We usually only hear about how much orchestra musicians and their Music Directors are compensated when an orchestra is at odds with its management or the orchestra is operating in the red and in danger of cutting its season or closing its doors. With the downturn in the economy, a recent piece in the Chicago Tribune explores whether the time is ripe for a new business plan including aligning musician salaries with market rates and capping soloist and conductor fees to ensure the orchestra is investing wisely. Since orchestras receive public funds, it seems to me more transparency and accountability may be required during this recession. What do you think?
I should mention that just this weekend, the Chicago Tribune reported that the CSO musicians accepted a salary cut as part of an institution-wide budget cut.
Just for the record, most major US orchestras receive little to no public funding. It's a common misconception. Small regional orchestras might receive slightly higher subsidies from city or state government (and their musicians tend to make relatively low salaries,) but America's top orchestras (of which Chicago is obviously one) are funded almost entirely by ticket income, private donors, corporate support, and endowment draws. What little public money goes to such orchestras is usually for specific projects like educational outreach...
As far as I'm concerned, conductors and orchestral musicians are some of the most talented people out there, and they should be payed whatever the market will bear. As Sam pointed out, most of the major orchestras are not being funded in a large part by taxpayers, so why not pay as much as can be spared?