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Category: Money

Another reason to love Milwaukee

0 Robert Levine

Milwaukee has long been known as the most German city in the United States, and with cause. German immigrants and their descendants were the dominant ethnic group for much of Milwaukee’s history. The last full-time office staff of Local 8, who retired several decades ago, was a gentleman by the name of Al Goetz who

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The Third Estate

1 Peter Sachon

If one wishes to contribute to the conversation about how to expand the audience base for American orchestras, then one must talk about what those orchestras are presenting — and right now that’s a taboo subject. The fact is that the discussion about WHAT exactly orchestras are presenting has never taken place. The arbitrary distinction

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Who Won the Met Negotiations?

0 Robert Levine

According to Norman Lebrecht and Terry Teachout, the unions did: (Lebrecht) [Gelb]demanded 16-17% cuts from the orchestra and chorus and settled for 3.5 percent now, 3.5 percent later. No huge pain for the musicians, but huge gain. They have won the right to be party to major spending decisions, limiting Gelb’s powers as manager and

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Millennial America

2 Peter Sachon

Orchestras need to offer compelling reasons for millennials to make live symphonic music a part of their lives.  After all, millennials are the largest generation in human history, and at nearly 90 million people they will very soon make up the vast majority of our orchestras’ stakeholders, constituents, audience, staff members and supporters – and

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Being Orchestra Treasurer

0 Ann Drinan

While probably not as exciting as being John Malkovich, being your Orchestra Committee’s Treasurer can be a pretty interesting gig. As we enter the “homestretch” of our 2013-14 seasons, orchestras are reassessing themselves internally, and looking towards the future. If you’re Orchestra Committee Treasurer is “making noises” about stepping down, consider the possibility of your

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Madame Butterfly is not a business strategy

0 Robert Levine

After 50 years, the San Diego Opera is shutting down because… it’s just too hard: The San Diego Opera shocked many in the arts world by announcing it will cease operations at the end of the current season, citing a tough fundraising environment and weak ticket sales. The company’s board voted to shut down rather

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Why Orchestra Management is Hard

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In 2010 Robert Levine posted this blog on Polyphonic–“Why Orchestra Management is Hard.” Robert was referring to a blog of Joseph Horowitz and he took issue with some of his points. But that isn’t why I’m making this blog an Editor’s Choice. I love the xtranormal video link that Robert included in the last sentence.

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Memphis Symphony Crisis Management

0 Michael Barar

Michael Barar is a violist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and serves as their representative to ROPA. Exactly one week ago from the time I am writing this, the board of directors of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra was holding its regular quarterly meeting. Most readers who follow arts journalism and the blogosphere surrounding goings on

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Why you don’t want your orchestra’s name to start with “M”

0 Robert Levine

First Minnesota, then Milwaukee, and now … Memphis: Following in the tumultuous footsteps of its Nashville counterpart, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra announced that it is facing a financial crisis that will require “aggressive steps” to complete the current season. “The Memphis Symphony Orchestra celebrates decades of accomplishments thanks to a committed group of patrons, musicians

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Baumol’s common cold

0 Robert Levine

Musicians who have had the privilege and pleasure (dubious, in some cases) of discussing the future of professional orchestras with experts of various stripes are all too familiar with Baumol’s Cost Disease. The best description comes from the economist who came up with the concept, William Baumol: Any economic activity affected by it will tend

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Armistice Day on the Northern Front

1 Robert Levine

There’s been what intelligence analysts call “chatter” for a few weeks about a settlement in Minnesota being close. I heard some new chatter in the past couple of days, which led me to to set up a Google watch on the news. About twenty minutes ago, the official news came through, after some preliminary reports

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Another missed opportunity

3 Robert Levine

The great Israeli diplomat Abba Eban famously remarked, after the 1973 Geneva Peace Conference, that “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The same could be said of the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra. At their annual meeting yesterday, the Board passed on the perfect moment to let the current board chair

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Our conspiratorial industry

15 Robert Levine

One of the more intriguing aspects to the psychology of our industry is a general propensity to conspiratorial thinking. It’s not hard to find amongst musicians; the widespread belief that the League of American Orchestras A National Service Organization is behind all our woes is the best-known example, but conspiracy theories fester within orchestras as

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Bringing Down the Sky: From Great to Good in Minnesota

