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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 36
    More: Asinine, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco  
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2636 clicks; posted to Entertainment » on 14 Mar 2013 at 7:20 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-03-14 09:01:39 AM
5 votes:

Spanky_McFarksalot: Businesses maximizing revenue equal "merica, fark yeah!
Workers maximizing wages equal, dirty commie ingrates outta be happy with that got, derp!


Pretty much.

How many people in this thread have gone to see their local symphony?

Your local flyover country symphony may have been disbanded, but the symphonies in the big cities are doing juuuust fine. Just like Broadway shows are doing fine. High end talent should be getting high end pay. If the SF Symphony thinks they can get away with hiring a local symphonic High School Band and throwing them out there and fill seats for the same price, they'll do it.


They can't.

and to you morons who think that playing a musical instrument at a high (big city symphony) level isn't hard, or that these people don't deserve their pay because they don't compose their own material (and how would you know they aren't doing that as well?) fark yourselves. I'm sorry no one came to see your shiathole band back when you were in High School, i'm sure you were *this* close to making it big.
2013-03-14 10:22:38 AM
4 votes:
I work for the parent organization of a major US-based orchestra (one of the top 5 in the world) and our musicians' base pay is about $20k less than San Francisco.  (Note:  We're ranked  much higher than SF.)  With that said, I feel I'm in an unique position to discuss.

First, most musicians make MUCH more than base salary.  All symphonic music contracts include provisions/increases for more experienced musicians, musicians who do additional community work, etc.  They, also, earn overtime, extra pay for "doubling" (playing more than one instrument), etc.  So it's very few musicians who only make the base.  In fact, the article stated that the average musician in SF makes over $160k annually.

Second, the musicians need to understand that the classical music industry is suffering all over.  Everyone's dealing with annual losses.  I guess we're lucky because we're starting to stem the losses, and our musicians understand that we're not trying to screw them over.  They see our annual financial statements (which, as all non-profit organizations are required, are made available for public review.)  They attend "musicians & staff" meetings which discuss these situations.  I don't know if SF has these types of meetings, but I do know they're a non-profit, as well, so their musicians and the unions should know their financial status.

Third, the parent organization is still maintaining all current benefit levels (10 weeks paid vacation - industry standard, pensions of $74k annually, per musician, upon retirement, sick leave, full coverage health plan with  no premiums, etc.)

I know that there is no symphony without the musicians.  The musicians need to remember that there is no symphony without the parent organization.  Maybe when everyone can check their egos at the door, they'll be able to come to a resolution.
2013-03-14 08:17:16 AM
4 votes:

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?


I think it's more about this:

How many people would jump at the chance for a gig with the SF symphony for $150k, costs inflated?
How many very good musicians are waiting tables in their spare time trying to make ends meet?

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

Many musicians around the country were hit hard by the recent downturn- things have gotten better, but it's still not pre-housing crash era levels.  People just don't have the same amount of disposable income.  I love the arts- plays, operas, musicals, symphonies...I even used to buy season tickets...now, I can only afford to see one or two shows a year.  And there was a year where I didn't go at all.  And ticket prices really haven't fallen.

I do feel for them, but musician was their chosen field, and they knew that they'd probably have to move to a city for work (and the more prestigious, the bigger the city, the higher the costs).  They are complaining about a 5% difference in pay from their sister symphony...many people right now have not had a raise in years, and many have actually taken paycuts or loss of benefits.  So...waah.
2013-03-14 07:32:06 AM
4 votes:

madnessupmysoul: Need to know a few things before criticizing them:
Cost of instruments (for a big city symphony orchestra, probably 5-6 figures) and maintaining them, cost of living, cost of clothing. Add into that what their educational costs were, their average age, and much more.


