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(SFGate)   San Francisco Symphony musicians go on strike after finding it too difficult to make ends meet on $147,000/yr with full benefits and 10 weeks paid vacation   (sfgate.com) divider line 129
    More: Asinine, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco  
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2642 clicks; posted to Entertainment » on 14 Mar 2013 at 7:20 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-03-14 04:31:57 PM  

LectertheChef: red5ish: LectertheChef: Michael Manrings basses don't cost anywhere near what these people pay for their instruments, yet he totally blows them all away. Is a new violin, made by a master luthier for $25k really worse than some 100+ year old violin?

Manring designs his electric basses and has them custom made, so those are some freakishly expensive electric basses.
And to answer your question, acoustic instruments vary hugely from instrument to instrument and the reason some are worth a boatload of money is because of their excellence, so yes, a new $25k violin is inferior.

Actually he had the Hyperbass designed by Joe Zon, and now mainly just uses those, which have a base price of around $7800 I think. Expensive, but nowhere near what some of these acoustics go for.


I watched a YouTube clip of M.Manring playing a private show in someone's living room  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWPHrRwQqVE where he talked about the Hyperbass. Very cool. He (Manring) comes off as very personable, very likable. He did say that you (the members of the audience) could have a Hyperbass, or a house, making a joke about how much it cost.

If you go online and look at vintage instruments you will find that even for electric guitars, which have not been around all that long, there are makes and years that command surprisingly high prices. $7500 is not a high price for top end acoustic instruments. A new high end limited edition Taylor guitar - a large manufacturer - costs around that much. When you start to look at instruments hand made by respected luthiers the price can be much much higher.

Comparing electric instruments to acoustic instruments is problematic. Up to a point there are similarities, but the materials and expectations are different.
 
2013-03-14 04:59:38 PM  

Dwight_Yeast: Jon iz teh kewl: FullMetalPanda: My understanding of California, especially for locations like SF, 147,000 is barely above poverty levels there due to how expensive everything is?

what's more expensive?  groceries?? like a box of Wheaties costs $10 in california?

a gallon of whole milk costs $20?

Housing costs in Cali are insane.  SF area is especially bad, worse than Manhattan.

Sales tax is also high in Cali than it is almost anywhere else in the country.  And yes, food is more expensive there.  Gas costs (therefore, transport costs) are higher as well

Do you feel stupid yet, or should I continue?


Um, no.
 
2013-03-14 05:24:38 PM  

Southern100: I lived in San Jose, Milpitas, Mt. View and Sunnyvale for 10 years, and you can find apartments there for under $1,000 a month


Not anymore.

Was looking for a studio/1 BR in Mountain View/Sunnyvale (Work in PA).  There was a non-livable studio for about $1250.  Livable (ie: No rats and had some closets) was starting at about $1600.  If you wanted to be near a train station or a downtown, you could expect to add at least $3-400 onto that.

/Ended up splitting a lower-end 2 BR place for about $1700/month in a poor location.  In exchange, I had $40K in debt on January 1st, and on April 1st, I'll have ~$26K.
 
2013-03-14 05:49:28 PM  

Jon iz teh kewl: FullMetalPanda: My understanding of California, especially for locations like SF, 147,000 is barely above poverty levels there due to how expensive everything is?

what's more expensive?  groceries?? like a box of Wheaties costs $10 in california?

a gallon of whole milk costs $20?


No, the issue would be housing, and only really if one wanted to live in San Francisco itself (where a 2 bedroom house with no yard would be a million dollars).  There are plenty of places in California where $150k will buy you a 4 bedroom house (I own such a house), but San Fran ain't one of them.
 
2013-03-14 06:13:54 PM  
That's about 100 times dumber than the totally f'ing retarded NHL strike.

They are in an industry that is (literally, in the case of its audience) on life-support.  Symphonies are closing shop (and burying audience members) right and left in the U.S. today.  If they don't have a lineup of millionaires donating money (not investing, just giving it away for free) to the symphony it will die.  So where are they going to go?  One of the handful of other solvent symphonies in the U.S. that could remotely compete on salary?  Europe?

There aren't many options elsewhere - so they are really screwing themselves by quitting the jobs they have right now.
 