3 Michael Manley

I. The Tornado and the Plow Horse I recently plugged the words “Salieri” and “Festival” into Google, which limped back with a meager Salieri Opera Festival of 2010, presented by Fondazione Fioroni in Verona, Italy. Curious, I added “2013” to the search, and Google came back with only three results, none of which led to

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No good news from the Northern Front (with update)

0 Robert Levine

Today is what most observers are assuming is the deadline for a settlement in Minnesota that will keep Osmo Vänskä and the November Carnegie concerts in the picture. It doesn’t appear that negotiations are going well, though. One indication of that is the management offer of last week, made with great public fanfare and certainly

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Bought and paid for

4 Robert Levine

The Minnesota Orchestra leadership released a “financial review” yesterday. Most of the coverage, though, focused on remarks made by MO board negotiating chair Richard Davis, who told the Star Tribune editorial board that he was prepared to say bye-bye to music director Osmo Vänskä, the upcoming Carnegie concerts, and the opening of the newly-renovated Orchestra

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About that New Republic article

0 Robert Levine

It’s not surprising that a recent article by Philip Kennicott in the New Republic by the title of “America’s Orchestras are in Crisis” got some favorable play in the musician community. The writer, who is Art and Architecture critic for the Washington Post, focused very heavily on what he believed was the League of American

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When Musicians Need Lawyers

0 Stephen Danyew

Polyphonic.org Editor-in-Chief Ramon Ricker recently contributed to International Musician, the official journal of the American Federation of Musicians with an article titled “When Musicians Need Lawyers.”  In the article, Dr. Ricker covers important topics regarding situations when musicians should consult with an attorney and how musicians can find the right lawyer for them.  To read

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No Time At All

0 Peter Sachon

Just like Rip Van Winkle, American orchestras have been asleep for twenty years. Season after season of the same repertoire, played again and again for generations until the idea of an orchestra participating in modern musical life seems outrageous. Last week, the League of American Orchestras focused their annual conference around the idea of “Imagining Orchestras in

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What Were They Thinking?

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What Were They Thinking? For most music students the transition to the professional world does not usually happen abruptly. A switch is not thrown and voila, you’re a pro. The normal course of events involves a period of time when some gigs are well paid , some not-so-well and some not-at-all. It’s these not-so-well and

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Modern Times

2 Peter Sachon

Half of the fun of watching Mad Men is observing how dramatically American society has changed since the 1960’s.  The characters’ constant drinking and homophobia make us blush, and we notice how far attitudes have shifted towards everything from smoking to sexism.  Our lives in America have changed so thoroughly since then that looking back

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Musicians and Home Office Tax Deductions

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This is the last in our series, “Things a Musician Should Know about Taxes.” As usual, William Hunt is our resident Polyphonic.org  tax expert. Not only is he a superb violinist, he also has an MBA in finance from the Simon School at the University of Rochester. I don’t know of anyone more knowledgeable than Bill

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Depreciation of Musical Instruments

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It’s tax time, so here’s our second Editor’s Choice in this series of tax related articles. William Hunt is our resident Polyphonic.org  tax expert. Not only is he a superb violinist, he also has an MBA in finance from the Simon School at the University of Rochester. I don’t know of anyone more knowledgeable than Bill

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Breaking Up with Beethoven

0 Peter Sachon

Go out to hear an orchestra concert tonight and chances are the orchestra will be playing Beethoven.  The most recent Orchestra Repertoire Report, from ’09 – ’10, details that 137 orchestras in America performed Beethoven’s music 457 times that season.  His ninth, seventh, and fifth symphonies were ranked first, second and third respectively among the

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Beneficial Tax Treatment for Qualified Performing Artists

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It’s tax time, so for the next few weeks the Editor’s Choice will feature tax related questions. William Hunt is our resident Polyphonic.org  tax expert. Not only is he a superb violinist, he also has an MBA in finance from the Simon School at the University of Rochester. I don’t know of anyone more knowledgeable than

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An Indexed Financial Model for Symphony Orchestras

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This article by Michael Drapkin was first published in October of 2011. In it, Michael describes a different orchestra financial model–how the financial stakeholders of an orchestra i.e., the musicians, staff, conductors could share in the economic success or failure of their orchestra. There is definite risk/reward here, if instituted by an orchestra it would