All you need to know is: what is the supply of qualified musicians and what is the demand for qualified musicians? Nothing else matters.
2013-03-14 07:25:18 AM
4 votes:
Need to know a few things before criticizing them:
Cost of instruments (for a big city symphony orchestra, probably 5-6 figures) and maintaining them, cost of living, cost of clothing. Add into that what their educational costs were, their average age, and much more.
2013-03-14 12:01:58 PM
3 votes:
SF symphony is probably in the top 30 orchestras in the world.  Every player in orchestras at that level can play the standard concerto repertoire for their instrument and play it very well, indeed.  They are good enough to  solo with second-tier orchestras.  They are all virtuosos of the first order. Unbelievable, 100% error-free, perfect tone and execution.  (old adage:  symphony players don't practice until they get it right, they practice until there is no possibility of playing it wrong...)   When an opening in an orchestra occurs (like the Tympani chair in SFSO) there will be many hundreds of applicants from all over the world, all of whom are virtuosos as well.   These people earn around $150K, perhaps double that in the top of the top like the Berlin Philharmonic.

Underpaid.   These musicians are the 'NFL players' of their craft.  And they sure as hell don't average $5.15million in salary.
2013-03-14 10:49:47 AM
3 votes:

DrPainMD: madnessupmysoul: Need to know a few things before criticizing them:
Cost of instruments (for a big city symphony orchestra, probably 5-6 figures) and maintaining them, cost of living, cost of clothing. Add into that what their educational costs were, their average age, and much more.

All you need to know is: what is the supply of qualified musicians and what is the demand for qualified musicians? Nothing else matters.


This. The 'free-market' works in the favor of the employees sometimes as well. Sometimes employees aren't easily replaced and have to be paid a lot. Sometimes they are, and don't.

I fail to see why a lot of people automatically attack the employee asking for a raise without any clue as to the value they bring the business.
2013-03-14 08:10:27 AM
3 votes:
Businesses maximizing revenue equal "merica, fark yeah!
Workers maximizing wages equal, dirty commie ingrates outta be happy with that got, derp!
2013-03-14 08:02:51 AM
3 votes:
"Oh it's so horrible how expensive it is living here in California! I can't believe how much rent costs and food and gas, oh my!"

"Why don't you move?"

"Oh my, I could never do that. It's sunny here"
kab
2013-03-14 08:37:49 AM
2 votes:
A guaranteed salary for playing (albeit well) what you're told to?   Some of these folks should try writing / performing /recording their own work, footing the bill entirely themselves, and trying to generate income on that.  Perspective is a wonderful thing.
2013-03-14 07:57:27 AM
2 votes:

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?
2013-03-14 07:45:45 AM
2 votes:
Labor strikes are about extracting a fair wage for the work done. It doesn't matter if it's machinists union striking against a factory underpaying its workers or world class concert pianists who believe they should get paid a greater share of the profits they generate for the syphony or NFL players fighting for more revenue sharing and better post career healthcare.

If somebody getting screwed by management, beit $17 an hour tradesman or $10 million a year athlete, they have every right to demand to be paid their worth.
2013-03-14 07:41:11 AM
2 votes:
My belief, without reading the whole article, is that playing in the symphony is not a strictly full-time gig. Can't they find work teaching private lessons? Seems to me if they can dedicate 10-20 hours per week doing that, they might be doing just fine.
2013-03-14 07:15:23 AM
2 votes:
My understanding of California, especially for locations like SF, 147,000 is barely above poverty levels there due to how expensive everything is?
2013-03-15 02:16:00 PM
1 votes:

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.
2013-03-14 08:26:15 PM
1 votes:

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 08:03:33 PM
1 votes:

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 07:17:42 PM
1 votes:

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 06:48:38 PM
1 votes:

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 06:13:54 PM
1 votes:
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 03:49:52 PM
1 votes:

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
2013-03-14 02:49:17 PM
1 votes:

Norfolking Chance: How much is the Symphony making? If it is only just making ends meet currently then sorry no money for higher pay. Is the Symphoney making money hand over fist then yes it's right that the people responsible for the success get to enjoy it.