2013-03-14 06:42:45 PM  

Geotpf: Jon iz teh kewl: FullMetalPanda: My understanding of California, especially for locations like SF, 147,000 is barely above poverty levels there due to how expensive everything is?

what's more expensive?  groceries?? like a box of Wheaties costs $10 in california?

a gallon of whole milk costs $20?

No, the issue would be housing, and only really if one wanted to live in San Francisco itself (where a 2 bedroom house with no yard would be a million dollars).  There are plenty of places in California where $150k will buy you a 4 bedroom house (I own such a house), but San Fran ain't one of them.


who the fark needs a house.  i'm thinkin studio all the way baby

how much do i REALLY need to make a living in San Fran (preferably coding)?  like $100 k??
 
2013-03-14 06:48:38 PM  

Paris1127: fordprefectskid: Paris1127: That's a shame, San Francisco has a good orchestra. Not one of the Big 5 in the US (NY Phil, Boston, Chicago, Philly, and Cleveland) or one of the top 10 world wide, but a good one. I mean, they've got Michael Tilson-Thomas as music director, which shows they're interested in quality. Sadly, quality is expensive.

Bullshiat. You might want to leave your East Coast bias back in the 70s where it was still relevant. LA Phil and San Francisco has outranked Philadelphia for years.  http://www.monteverdi.tv/royal-concertgebouw-orchestra/gramophone.php

It's been traditionally ranked as one of the Big 5. Big 5 doesn't have to mean the top 5 itself, at least by my definition. As for your list, that's the international one. And SF still wouldn't be Top 5 in the US according to that one.


You're right, they came in 6th for the US on the last frequently cited comprehensive poll of international music critics. And were listed internationally right below the New York Philharmonic. Point being, "Big 5" was a term invented for five orchestras in the US that dominated the recording scene in the 1950s and 1960s- I suppose "traditional" would be one way to describe a ranking from that time, but most would use the term "outdated."
 
2013-03-14 06:54:42 PM  

Jon iz teh kewl: Geotpf: Jon iz teh kewl: FullMetalPanda: My understanding of California, especially for locations like SF, 147,000 is barely above poverty levels there due to how expensive everything is?

what's more expensive?  groceries?? like a box of Wheaties costs $10 in california?

a gallon of whole milk costs $20?

No, the issue would be housing, and only really if one wanted to live in San Francisco itself (where a 2 bedroom house with no yard would be a million dollars).  There are plenty of places in California where $150k will buy you a 4 bedroom house (I own such a house), but San Fran ain't one of them.

who the fark needs a house.  i'm thinkin studio all the way baby

how much do i REALLY need to make a living in San Fran (preferably coding)?  like $100 k??


$100K in San Fran will get you about $60-65K after taxes.  $60K (as a single person) will get you an OK studio  (for a mere $2,500 a month with utilities in a decent neighborhood), and all the things you need to stay alive, plus about $5-10K in play.  You might be able to afford a car (and honestly the deal-breaker there, like every other city, is parking), but you'll probably want a bus pass/BART/occasional zipcar for going to Tahoe or LA because of traffic.

Just to put it in perspective, I'm making $49K after taxes in the South Bay, and I probably couldn't afford my own apartment and my car and student loan payments if I wanted to eat.  I'm not doing anything fun or cool, just going to work, going home, sleeping, repeat.  And South Bay rent is quite a bit lower than SF rent.

$100K in SF is roughly equivalent to $40-50K elsewhere.  Heck, my $72K puts me worse off than my father at $28K in the Midwest.
 
2013-03-14 07:06:51 PM  
...it's reactions like this that further the Great Suppression.

/"They make more than I do, so they're greedy when they strike!"
//"Wait! Why aren't you listening to my demands anymore? I strike for a reason!"
 
2013-03-14 07:11:04 PM  
And to further my last post, I'm pretty sure it's not money that's the main problem that has them on strike.  Like most of these things, it's one of two reasons:

1) Management is not honoring their current contract;
2) Management wants to lowball them in their contract negotiations.

