**update one, on why orchestras aren't supposed to "make money"
**update two, contract ratified, final remarks
This in response to one of the most idiotic rants against the striking San Francisco Orchestra musicians I've ever seen.
Anthony Alfidi, a "founding genius" of Alfidi Capital lays into the striking musicians pretty hard. First off, who is this guy? Well, turns out he went to Notre Dame and University of San Francisco, with degrees in Human Resources (wtf kind of degree is that anyway? Hey, let me teach you how to fire someone!), and an MBA in Finance (my mom has one of those. Great degrees that you pay a bunch of money for and mean nothing). He started Alfidi Capital because he was stuck in "dead end jobs" with other marketing firms. He's been investing since college, and has made money, so listen to this guys advice.
Now, I don't usually use this tone in a blog. I'm not usually this derisive, especially about things I have limited experience in. I say limited because, unlike Alfidi, I HAVE worked in similar circumstances, know a thing or two about human resources and management. unlike Alfidi, i worked in small mom-and-pop start-ups. While doing so, I took the time to listen, pay attention, and ask questions about the business side. Plus, I read a book or two about starting businesses, so I know everything there is to know. AND, back in HS, we played the stock market and I came out way ahead by investing heavily in Krispy Kreme, assuming Americans like to be fat.
Oops, slipped into the tone again. Alright, enough of that. Unlike Alfidi, while I can be just as dismissive of everything he does, I'd rather look at facts, and compare them to different sides of the argument. So, let's start off from the top of his little ignorant blog post.
"I was under the impression that every true artist in the world aspired to play at Carnegie Hall."
Well, sir, you're wrong. And, if you run through the list of people who play for the SFO, I bet they've all already played there, if for no other reason than, if memory serves, they played Carnegie Hall's 1998 opening gala. So, um, yeah, they've been there.
And won an Emmy, 4 Grammys for Best Classical Album, 3 Grammys for best choral performance, 4 Grammys for best orchestral performance, and one for Best Rock Instrumental Performance (The Call of Ktulu in 2001 with Metallica). So, yeah, this isn't their main aspiration.
Mr. Alfidi also seems to assume that venue is a big deal. Sorry sir, it only matters a little bit for younger musicians. Building the resume kinda thing...kinda like you had to work for this "other firms" before you could launch your own. Carnegie is a stepping stone, not an end point.
"...these union thugs in tuxedos are unsatisfied with a base salary of $141,700. That is far above the San Francisco median household income of $72,947."
Hey, you're right! go statistics proving whatever we want! let's do some other comparisons, with numbers.
The median expected salary for a typical CEO in US is $727,044. The median for a CEO in San Fran is $871,864. Wow, they make far less than a CEO. Now, let's compare it to something a bit more fitting. Oh, and the SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY CEO MAKES $495,000! But that's not to blame, he's entitled to it, because you understand what his job is.
A major symphony musician has gone through years of training, not some HS student, or maybe 10 years of lessons. The majority of these musicians hold doctorates (hey, they're more educated than you Mr. Alfidi, but then, so am I). They play for what is probably the second or third best orchestra in the world. Let's say, this is like a Financial Associate. Here's a description of their job. It's a pretty meat and potato kind of job in the Financial industry--pretty much a giant catch all. You sell, advise, and plan financial services, from stocks to insurance. So, basically, what you do Mr. Alfidi.
So, how much would a TOP TIER financial associate make in San Francisco? We're talking someone with 20+ years in the game, is a manager, and is training the next generation. According to salary.com, $142,810.
Oh, i get it now. Mr. Alfidi is jealous! He's jealous because he's still somewhat young, is working in a startup, and is probably making in the lower percentile of this job. OR because he is making around the median, and he can't believe someone in a non-financial industry job could possibly make this much. Hmmm...
So, a top tier musician is getting paid slightly less than a top tier ASSOCIATE in the financial industry in San Francisco. Hm...statistics, funny thing, isn't it.