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Big Tent Thinking

3 Peter Sachon

History is filled with people who have tried to define art.  They have all been wrong, and there is no reason to suspect we are any better at it than they were. Changes to what experts call “Art” happen all the time.  There was a time when people questioned whether photography constituted fine art.  Some

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Cooking the books

11 Robert Levine

This is a pretty amazing story: For four years, the Minnesota Orchestra board has walked a tightrope between managing public perceptions about its financial health and making its case to cut musicians’ salaries. As early as 2009, board officers were discussing how much money to draw from investments, and the advantage of reporting balanced budgets

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Beyond Prestige

1 Peter Sachon

In the American system, the arts are funded mostly through indirect subsidies.  Our government’s tax policies toward charitable giving elicit billions of dollars in contributions annually.  The beauty of this system is that it not only allows the citizens to determine which not-for-profits benefit a civil society, but also it does not require the government

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Osmo joins the party

0 Robert Levine

It’s been a bad week for the management of the Minnesota Orchestra, and this very public letter from their Music Director was was likely the cherry on the cake: Dear Members of the Minnesota Orchestra Board and the Musicians of the Orchestra: In the last few years, the Minnesota Orchestra has truly established itself as

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Managements not part of the reality-based community

4 Robert Levine

The musicians of the locked-out Minnesota Orchestra and the locked-out Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra got some helpful press today from Minnesota Public Radio: Locked-out musicians at the Minnesota and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras have been warning of a dangerous decline in artistic quality if they accept new contracts sought by management. They say the severe

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Who’s Afraid of Popular Culture?

1 Peter Sachon

A recent missed opportunity for orchestras in New York City came in late October in the form of Comic Con.  The New York Comic Con is an annual New York City fan convention dedicated to comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, toys, movies, and television.  Comic Con is an event that brings more than 100,000 people

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When bad boards happen to good orchestras

1 Robert Levine

There’s a very interesting story going around the Twin Cities, but this one’s about baseball. Apparently the management of the Minnesota Twins has decided that they need a retractable roof after all, for about a $100 million price tag. The chances of public funding are essentially zero, so the management is planning to reduce player

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Minnesota nasty

0 Robert Levine

Minnesotans are known for being averse to conflict, generous to arts and educational groups of all kinds, and generally plain-spoken (unless, of course, such speaking would lead to conflict). So, on top of the ongoing Minnesota Orchestra lock-out, this comes as a shock, even if not a surprise: The Twin Cities’ distinctive status in the

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The rest of the ugly

0 Robert Levine

Although the guts of the Minnesota proposal (and the damage done by it) lie in the economics, there is plenty of other stuff not to like as well. In particular, there are loads of changes proposed to work rules; far more than one would expect in a normal negotiation, much less one in which the

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Minnesota by the numbers

1 Robert Levine

In an act of remarkable generosity, Drew McManus not only obtained the actual proposal made to the Minnesota Orchestra by management but posted it on his Adaptistration website. I know he’s planning on some analysis, but it was too tempting a document for me to resist reading and writing about any longer. So here are

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My kingdom for a decent news article

0 Robert Levine

ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge has joined the ranks of those writing about the underlying causes of the current situation in our industry, although of course he is hardly new to the party, having written extensively about the problems in the orchestra business for Senza Sordino over the years. It’s an interesting piece in many respects;

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The reason why

5 Robert Levine

It seems inherent in human nature to look for someone to blame when bad things happen. Bad things have been happening in our field of late (or at least to a higher-than-usual number of orchestras), so those on the receiving end – who are mostly, although not exclusively, musicians – look for an enemy who

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Gold in them thar toobs?

0 Robert Levine

Think “orchestral institutions” as “artists” in this article and some interesting questions emerge: Are we finally entering the age of the digital cultural entrepreneur (DCE)? That is, has it now become possible for a gifted artist or writer to control the reins of his or her career from a laptop, scheduling gigs, selling books or

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Didn’t work

0 Robert Levine

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has pulled the plug on its attempt to emulate the Metropolitan Opera’s successful series of live broadcasts to movie theaters: When the Los Angeles Philharmonic launched its series of live broadcasts to cinemas in 2011, the organization touted it as an innovative program intended to broaden the popular reach of the