And thanks to the anti-union sentiment that's at the heart of the Great Suppression, Management is winning, either way they choose.  And until we're smart enough to realize we're all in this together--whether we're a line worker or a multi-million-dollar athlete, we're always paid by someone who is much richer than we'll likely ever be (and the billionaires that pay 6-figure+ wages are quick to obfuscate this to turn workers against each other) -- Management will continue to win, and the Great Suppression will continue.
 
2013-03-14 07:13:09 PM  

SnakeLee: /Also, saying that you can replace these guys with new musicians is like saying you can replace NBA players with guys from the Y


Or NFL refs with NAIA Division III refs.
 
2013-03-14 07:17:42 PM  

OgreMagi: SnakeLee: starlost: want their cake and eat it too
so the instruments cost alot of money.  just like a good mechanic wants to use his own tools its not up to the repair garage they work for to buy them. i know half a dozen mechanics and tradesmen that have $100-250k in tools and they don't make $150k a year.

You're right because a wrench and a violin are exactly the same.

They are mad because they are being forced to pay for their own instruments which takes up like half of their salaries, but people on the internet are reading it as "They make more than me so sour grapes rarrrr rarr".

/Also, saying that you can replace these guys with new musicians is like saying you can replace NBA players with guys from the Y

They don't buy a new instrument every year.  So the claim of half their salary isn't valid.  Not every violinist needs "the red violin".


They do if they want a job in the SF symphony. if one's fiddle isn't up to snuff, they will insist you buy one that is. The symphony will help procure a loan. Not only do the need a top instrument to play in the band, they need a top instrument to WIN the audition.

This is not the Salvation Army band. People in this thread a comparing them to car mechanics???  Getting in the SF Symphony is probably harder than becoming a US congressman.  Most of these players were more  accomplished at their crafts by age 10  then other people are when they are 50.  Auditions are international, and if a foreigner gets it the symphony will help them with green cards etc. Openings are rare, and get this:

When bigboy symphonies hold auditions, the vast majority these days will end with "no hire".

THAT'S how high the standards are. 200 of the world's best players come from around the world, pay their own way, and nobody gets hired. They will hold the same audition year after year until someone really knocks their socks off. When someone does win, they might stay with the orch. for 40 years, so that tells one how rare it is to have an opening in the first place. These players are literally world-class and deserve the $$.
 
2013-03-14 07:22:30 PM  

IlGreven: 1) Management is not honoring their current contract;
2) Management wants to lowball them in their contract negotiations.


The contract expired, so there is no current contract to honor.  However, it is common for a business to honor the terms of an expired contract during negotiations.  It wasn't made clear from the article whether this was the case or not.

They are only lowballing if they have the money to pay more but refuse to do so.  From the article:

"We have incurred an operating deficit during each of the last four years," Assink said. "Under these circumstances, it is important for every orchestra to look carefully at its finances."

In other words, there is more money to give to the musicians.  They might deserve more money under better economic circumstances, but that is not the case.  They can go cry somewhere else if they wish.
 
2013-03-14 07:24:03 PM  

Musikslayer: OgreMagi: SnakeLee: starlost: want their cake and eat it too
so the instruments cost alot of money.  just like a good mechanic wants to use his own tools its not up to the repair garage they work for to buy them. i know half a dozen mechanics and tradesmen that have $100-250k in tools and they don't make $150k a year.

You're right because a wrench and a violin are exactly the same.

They are mad because they are being forced to pay for their own instruments which takes up like half of their salaries, but people on the internet are reading it as "They make more than me so sour grapes rarrrr rarr".

/Also, saying that you can replace these guys with new musicians is like saying you can replace NBA players with guys from the Y

They don't buy a new instrument every year.  So the claim of half their salary isn't valid.  Not every violinist needs "the red violin".

They do if they want a job in the SF symphony. if one's fiddle isn't up to snuff, they will insist you buy one that is. The symphony will help procure a loan. Not only do the need a top instrument to play in the band, they need a top instrument to WIN the audition.

This is not the Salvation Army band. People in this thread a comparing them to car mechanics???  Getting in the SF Symphony is probably harder than becoming a US congressman.  Most of these players were more  accomplished at their crafts by age 10  then other people are when they are 50.  Auditions are international, and if a foreigner gets it the symphony will help them with green cards etc. Openings are rare, and get this:

When bigboy symphonies hold auditions, the vast majority these days will end with "no hire".

