If an Orchestra was like a Baseball Team… [repost]

[Originally posted on 5/3/13, edited slightly for clarity.]

It seems clear that for some outside observers (say, Star Tribune commenters), the world of orchestral music is strange and confusing, so let me put the orchestra labor dispute into terms that might make more intuitive sense—using baseball as an example.

It would be the equivalent of the Twins stating they needed a new stadium—the old one was in bad shape, lacked amenities and didn’t give them the revenue they needed (this part may sound familiar). One selling point was the Twins had had years of solid growth and stability, and a stadium would give them the foundation for future growth and more money for salaries. Management strongly implied that they couldn’t pay Mauer and Morneau’s salaries without these changes, and in fact the two were part of a huge PR campaign to “Keep the Twins—and us—here in town!” Fans from across the region contributed in ways large and small, and the state kicked in a large grant to get the stadium done.

But the stadium wasn’t even finished before management came forward and said that baseball—especially in a small market—was too expensive, and a new business model had to be put into place immediately to stave off financial disaster. Starting today, all players would take a 40% pay cut. Also, the formulas that gave extra money based on time in the majors or the Twins were cancelled, and veterans and rookies would all make the same salary—now the smallest in the majors. Bonuses based on reaching key metrics (say, innings pitched) and all other incentives would be cancelled.

At the same time, bonuses, incentives, and per diems for players to take part in marketing activities or community outreach were eliminated, and in fact the management could mandate the players to take part in outside events at any place across the state at their discretion. Grand openings, media appearances, graduations, birthday parties for the CEO’s grandkids, anything. Regardless of the players’ game schedule and at their own expense.

Henceforth, all players would need to supply their own equipment—not just bats and uniforms, but training equipment, backstops, Jacuzzis, and video equipment. Or they could rent the Twins’ equipment at market rates on an hourly basis.

To further save money, the 25-man roster would be scrapped…the team would only carry 9 guys who would play every day, and not be paid if they missed any games for any reasons including injuries. No bench players. No bullpen.  No pitching “rotation.”  In case a man did go down, a temporary replacement would be contracted on a per-innings-used basis, without insurance or benefits.  And, the team would make it official policy to henceforth only hire college guys who would play for the “love of the game” rather than major leaguers with their “greedy” demands for money.

Also in regards to personnel, the team management would state publicly that they realize these changes would be difficult for their marquee players to swallow, and casually mention these players will probably go elsewhere if they can (predictably, they do—Mauer goes to San Francisco and Morneau retires before they decide to liquidate pensions, too).

The stadium’s design would be altered from the original plans to facilitate money-making concert series.

And to top it off, the CEO would be paid four times what the players made, but claim that he had to lay off 20% of the general staff to make the business model work (although upon inspection it was clear that this number includes facilities staff who obviously had nothing to do while the building was under construction).

I could go on, but you get the idea. What do you think the players would do in this scenario? What would the public do… would they still buy tickets? Buy jerseys? Would they feel cheated that they helped build the stadium? Fans might not like, but certainly understand a rebuilding season. I suggest that they would be far less forgiving of the above scenario.



5 thoughts on “If an Orchestra was like a Baseball Team… [repost]

  1. Pingback: Maintaining your Core Product | Mask of the Flower Prince

  2. I love all your commentary on the Minnesota strike, especially how you link it to the problems in the orchestral world in general. Comparing the orchestra business to other businesses can be dangerous in the wrong hands, but you’re doing a fantastic job.


    • Thanks! And I agree with you–the danger of bringing business into the argument is using an *inappropriate* business model. For example, cutting your workforce is a time-honored way to save money. If your workforce is your actual product, however, that time-honored business strategy is a recipe for disaster. My goal with this and similar posts is to get people to think about things in a different way, and to consider alternative business models that might more accurately reflect the situation the Orchestra is in.


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