It took this long for this sentiment.   if the symphony is raking in cash, the players are within their rights to ask for their share of it.

For all we know, an alternate headline could be:  Symphony management sits on giant pile of money rather than pay those who actually bring the money in.
2013-03-14 01:10:37 PM
1 votes:

cnocnanrionnag: SF symphony is probably in the top 30 orchestras in the world.  Every player in orchestras at that level can play the standard concerto repertoire for their instrument and play it very well, indeed.  They are good enough to  solo with second-tier orchestras.  They are all virtuosos of the first order. Unbelievable, 100% error-free, perfect tone and execution.  (old adage:  symphony players don't practice until they get it right, they practice until there is no possibility of playing it wrong...)   When an opening in an orchestra occurs (like the Tympani chair in SFSO) there will be many hundreds of applicants from all over the world, all of whom are virtuosos as well.   These people earn around $150K, perhaps double that in the top of the top like the Berlin Philharmonic.

Underpaid.   These musicians are the 'NFL players' of their craft.  And they sure as hell don't average $5.15million in salary.



This is all true. But in today's orchestral financial climate, they're lucky to have jobs. The "industry" has nearly killed itself - or has at least worked very hard to make itself irrelevant. Norman Lebrecht is very good at articulating this. It's profoundly sad and stupid, but as somebody pointed out upthread, all fingerpointing aside, the demand just ain't there.

/used to be full-time classical musician in a tux
//now am a corporate slave in a suit
2013-03-14 11:56:15 AM
1 votes:

red5ish: 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.


That's been the presumption for years, but recent evidence suggests otherwise.  Musicians are no less susceptible to perception bias than anyone else:  http://www.economist.com/node/21542380
2013-03-14 11:37:08 AM
1 votes:

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.
2013-03-14 11:13:46 AM
1 votes:
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?
2013-03-14 10:23:38 AM
1 votes:

Tat'dGreaser: "Oh it's so horrible how expensive it is living here in California! I can't believe how much rent costs and food and gas, oh my!"

"Why don't you move?"

"Oh my, I could never do that. It's sunny here"


You do realize this is San Francisco we're talking about, right?
2013-03-14 10:22:15 AM
1 votes:
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.
2013-03-14 08:40:04 AM
1 votes:
How much is the Symphony making? If it is only just making ends meet currently then sorry no money for higher pay. Is the Symphoney making money hand over fist then yes it's right that the people responsible for the success get to enjoy it.
2013-03-14 08:35:24 AM
1 votes:

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


Ummmm no.

SF is expensive, but not THAT expensive.
2013-03-14 08:27:49 AM
1 votes:
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.
2013-03-14 08:24:22 AM
1 votes:
According to the article they need to pay for their instruments, which supposedly can cost as much as $1 million according to the article.  So it doesn't sound like a ton of money if you factor that in.  Maybe they could pay for their instruments and then offer them a lower wage or something.
2013-03-14 08:19:30 AM
1 votes:

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

This. Isn't the average mediocre apartment over $2k per month around San Fran?


thus making your yearly expenses like $24,000 more a year at the most

which nearly accounts for that $90,000 more you'd be making in another state doing the same thing
the extra money goes to cocaine of course
but you can always tell people you spend it on rent cause rent is sooo expensive

and eating out is something you do all the time, well cause everyone's doing it
2013-03-14 08:06:24 AM
1 votes:

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


This. Isn't the average mediocre apartment over $2k per month around San Fran?
2013-03-14 07:39:13 AM
1 votes:
World's smallest violin.  They should take a lesson from the 49ers. I mean world class musicians making that kind of money? Ridiculous!It is not like they are filling stadiums or anything. No one what's to listen to that crap anyway. If they want money, they should have played sports!
2013-03-14 07:28:12 AM
1 votes:
Next week's headline: 'All-new SF Symphony's debut concert'
 
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