MOA has prepared budgets for the fiscal years 2014 through 2017, which assume settlement of the labor dispute and the return to regular performance season consistent with its strategic business plan
Assumes settlement WHEN? Because your revenue and your contributions are going to be drastically different if the dispute is settled in 2014 as opposed to 2017… Don’t you think you need to maybe, I don’t know, like, account for that? Otherwise the numbers are meaningless.
And consistent “with its strategic business plan”? Your strategic plan is no more. It’s dead. The last year killed it. Literally about half the things in there, if not more, are now impossible to achieve. So draw up a new plan. And do it right this time.
The conclusion to the letter is just blah blah blah blah blah. Nothing new, so I’ll skate past it.
So! Now let us look at the long-awaited 2013-2014 season…
It is a season so terrible that I’m actually relieved the players were locked out and prevented from performing it.
There are so many horrific highlights. Rocky Horror Picture Show. Endless Christmas celebrations. Jim Brickman: Be My Valentine….on Valentine’s Day. A program called: “Midtown Men or Meghan Hilty or Alan Cumming or Bond & Beyond with the Minnesota Orchestra.”
Osmo becomes increasingly irrelevant. No wonder the MOA was fine with letting him go; why pay over a million dollars a year to a world-renowned conductor if he’s only doing a handful of shows a year? Seriously, what’s the point? You can quibble with my classification of various shows, but by my count, the number of classical concerts sits at a pathetic 49, the same as it was when the MOA had to pay to rent out the Convention Center for each concert. (In contrast, Cleveland – a less vibrant, less educated town! – boasts 67. Ten years ago in Minneapolis, there were 85. Even five years ago, there were 69. This is definitely a Henson-era development.) By my count, the number of non-holiday pops concerts is at 34, and the holiday pops clock in at 17. Meaning: the Minnesota Orchestra will spend half its time onstage playing pops or Christmas concerts. Look, I’m not against pops concerts – really, I’m not – I’m actually listening to terrible pop music as I write this, and I’m enjoying it – but the Minnesota Orchestra isn’t the right group to use for that, to that extent. It’s like having Einstein teach basic addition. I mean, it’s great that basic addition is taught. Basic addition is important! But Einstein can handle teaching more complicated stuff. And they can’t even use the argument that Henson’s decreasing classical concerts and increasing pops concerts has helped earned revenue over the past four years… (And no, the problem isn’t the recession, especially not over the last two years. Look at what earned revenue has been doing at other orchestras.)
Unanswered in this letter: is anyone in talks to conduct Osmo’s concerts?
Please help this be an excuse for Richard Davis to conduct these concerts please help this be an excuse for Richard Davis to conduct these concerts
Then… There are the Budget Projections.
They were, I think, taken from a Ouija board. (Perhaps the same one they used to book Duke Ellington…) No adjustments have been made for the fact that the MOA’s 2013-2014 season isn’t going to happen. Here are some exciting insights from the Budget Projections of Unicorns and Rainbows:
- Income from ticket sales is slated to be $7.2 million in FY2014. May I remind you, there isn’t going to be a season.
- Income from ticket sales is going to fall in FY2015 (no reason given), but then it will rebound in FY2016. What’s this little blip about? Did curious gawkers see the hall, then not return next year?
- Other concert revenue is going to go up. Meaning: booze sales! As a community, we are set to be increasingly drunk at intermission.
- Marketing is set to creep upward…gradually. Thumbs up, guys. You’ll need every penny of it.
- The MOA claims to know how much it’s going to be paying for its music director, even though it has no music director, and hasn’t had any conversations about who will be the new music director, or how much money they want to spend to pay for the new music director.
- If the MOA was serious about a musician contract to end at the end of FY2015, there will be no major cuts in musician pay, unless they’re anticipating a major uptick in conductor pay. However, since the rest of this budget is total cow pie, and surely the MOA knows it, this is clearly the column they’ll go after once the rest of their math is exposed as faulty. That’s a plot twist you can see from miles away.
- I do not need to write any more to throw the credibility of the rest of the budget in doubt.
In short, their projections assume the lockout never happened. They’ve had fifteen months to come to terms with the idea – and they haven’t. Which lends credence to the idea that they were not prepared for a fight of this duration, and, alarmingly, had no Plan B, and can’t even begin to fathom a Plan B.
