at what cost?

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is back to work, opening this weekend with old stand-by's Bolero, and La Mer and 20th century guru Olivier Messiaen's Poemes pour Mi.

Full details of the contract aren't out, but here's some of the breakdown from the press release:

  • Graduated 5 year plan
  • Pay drops initially 32% (!!!!) to a base wage of $53,000, rising up to $70,000 (10% pay cut) by year 5
  • first 2 seasons will have 8 less weeks (37-38 weeks). After that, 38-42 weeks will be scheduled. this is down from the 45.5 weeks scheduled before
  • 74 full time musicians, no layoffs (original offer had 5 involuntary layoffs)
  • Benefits are kept and most pension benefits (no specifics)
The lack of specifics and pension benefits (what is "most?") makes it hard to figure this out.

Considering the original proposal from the symphony society, and their amended October proposal (side by side in the symphony society's press release) it doesn't look terrible. The society really low-balled to begin with, and forced the lockout. And there's one tid-bit tucked in the "joint" press-release that irked me 

"As a key ingredient to the success of a five-year contract, the ISO and musicians agreed to a 
short-term contract in order to put the musicians back to work immediately and to permit the 
$5 million in funding from new donors to be secured"

When I first read this, I thought- "Shit, people were donating, to the musicians, and it can't be used till the contract is signed." Then I remembered something from an earlier press release from the musicians. Drop down to the bottom:

"The termination clause proposed by the Society would be triggered if it could not raise $5 
million by March 31, 2013 in donations from donors who had not made any contributions to the 
Society or its related Foundation during the last two years."

Termination clause? $5 million new donations? OH, that's what the press release meant!

That they can now try and get $5 million in new donations by March 2013, or else they can renegotiate the last 2 years of the contract!

SO, if the management doesn't do it's job--the musicians have proven they aren't the problem with their benefit concerts playing to packed houses with standing ovations--then management gets a do over. All while they still don't have a CEO, development director, or marketing director? So, it looks like this will repeat itself in a few years.

It's a rough contract, but the musicians did well to keep benefits and pension. They gave the salary figure, so I'm guessing the musicians already decided that it was an acceptable sacrifice.

But 32%? Imagine if you lost 32% of your salary, right now. If I did, I'd be in trouble. I don't make much as it is, but if I lose almost 1/3 of my net salary, well...let's just say eating would be difficult.

At what cost is the symphony back in business? Honestly, I don't think the base pay is far off from what I think it should be, but it's the manner in which it was achieved that worries me. An instant drop off and a slow climb, with a possibility of losing all this work in a few years if someone else doesn't do their job. The musicians did what they needed to, but was it too much?

What would you do in that situation, especially considering the lay of the land in classical music these days? Is the cost too high, the initial jump too perilous?

What would you sacrifice to continue to have your art?

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