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One Wow and One Uh-Oh

1 Robert Levine

This letter appeared in Saturday’s Minneapolis StarTribune: As former music directors of the Minnesota Orchestra, we came to the state because we believe that it wants and deserves to have a world-class orchestra. We are proud of the cultural gem we have built, with the musicians, for more than half a century. It required long

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Peter Dobrin says it all

0 Robert Levine

This article by Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer is the best reporting on the current crisis yet to appear. Go read the whole thing: …What someone is willing to pay for orchestral musicians in this country has changed radically in recent weeks. Yes, a brief strike last month by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra resulted

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A bad settlement in Atlanta

0 Robert Levine

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony voted to ratify a tentative settlement that was pretty much what ASO management (or perhaps the Woodruff Center) wanted all along: Symphony Orchestra accepted a new collective bargaining agreement Wednesday, barely averting a postponement of the fall season. The deal will cost players $5.2 million in compensation over two

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Being a Successful Entrepreneur— Envision the Future

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When I was a doctoral student, I was in a class that had an assignment that asked us to think into the future twenty years and forecast what the music profession would look like.  I wish I still had that paper.  It would be fun to see how far off I was.  Anyway, one student […]

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Being a Successful Entrepreneur— There Is No One Model for Entrepreneurs—Gain Experience First

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If you have read my book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor, think back to Chapter 9: “Five Non-Linear Career Journeys.”  These are stories of very successful entrepreneurial musicians.  I chose to include them because they represent five different areas of the music business, but I had a secondary reason as well.  They all have reached […]

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Building Your Portfolio Career Part 2: The 21 Income Models

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If you have money to invest, any financial advisor worthy of their corner office will suggest you diversify the portfolio. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The same logic can be applied to multiple-stream careers. This post outl…

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Guest Bloggers: Quartetutopia by Nicholas Kitchen

0 Tony Woodcock

[Nick Kitchen is the founding first violinist of the Borromeo Quartet, ensemble in residence at NEC. In addition to receiving the Artist Diploma from NEC, the quartet has gone on to win the 2007 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Lincoln Center’s … Continue reading

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Tax Time-1099s and W2s

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Let’s assume that anyone reading this knows that the sum total of all the money an individual earns is called the gross. It is reported by your employer to the Federal Government in the form of a wage and tax statement called a W-2, and a copy is sent to you each January for the […]

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Tax Time–Musical Instruments and Depreciation

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Musical Instruments When a musician buys an instrument or equipment that has a useful life of longer than one year, he or she can depreciate it over the tax life of the item—usually seven years. This has the effect of spreading out the deduction over time. An alternate course would be to expense the purchase […]

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Tax Time – Musician's Office in Home

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Office in Home In our homes or apartments, musicians all have a room in which they practice or teach, but for that room to be considered a home office and deducted on our taxes, it must meet certain requirements established by the IRS. For example, that part of your home must be used regularly and […]

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Depreciation of Musical Instruments

1 William Hunt

Original question:Linda Ayres, March 6, 2010 Dear Mr. Hunt, I’m an amateur musician. I don’t really earn any money playing the violin, but I play in a community orchestra that plays four or five concerts a year. We are very serious and we sound pretty good. I have the funds to purchase a better violin.

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Musician Tax Questions

0 William Hunt

Original Question: Adam Franklin, Posted March 7, 2010 at 4:37 PM Hi, My wife works full time for an orchestra and receives all the benefits of such – predictable schedule, a contract for the year, insurance, etc. She receives a W-2 from them every January. She is for all intents an employee. However, she also

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Is Concert Clothing Tax Deductible?

1 William Hunt

Question: Posted February 22, 2010 at 1:39 PM by Brittney Stanton Mr. Hunt, I’m a young musician filing taxes as an independent for the first time and could use your help. Can I deduct any of the concert attire or music that I purchase? Brittney, There are two parts to your question: for the answer

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Tax Questions

2 William Hunt

Original Question: Can performing artists (say, orchestra members, working in several groups as employee) deduct mileage to rehearsals and concerts? It is typical in our area for musicians to play in 2 or three symphony orchestras in neighboring communities – and the mileage can really mount up! And yet they are “employees”, getting a W-2.

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Your Tax Questions Answered Here

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It’s that time of year and as a service to you, our loyal readers, our resident musician/MBA/tax expert, Bill Hunt will answer your tax questions right here until April 15th.  So–don’t be bashful.  Ask away.

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