THAT'S how high the standards are. 200 of the world's best players come from around the world, pay their own way, and nobody gets hired. They will hold the same audition year after year until someone really knocks their socks off. When someone does win, they might stay with the orch. for 40 years, so that tells one how rare it is to ...


Note the bolded part.
 
2013-03-14 07:24:49 PM  

OgreMagi: IlGreven: 1) Management is not honoring their current contract;
2) Management wants to lowball them in their contract negotiations.

The contract expired, so there is no current contract to honor.  However, it is common for a business to honor the terms of an expired contract during negotiations.  It wasn't made clear from the article whether this was the case or not.

They are only lowballing if they have the money to pay more but refuse to do so.  From the article:

"We have incurred an operating deficit during each of the last four years," Assink said. "Under these circumstances, it is important for every orchestra to look carefully at its finances."

In other words, there is NO more money to give to the musicians.  They might deserve more money under better economic circumstances, but that is not the case.  They can go cry somewhere else if they wish.


I farked up a sentence.  Bolded a correction.
 
2013-03-14 07:25:04 PM  

LectertheChef: They're looking for something like a 5% raise, not exactly massive. Especially when you consider how much the symphony's board of directors pays themselves. The one thing I've never really grasped though, is the whole using some old, super expensive instrument. There's plenty of high quality luthiers who are alive and working today, who could build these people top quality instruments, for a lot less than $100k. But no, they have to be snobs, and insist on pedigree. Like those assholes that insist on buying their new puppy from a breeder, instead of saving one from an animal shelter. Or like my friend who mocks my store brand foodstuffs. Yeah, like he can tell the difference between Dr. Pepper and Dr. K.

Ok, sorry, got sidetracked. Anyways, Michael Manrings basses don't cost anywhere near what these people pay for their instruments, yet he totally blows them all away. Is a new violin, made by a master luthier for $25k really worse than some 100+ year old violin?


Do you know anything about acoustic instruments?  They're like wine, the wood gets better with age.  Do you really think world class musicians buy century year old instruments "just cause their age is cool!"
 
2013-03-14 08:03:33 PM  

Tat'dGreaser: Oh and a million bucks for an instrument? You're retarded if you pay that much for an instrument, I don't care if it blows you too.


Farking this.  How many people in the audience do you think can tell if a song is played on a $100,000 viola vs. a $1,000,000 viola?  What farking bullshiat.
 
2013-03-14 08:26:15 PM  

Merry Sunshine: Tat'dGreaser: Oh and a million bucks for an instrument? You're retarded if you pay that much for an instrument, I don't care if it blows you too.

Farking this.  How many people in the audience do you think can tell if a song is played on a $100,000 viola vs. a $1,000,000 viola?  What farking bullshiat.


Mind you, it's a bit like audiophile craziness with insane budgets and surrounded by other audiophiles with fantastic professionally trained ears.

Personally, terrible $100 trumpet off Ebay was significantly worse than $300 cornet was significantly worse than $1300 trumpet was noticeably worse than $2200 trumpet (Owned the first 3, couldn't afford the last).  I'm guessing there's a point at which that stops, but like audiophilia, there's always someone who can (think they can) hear it.

/Barring some of the low brass and percussion (which were 5-figures and provided by the school because they were 5-figures), the average instrument was probably over a grand by the end of high school because it made a difference.
 
2013-03-14 10:10:45 PM  

Paris1127: they've got Michael Tilson-Thomas as music director


The cocaine costs alone must be astronomical.

/Former Buffalo Phil season ticket holder
 
2013-03-14 11:31:03 PM  

Geotpf: Jon iz teh kewl: FullMetalPanda: My understanding of California, especially for locations like SF, 147,000 is barely above poverty levels there due to how expensive everything is?

what's more expensive?  groceries?? like a box of Wheaties costs $10 in california?

a gallon of whole milk costs $20?

