Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's All About the Ask

Executive Director Lynne Meloccaro on why the American Symphony Orchestra offered its players salaries instead of maintaining the pay-for-service model it's been operating under for years:
We didn't want to do that because the perception people had that orchestras were collapsing all over the place was affecting philanthropy.
The primary reason that Ms. Meloccaro gave wasn't artistic (although music director Leon Botstein said that it was "a way of stabilizing a very fine orchestra") or at all related to ticket sales (that an ever-shifting roster would result in inconsistent performances and a lack of personal identity that could repel audiences).

This move had everything to do with the ask. No one will donate to a non-profit that is crumbling. The new ASO contract, so Ms. Meloccaro hopes, sends a signal to large donors that the orchestra is on sound financial footing.

You might want to keep ASO's reasoning in mind the next time you see a non-profit arts organization put on a program that seems to have little reason for being, that couldn't possibly pull in a crowd large enough to justify its existence.

The Detroit Symphony management might want to keep Ms. Meloccaro's words in mind as they try to resolve the strike with musicians. I know things look bleak in Motor City, but GM did post a third-quarter profit.