Are orchestras starting to Sprawl-Mart?

I hope everyone knows the business I am referring to when I code it “Sprawl-Mart” (thank you Simpsons).  This organization has done considerable damage to our economy by demanding the lowest price for cheaper and cheaper produced products.  They have cut corners in many ways:

  • Demanding their suppliers produce overseas for cheaper production and materials.  This has closed the majority of factories in the U.S.A. which has put a big percentage of our workers out of work.
    Is this similar to how some orchestras are employing the non-regular musicians to save a buck?
  • Slashing hours and benefits of their employees.  They mainly hire PT employees, do not pay overtime, yet shuffle the schedule around so much that most of these employees do end up working more than one shift disguised enough so FT or overtime do not come into the picture.
    Certain orchestras are slashing programming, salaries, and benefits which is making it more challenging for a musician to create a living.
  • The commercials paint a rosy picture of how they are saving the public money.  The products are not as durable, so they might not actually be saving people money if they have to buy replacements sooner than later.  CEO’s at certain orchestras equally paint rosy pictures claiming that this “new” orchestra and way of functioning is better than before.
  • The pay of the top CEO’s are 1700+:1.  This is how much more they make vs. the average worker.
    The CEO’s of these certain orchestras are still being paid well while the musicians and staff’s salaries and hours are being cut.

There is one big difference.  The non-profit model is accountable to their audiences, and the audiences are not liking the “Sprawl-Mart” mentality.  They want the musicians to be taken care of and to be happy so they can enjoy the orchestra they have come to know and love. This affects audience development, and it will take a long time to undo the damage to rebuild trust and loyalty of audience members.

Sprawl-Mart still has the buffer of the non-awareness of the general public.  They spend tons of money on feel good publicity to create a facade to cover up the real background and the damage that they are doing to us all.

Again, I’m not saying that all orchestras function in this matter, only certain orchestras.  I know of many that do have their musicians and staff in mind, and their audiences, when conducting business.  They use a better way of managing an arts organization that will benefit all who are involved.  I do hope their thoughtful mentality will serve as a good example to the “Sprawl-Marts” of our time.

This post was inspired by Drew McManus of Adaptistration.  Check out his blog!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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