Somewhere there’s a real budget, for FY2014 at least. Don’t know where it is. In Michael Henson’s safe? But they’ve got to have a real one, somewhere. They simply cannot be working off this.
The “Legal Opinion” accompanying Henson’s letter is a bunch of fancy whining. They first complain that they’re being asked to report, period; it’s the legal version of a teenage temper tantrum. Buck up, boys, and grow some ovaries. They then try to make the words “strike” and “lockout” synonymous, and say they are completely helpless to do anything. “We’re in the driver’s seat but we can’t use the steering wheel!” Not sure if that holds up legally. It probably does. Ethically, however – no. Sorry. But isn’t that the MOA’s specialty, though? Making legally permissible moves that simultaneously reveal them to be the scum of the earth?
I have a fondness for this paragraph. It has a special glory:
Finally, other actions by musicians and other third parties
have also interfered with MOA’s efforts to present arts programming in the Hall, further reflecting the existence of “similar labor troubles” and other events beyond MOA’s control. Picketing, adverse publicity, and other labor dispute tactics have resulted in multiple cancellations and delays in performance by music organizations scheduled to perform in Orchestra Hall.
Also, question: If
resolution of this labor dispute is beyond the control of MOA
Then did the MOA just deem itself irrelevant to the Minnesota Orchestra?
So. *deep breath* Where does that leave us?
I see six big takeaways here. Add more if you want in the comments.
1) I’m not sure where this leaves us legally; it’ll take a lawyer to say. Ethically, though, I think it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the depravity of the folks at the wheel. That depravity, however, is not news, at least for those of us who have been following the story. But there may well be people – City Councilpeople, for instance – who are tuning in for the first time who might look upon these documents with raised eyebrows. I can’t imagine Mayor Elect Betsy Hodges, a pro-musician candidate, being convinced to side with the MOA over these documents. My guess is, she’ll be disgusted. Question is, what will she – what can she – do about it? No doubt that will be one of the many things she’ll be investigating in the coming weeks.
2) This report is proof the Minnesota Orchestral Association wants a pops orchestra with classical performances treated as the bastard stepchild. That we finally have proof of this is a major development. We’ve complained for ages that the MOA cares more about its pops acts than its classical acts. But we didn’t always have hard numbers to back that assertion up, because there was always the argument “well, they’ll probably increase the number of classical concerts once they get back into the hall and don’t need to pay for the Convention Center.” Haha. Nope! Now we can say, why are half of your performances pops and holiday concerts? How do you intend to keep the orchestra in technical shape when it’s not playing great orchestral music as frequently as other major orchestras? Are you driving away concertgoers who are interested in the meatier programs? Are you bringing in sufficient numbers of new patrons to replace them? Why are you justified in doing this when this strategy so far has resulted in an alarming drop in earned revenue? Are the pops concerts more expensive to mount and present? What does that do to your bottom line? And…I could go on, but I’ll stop.
3) The report is proof that even if an agreeable settlement was made tomorrow, the institution will still flounder, because vital stakeholders simply do not have a shared vision. A shared vision is a prerequisite for any kind of success. And the board really ought to be able to recognize that basic principle, whether or not they agree with the musicians’ vision. Surely the board doesn’t want to argue that shared visions are unimportant or trivial.
4) It is proof the MOA’s financial team works in a truly alternate reality.
5) It is proof the musicians had no choice but to do their own thing if they wanted to have a chance at sustaining an orchestra whose specialty was not pops, and by extension, a world-class orchestra. Their huge gamble of mounting a season on their own turns out to have been completely justified. Kudos, guys. Rock it next spring. We’ll do everything we can to help. I just hope it’s enough.
6) It is proof that the MOA is exasperated with everybody: city, legislators, patrons, “third parties”, musicians…basically the whole damn world. Which I personally believe means the lockout is getting under their skin, even if privately. How long can you last being picked on by everybody before your resolve starts to crack? Or are there limitless pools of self-delusion in which to bathe?
All in all, these documents were hugely enlightening reads. They set the stage very nicely for the musicians to present their own alternate artistic vision on Monday…and adds another layer of complexity to the board’s annual meeting in a week. Bring on the popcorn. Let’s see if, with their comparatively limited resources, the musicians can muster a better season than Kenny G and the Midtown Men.
Something tells me they will.