Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
This article, found here, is about the reemergence of the labor disputes with the ASO- the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Seen below is Atlanta’s Symphony Hall, full to the brim with audience and musicians alike.
So how can such seemingly healthy organizations, some of the largest, meatiest opera organizations and symphony organizations in our country, be facing such egregious labor disputes one after the other? The elephant in the room: As emerging arts managers, we may inherit the problems (or solutions) created by arts managers before us, perhaps before proper or sustainable business models were used for non-profit organizations of this size. One by one the major organizations of our time are reaching these unfortunate climaxes; hot on the heels of the Metropolitan Opera and the San Diego Opera, now it’s Atlanta’s turn.
With such high overhead costs and employment costs for so many musicians, you find management fighting to keep the costs of the organization as low as possible to meet the bottom line. As this seems to often mean, the salaries and benefits of the musicians themselves often come to the chopping block, and are met with negotiation issues at the union level. Hence, the ASO locked out their musicians in 2012, and without proper resolution and impending further deficit, are two short weeks away from having to face the issue all over again.
This is extremely relevant to us as young arts managers. We have to stay informed about the current issues in our industry and learn now what they are and how to deal with them, both from a financial management standpoint, and also from a people-management standpoint. Negotiation skills, en-garde!