to reliably produce that kind of yield. ...and the Met probably would set their annual operating budget at "billionz of dollerz" if their endowment fund was that large. Craziness.

I'm guessing that most of that budget goes to overpaid management, and overpaid singers, and huge buffets for corporate donors and the bond issuers, and there is no safety net. The business model, even as a non profit, is deeply flawed. This is the kind of stuff you wouldn't even think to look into if you won a job at the Met.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Savio » Fri Mar 19, 2021 1:08 am

Let's hope the pandemic is over soon.

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

Post by LeTromboniste » Fri Mar 19, 2021 6:33 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:46 am
I'm guessing that most of that budget goes to overpaid management, and overpaid singers, and huge buffets for corporate donors and the bond issuers, and there is no safety net. The business model, even as a non profit, is deeply flawed. This is the kind of stuff you wouldn't even think to look into if you won a job at the Met.
Overpaid everyone, really, except maybe technical, service and low-level admin staff.

Beyond the obvious problems of how the budget is managed and how not sustainable it is, and that yes, not compensating the musicians and staff was unforgivable, what we're not talking about is how insane it is that a single arts organisation can syphon 300 million a year in the first place! Yes, management positions are paid too much, but we need to face the fact that the winner-takes-all mentality in classical music (especially in North America, and especially in the US), that leads to conductors and top soloists earning millions and to having base starting salaries for top orchestras well into the 6-figure range, is absolutely toxic to the field as a whole. No wonder why there are so few full-time orchestras and opera companies per capita in the US, when so much of the resources are taken by so few organisations.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Kdanielsen » Fri Mar 19, 2021 6:50 am

Artistic endeavors are basically always poor financial choices, so it’s not shocking to me that financial people making financial choices about artistic organizations get it wrong.

Of course they get it wrong. And of course they think they are getting it right.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Mar 19, 2021 7:05 am

You mean, "artistic" people making financial decisions. No sane businessperson would have operating costs set at more than the endowment value.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » 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.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Fri Mar 19, 2021 8:44 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 7:05 am
No sane businessperson would have operating costs set at more than the endowment value.
No, that would be normal.

Businesses and corporations operate with no endowment at all. The money they make from their product is what pays the bills to make the product. If they have investments that are making money they tend not to be a huge part of the financial picture.

I presume most non-profits and charities have little to no endowment either.

Endowments are something famous schools and arts institutions can acquire after years of building enough good will that happy patrons will want to donate to such a thing but most organizations have to make do without it.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Kdanielsen » Fri Mar 19, 2021 9:40 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 7:05 am
You mean, "artistic" people making financial decisions. No sane businessperson would have operating costs set at more than the endowment value.
I guess i mean the executive type people at the top of these organizations with no actual artistic ability, who's "talent" is for "business" (whatever that means). I mean business people making decisions about running an artistic institution.

I suppose some of these people think they are "artistic."
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by Bach5G » Fri Mar 19, 2021 11:18 am

Once upon a time, I attended an administrative law seminar in which the Minister of Labour talked about the various successes of his admin law system, as measured by various business metrics, such as cases completed per month, average cost per claim, that sort of thing.

In the question period that followed, a gentleman asked if this was the appropriate way to rate a “justice” system. A good question, I thought, and one that has stuck with me.

So, how to rate an arts org? Profit/loss? Subscription base? Size of endowment? I’ve seen arts orgs brag about these in the past. Are business metrics important or relevant beyond keeping track of and not pissing away the money? Do you need a well-paid MBA to schmooze the potential donors more than you need a good principal trumpet? Assuming you can’t have both. Does the AD report to the CEO, or other way around?

I wonder if in an orchestra managed by the musicians, the oboist would be paid more than, say, second trombone and, if so, how everyone would feel about that. How would everyone feel about gov’t support/subsidies, if everyone had to take a cut in pay?
Last edited by Bach5G on Fri Mar 19, 2021 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by WilliamLang » Fri Mar 19, 2021 11:31 am

most modern internet companies (facebook, twitter, youtube, uber, etc.) operate at a loss using future profits to attract potential investors. i guess the difference is that opera doesn't have the stock market ceiling that the lottery ticket silicon valley start-ups have.

also the european orchestras run by the musicians seem to work quite well - I remember not too long ago bousfield was comparing orchestral models on his podcast and was favorable to musician run groups. but we're not in europe.

there might not be a way to fix things in america without a democrat-led government deciding to reinvest in the arts. (i believe this is less political commentary than plain fact at this point, cause i don't want to go down the politics route please.)
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Re: NYTimes. The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Post by robcat2075 » Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:41 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 11:18 am
I wonder if in an orchestra managed by the musicians, the oboist would be paid more than, say, second trombone and, if so, how everyone would feel about that.
I'm reminded of how someone went through the financial filings of the LA Philharmonic and found that, after the concertmaster, the highest-paid player was... the bassoon. :D

https://slippedisc.com/2015/02/bassoon- ... id-player/


WilliamLang wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 11:31 am
also the european orchestras run by the musicians seem to work quite well - I remember not too long ago bousfield was comparing orchestral models on his podcast and was favorable to musician run groups. but we're not in europe.
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.
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