Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Orchestra Strike Watch: Detroit Symphony

It's no surprise that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra today cancelled all concerts up to December 11. The musicians have been on strike for months, and there's no end in sight; the two sides aren't even talking.

Here's how startlingly bad things are financially for the Motor City band, as Jeff Bennett reminds us today in the Wall Street Journal:
The DSO reported a $3.8 million deficit for its 2009 fiscal year compared with a $509,000 loss in fiscal year 2008. Corporate giving, driven largely by Detroit auto makers and parts suppliers, was cut in half, falling to $1.59 million from $3.29 million. The 2010 fiscal year results are due out in December.
That's almost $4 million dollars on a $31.4 million operating budget, with a primary source of revenue drying up. There's no way the musicians can be ignorant of the realities here: their city simply can't support an 85-member orchestra with a base pay even at $82,000 (their base pay was $104, 650).

What the musicians can bargain for--and probably get--is control over how their orchestra is managed. If they feel that the orchestra administration has mismanaged the budget, they should get it in the new contract that musicians be a part of the process. If they don't think their fundraising is up to snuff, step up and agree to actively participate in raising money, as well as in public relations and marketing.

Clearly the Detroit Symphony musicians are smart and self-starting: while on strike, they've mounted and promoted their own concerts, and have articulately argued their case through social media. There's no reason why they shouldn't now trade money for power and take hold of their own destinies as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

(More on the Detroit Symphony strike)