"Making over $85K per year to do something a talented high school musician can do for free is pretty generous."
Really, a talented HS musician? Alright, let's do some comparisons. NOTE: THESE ARE NOT MEANT TO MAKE THE HS STUDENTS FEEL BAD! You're in HS, keep practicing, and you'll be there!
Here's a video of San Francisco Symphony playing the BBC PROMS, MAHLER SYMPHONY 7!
Alright, there's a few things there to think about. 1) BBC PROMS > Carnegie Hall. 2) HOLY SHIT THAT WAS AWESOME!
Now, here's Idyillwild Arts Academy playing Mahler Symphony 2. Sorry, couldn't find a symphony 7 video. Because, it's a bit of a challenge.
BEFORE POSTING, CONGRATS TO IDYILLWILD ARTS ACADEMY! This is a beautiful recording and you all should be proud! And if you keep working, you'll have a shot at the SF Orchestra. Really, I am impressed for your level. MR. ALFIDI, here's an incredibly talented group of HS students.
Again, congrats to Idyillwild Arts Academy. This is a very good, moving performance of a difficult piece! Keep at it and you'll be able to go pro!
Sorry Mr. Alfidi, you're about as far off as possible. If this amazing group of HS students, a private school, cream of the crop type group, can't handle SFO, then you've lost this one.
"If the symphony needs a scab played for the triangle or tambourine to help break the strike, then I volunteer to perform for free. I've had no music education, but those instruments don't look difficult"
Yep, they're cake. Here's a video of Pedro Estevan playing tambourine. Go ahead, tell me you can do this.
Because, if you can handle that simple little thing, then I'll even PAY you to do my next premiere.
"I'm willing to solo O Mio Babbino Caro on a kazoo if Renee Fleming can't elbow her way through the union's picket line."
First off, there is no way in hell Renee Fleming would elbow her way through a picket line. Unlike your incredibly selfish and self-centered profession that revolves entirely around money (shit, the rhetoric went south again...), musicians are collaborators. We work together. On everything. When a musician gets screwed, we band together because we know if one of us gets screwed, it won't be long before all of us get screwed. and never, ever, compare yourself to this, even in jest:
If your kazoo playing can come close to this, I'll write you a concerto.
"Musicians who fancy themselves irreplaceable remind me of the federal air traffic controllers who were justifiably fired in 1981 when they arrogantly broke federal law."
Wow, what a horrible comparison. That's like comparing Mr. Alfidi's blog post to Mein Kompf--both are written documents full of vitriol, political ideas, and skewed perspectives. But that's not much to go off of.
13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike. When they did, all planes in the US were grounded. 2,000 went back to work, and other replacements, mainly military personnel and other people willing to learn the job took over.
You're comparing 13,000 people to around 150. You're comparing a public industry vs. a private not-for-profit. You're comparing a job that risks the lives of thousands to those that provide a service. No, this comparison is completely invalid. Maybe Mr. Alfidi should go back to school and take a logic course...Oops, the derision has come back. There's little comparison beyond "they're on strike and you don't like it."
"Performing classical works in one of the greatest cities in the world is an honor and a privilege that countless musicians dream of having. The spoiled union brats on strike for exorbitant pay no longer deserve such an honor. Their selfish action denies music to fans and brings shame to The City."
First off, I didn't know San Fran was called "The City." That's a pretty haughty claim right there.
Second, honor and privilege doesn't pay the bills. It doesn't put food on the table. This is one of the biggest problems in music today. And I don't just mean classical music.
This idea of "exposure." that it's a "big deal and you should be thankful." Mr. Alfidi thinks that, at best, music professionals should be interns.
Because we do what we love for the sake of doing what we love.
Because it's an "entertainment industry"
Because it doesn't make tons of money, as a corporation.
