Archive for March, 2008

Flanagan speaks!

March 30, 2008

Soundcheck, a daily program at WQXR,  WNYC Radio, did a segment on the Flanagan report on March 26. Flanagan was interviewed at length, while Deborah Borda, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, took the opportunity to rebut many of the reports’s conclusions. The entire segment can be downloaded, as well as streamed from the above link. My transcript of the segment (complete save for re-introductions of the participants at various  points in the segment) is below the jump.

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Why a clusterduct?

March 27, 2008

Andrew Taylor at The Artful Manager blog suggested that my reaction to
the Flanagan report might be better characterized by putting in into
the Clusterf*cks category than by the relatively measured tone of
what I actually wrote about it. And he’s right; I found the whole thing
enraging.

The Flanagan report, and the process that brought it about, is a
classic example of how not to make our field a better place. It should
never have happened in the first place. So why did it?

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Flanagan (the beta version)

March 27, 2008

The Flanagan report is, in many ways, merely the latest iteration of
the symphonic artform known as the “self-inflicted wound.” By no means
the earliest such report was one cited in an earlier post on this blog (which I
believe was a study done by SRI, although I can’t find any
documentation for that). The most recent was “The Financial Condition
of Symphony Orchestras,” known fondly throughout our business (perhaps because of the aptness of the author’s name) as “The Wolf Report,”
published in 1992.

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Cheerleaders for death and destruction

March 24, 2008

A story on the front page of today’s Columbus Dispatch puts a smiley face on the prospect that the Columbus Symphony may soon go bankrupt:

To provide context on the symphony crisis in Columbus, The Dispatch looked at three cities where the classical music died. Each produced a distinct resolution.

And what three cities did they pick? San Diego (which now has a healthy orchestra), Miami (which, according to the Dispatch, doesn’t really need its own orchestra), and Tulsa (which also now has an orchestra).

Gosh, maybe bankruptcy isn’t so bad after all. Of course, by the same logic, World War II wasn’t so bad either. There was a Europe before WWII, and there’s one now! Too bad about the 50 million dead people.

Flanagan’s fatal flaw

March 24, 2008

In an earlier post I talked about problems that I saw with the data
that Professor Flanagan used in his report and some of the ways he used
them. But it’s very possible that, with the exception of the years he
chose as endpoints for his dataset, correcting those problems would not
have made a substantive difference to his findings.

The real problems with the Flanagan report are in his assumptions and
with his lack of understanding of how non-profits in general, and
orchestras in particular, function in their environments.

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Move along, people – nothing to see here.

March 23, 2008

You didn’t know that Mellon’s Orchestra Forum had a newsblog? That’s
probably because they didn’t until a few days ago. The very first post was about the
Flanagan Report. I guess Mellon didn’t know that it was going to be
released either – which would be odd, considering that they paid for it.

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We report, you obey

March 23, 2008

It appears that the press black-out agreed to by Columbus Symphony
management and musicians didn’t last very long. From an editorial in
yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch:

The management of the symphony says the budget reduction, to $9.5
million or less from the current $12 million, is nonnegotiable. But how
the orchestra gets there should be open for debate.

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First take on Flanagan – Part I

March 22, 2008

I had heard a lot about the various drafts of the Flanagan Report that
had been floating around since last summer (and had read Flanagan’s own
preliminary conclusions in a paper he read at a conference at UC
Berkeley in October 2007, which I found pretty appalling). But I hadn’t
seen a draft until the release of what Flanagan apparently considers
his final version this week. Whatever Dreadful Blood Oath the Mellon Foundation required recipients of earlier drafts to sign was pretty effective in preventing wider distribution. What did they threaten offenders with – having to listen to timpani auditions?

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Baumol was wrong

March 21, 2008

One of the truisms in the very small field of arts economics is what’s come to be known as “Baumol’s Curse.” This was first described in a 1996 book by Baumol  (at the time, an economist on the faculty at Princeton) and a colleague, William Bowen, called Performing Arts: The Economic Dilemma.

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Chicken Little, PhD

March 20, 2008

Every so often some economist discovers that orchestras can’t exist. The latest is Robert J. Flanagan of the Stanford Graduate School of Business:

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