No, the issue would be housing, and only really if one wanted to live in San Francisco itself (where a 2 bedroom house with no yard would be a million dollars).  There are plenty of places in California where $150k will buy you a 4 bedroom house (I own such a house), but San Fran ain't one of them.


Yeah, but who wants to live in the central valley?
 
2013-03-15 02:16:00 PM  

links136: Do you know anything about acoustic instruments?  They're like wine, the wood gets better with age.  Do you really think world class musicians buy century year old instruments "just cause their age is cool!"


As I noted (and linked to a cite) upthread, the bias towards expensive, older instruments may in fact be a bias in perception.  If you're told a violin is a Strad, you'll believe you hear an increase in quality whether it's really a Strad or not.  In blind tests, even highly trained musicians usually can't tell the difference.  (That said, if a musician *believes* she's playing the highest quality instrument, and her confidence goes up accordingly, that probably can have an effect on actual playing).

As far as the labor dispute goes: no one on this thread has access to the symphony's books.  Commenting on whether or not $147k/year is a fair salary in the absence of knowing what % of gross revenues are consumed by labor costs is pointless.  If that's 1% of gross revenues, they're probably underpaid.  If that's 110% of gross revenues they're probably overpaid.  No one here has any idea what those numbers actually are.
 
2013-03-15 03:39:08 PM  
I'm normally sympathetic both to labor unions and musicians, but fark them all with an un-rosined bow.

You don't sound perceptibly better on a $1,000,000 viola than you would on a $10,000 viola.  For one thing, it's still A VIOLA.

Second, there's a timpani student at every conservatory in the nation that can play the entire orchestral reportoire exactly as well as David Herbert, at least as far as the audience can tell, and for a third as much money.
 
2013-03-15 03:46:57 PM  

bikerific: if the symphony is raking in cash, the players are within their rights to ask for their share of it.


if you discount governmental, corporate, and royal patronage, no symphony in history has ever been "raking in cash".
 
2013-03-15 03:56:14 PM  

Musikslayer: When bigboy symphonies hold auditions, the vast majority these days will end with "no hire".

THAT'S how high the standards are. 200 of the world's best players come from around the world, pay their own way, and nobody gets hired.


Well, it's cheaper for the symphony if they end up not hiring anyone.  Especially when they don't even pay travel expenses for the applicants.

Oh no, they'll have to get by with only 14 Violin II players instead of 15!
 
2013-03-15 04:29:44 PM  

poot_rootbeer: Musikslayer: When bigboy symphonies hold auditions, the vast majority these days will end with "no hire".

THAT'S how high the standards are. 200 of the world's best players come from around the world, pay their own way, and nobody gets hired.

Well, it's cheaper for the symphony if they end up not hiring anyone.  Especially when they don't even pay travel expenses for the applicants.

Oh no, they'll have to get by with only 14 Violin II players instead of 15!


Not everything is about money, son. They don't go with a player less, they still hire someone on a one year basis. Auditions are expensive for them too:  committees get paid, halls are rented. It has nothing to do with money.
 
2013-03-15 05:41:17 PM  

Musikslayer: nobody gets hired.


Musikslayer: they still hire someone on a one year basis.


wat
 
2013-03-15 06:09:16 PM  

poot_rootbeer: Musikslayer: nobody gets hired.

Musikslayer: they still hire someone on a one year basis.

wat


Temporary gig. They hire a sub until the position is filled by a "member". No empty chairs.
 
2013-03-15 10:10:23 PM  

bborchar: That gives you the idea of your expendability.
However, this article is a couple of years ago, but some of these issues still persist today:

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2010/02/symp-f04.html


From your article:

One particularly disturbing trend is declining attendance by members of the younger generation. This is probably at least in part related to the deep cutbacks in music programs at the elementary and secondary level in public schools across the United States.

HAAAAAHAAHAHA!  It's because the younger generation doesn't want to sit still for three hours and listen to someone play music.
 
2013-03-16 12:11:51 AM  

poot_rootbeer: if you discount governmental, corporate, and royal patronage, no symphony in history has ever been "raking in cash".


Yeah, and if my Aunt had a penis, she'd be my Uncle. That's like saying, "Well, if you discount paychecks and benefits, my employer's never given me anything!"
 
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