Oh, Mr. Alfidi, just because you hate your job and secretly wish you had become a pianist like Joseph Alfidi doesn't mean you can bring out your vitriol. Just because you don't understand what it means to be a musician, doesn't mean you can tell us what our profession requires. You don't see me screaming that YOU'RE making too much, that the financial industry is one of the main sources of ruin in America, that investors such as yourself Mr. Alfidi were the reason for the economic downturn, not the millions of hard-working Americans, just doing their jobs. That, somehow, you have "power" because you can trade shares of a company you know nothing about beyond their profit possibilities.
Let's be honest, a high schooler with decent math skills, the ability to read graphs, and make guesses based upon the numbers they see could do your job. Anyone that feels like learning a little math and sitting down could do your job. Do you know how many musicians I went to school with that couldn't get a symphony job decided to go into the financial world? Do you know how many are making as much or more than you? Because, guess what, they dealt in far more math every day.
So, yeah, I'm a bit irritated, because this is an example of someone that has absolutely no idea what he is talking about talking down to other people, demanding their jobs because he just doesn't get it. Well, guess what, any joe schmo can do that. I just did it to you. Does it mean that my claims are correct?
Are my statistics any better than Mr. Alfidi's?
Are my insults more stinging?
Did i not link wikipedia enough?
In other words, Mr. Alfidi, only one thing was really shown here: How to put together an argument. And here are my closing remarks:
Orchestra musicians are top tier professionals in their area. I have previously said in posts that, yes, sometimes we as musicians are over-paid. That sometimes, we have to share in the sacrifice to make sure music happens. But what's been happening in America isn't a shared sacrifice. Here's a break-down of what happened in Indy. There were no cuts to administrative positions, nor CEO pay. In Atlanta, there were 16% cuts for musicians, the CEO took a 6% cut, and no word on other administrative positions. How is this a fair share?
Was this the right to for San Fran to strike? Are their demands fair? Unlike Mr. Alfidi, I'm not going to weigh in exactly. I haven't read the arguments. I was on top of it in Indy, Atlanta, and Minnesota. But, I haven't been on top of this one. But, I can assume, that whatever is happening, it's not fair. We're looking at time when orchestras are having to transform. But what they're doing isn't selfish, it isn't dishonourable. No, they're fighting because they have to fight. They're fighting because there have already been too many loses. As it is, music is becoming a commodity people want for free. There are musicians in KC playing all night gigs for under $100, when they bring in a crowds of people paying a cover and buying tons of drinks. There are audio engineers offering their home studios for $15/hour. Musicians are pricing themselves into obscurity.
Musicians are people, real people, who have worked their whole lives to become top professionals. And they are top professionals Mr. Alfidi. If they were in the same industry as you, they'd be your boss 1000 times over. I've been at this for 22 years of my life, and I still can't hold a candle to some of these musicians. And I don't expect to get paid $146,000. I expect to make a living wage based upon what I do. But with 22 years of experience, I bet I've got you beat. And I'm a small business owner, an entrepreneur, and an innovator, not so much unlike yourself.
So, before you attack a group of musicians for wanting more than the "median" income, maybe you should realize, these aren't "average" works. They're the best of the best fighting for their place in this world, a place that is slowly shrinking because CEOs demand more money, and that "median" income can't buy a ticket anymore. And they're people, who've given more of their lives to their profession than you have even known what your profession was. They're people, Mr. Alfidi. Your blog posts rail against CEOs getting paid bonuses on failing companies, espouse a love for small businesses, and yet you're staunchly anti-union. You rally often for people, but against the structure that protects them.
Before your next post, why not read up on the symphony structure? why not come up with meaningful comparisons. Mr. Alfidi's blog isn't all full of vitriol. He wants innovation, wants to move forward...But this post was as far off as you can get, by someone as far outside the industry as possible. And, maybe, make a meaningful addition to the dialogue.
**update one, on why orchestras aren't supposed to "make money"
**update two, contract ratified, final remarks