September 25, 2012

Highest paid orchestra goes out on strike

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, traditionally the highest paid orchestra in America (current minimum salary $144,000), has gone out on strike. As president of the Chicago musicians union, my late father-in-law helped lead the CSO's last strike back in 1991, which reminds me of a paradox of labor economics that few Americans grasp anymore: unions are best able to serve the highest-skilled workers.
Back in 1991, the night that was supposed to mark Daniel Barenboim's debut as conductor of the CSO saw the Sailer Family marching in a picket line in front of Symphony Hall on Michigan Avenue, with my father-in-law carrying my toddler son, which made for some good local news footage. Later, Barenboim came over to the union hall to introduce himself to the strikers, whom he was going to be leading when the strike was over.

My most vivid memory of my one night on the frontlines of the labor movement is that I’m not really cut out for class warfare, as I discovered when I shook hands with Barenboim. I had previously met plenty of CEOs, university presidents, Hollywood celebrities and other imposing personages, but major league conductors like Barenboim are in a class by themselves for superb attire, grooming, and (of course) gesture. World class conductors like Barenboim carry themselves like the living embodiment of Western high culture (which they are), and it's pretty awe-imposing. I wanted to ask Barenboim how much his suit cost (so I could start saving up to get one), but I realized that would be a faux pas. I suddenly felt terrible guilty that my father-in-law was temporarily depriving wealthy season ticketholders of the pleasure of basking in Maestro Barenboim’s radiance.

But my wife’s dad, who played the most blue-collar of classical instruments, the tuba, was made of tougher stuff. He and his colleagues at the CSO subunion kept the orchestra out for eleven concerts, then signed a satisfactory deal.

Of course, Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians are not exactly strawberry pickers, with their minimum salary of $144,000. Why do they need to go on strike?

I’ve noticed that the public find the news of strikes extremely agitating. I only went to hear the CSO play once in the 18 years I lived in Chicago, but as soon as I read that the CSO was out on strike, I felt a sudden urge to fly from L.A. to Chicago to hear them play, which the strike was, obviously, stopping me from doing. It’s a lot like when CalTrans announces a new Carmaggedon shutting down the 405 freeway in Sepulveda Pass. I instantly get the urge to drive to the Santa Monica Beach the night of the impasse to see if, uh, the grunion are running. Granted, I’ve never gone to a grunion run in my entire life, but if you tell me I can’t, I sure want to go. The same is true with strikes. When the Chicago teachers went out on strike I suddenly was struck by the thought that if I suddenly moved back to Chicago and enrolled my sons in public school there, there would be no classes for them tomorrow. (Of course, I never had while we lived there, and they're past K-12 age now, but that's what reading about strikes in the newspaper does to your psyche.)

All this psychic agitation was hell on Democratic presidents from Truman thru LBJ. Their allies were going out on strike and the public looked to the Democratic president to heal the waters.

So, why do the highest paid orchestra need to strike. They don't need to, but they are in the best position to, since the CSO has the goal of being the best orchestra in America. The simple answer is that the richest musicians go on strike because they are the best and thus the hardest to replace. Without severe government favoritism, unions end up being guilds for NBA players and similar superstars. My father-in-laws strategy was to emphasize the CSO and the Lyric Opera, then hold on the line on insisting that Broadway touring companies and ballets coming to Chicago have live orchestra. The night club bands and the wedding bands would more or less have to shift for themselves. There is a big pyramid of talent out there, with the CSO at the top. Where would management get strikebreakers? (The NFL owners are today noticing that the NFL referees the locked out really are better than the replacements they rounded up.)

PS: I see the new strike appears to have been settled after a day.

89 comments:

Anonymous said...

"When the Chicago teachers went out on strike I felt like flying to Chicago and enrolling my sons in public school there."

The other examples I understand, but not this one.

Anonymous said...

Soooooo...is "thru" acceptable spelling now?

I know Steve has a thing about how much more literate and literary we are in the British Isles, so I have a request:

I don't really care if it's considering acceptable in the US (same with words like "tho"). Just. Stop. Please.

Anonymous said...

Exactly right Steve.

Trade unions are a British invention, having roots in the industrialisation of that nation in the 18th and 19th century.
What is not commonly recognised is that they started off representing only skilled men in skilled trades (hence 'trade union'), the types who actually had industrial muscle if their labor was withdrawn.
Bringing the broad mass of the unskilled lumpen-prole British workers into the union movement was a task that was never really accomplished. Attempts were made in the late 19th century onwards, but they mostly remained 'unorganized' right up to the time Thatcher publically castrated the union movement, held the testes aloft truimphantly and asserted the primacy of her capitalistic vulva over the phallic , bolshy trade unionist.
In fact one of the big inpediments in 'organizing' the unskilled was the snobbery of the skilled men who looked down on them. In that regard they were worse than the bosses that they despised.

Anonymous said...

Not surprising. In the wild, so to speak, in a free labor market, the demand "Pay me more or we're walking out" is going to be balanced with the threat of "We'll fire your @$$ and get someone else." The balance of power hinges on which of those two is more credible.

On that note, the NFL referees probably made some money last night with the Seattle-Green Bay fiasco.

--Discordiax

Maya said...

"When the Chicago teachers went out on strike I felt like flying to Chicago and enrolling my sons in public school there."

Now you're just confessing to an onset of a mental illness and crying out for help.

Anonymous said...

But the simple answer is that the richest musicians go on strike because they are the best and thus the hardest to replace.


Graveyards are full of irreplaceable people. Somehow humanity manages to keep going though.

It's a lot harder to deal with a strike by rich people than a strike by lettuce pickers because the rich people are a lot more politically connected, not because they are inherently harder to replace.

Mohammed Chang said...

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and its musicians' union are currently bickering back and fourth via the internet and press while negotiating their next contract. I wonder how wise it is given that:

1. A number of large metropolitan areas that previously had more than one orchestra have seen their orchestras consolidate within the last dozen years

2. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is the only remaining full-time chamber orchestra in the nation

3. The Minnesota Symphony Orchestra resides just across the river in Minneapolis

It's hard to have much of an educated opinion without actually seeing the books, but if the SPCO's claims about continuing to run a deficit each year and depleting their endowment unless musicians' salaries are reduced are truthful, the musicians seem a tad shortsighted.

With the NFL, the talent is bargaining against very rich owners raking in tons of cash via national television broadcast rights, ticket sales, publicly financed stadiums and advertising.

Classical musicians on the other hand are bargaining against rich people who serve on boards for status, but aren't in it to make a big profit.

Anonymous said...

"Where would management get strikebreakers."

No shortage of ace classical music grads all over the world who will work for less.

Volksverhetzer said...

I think it was a Danish King who got a question as to why something wasn't banned in Denmark, where the King answered that forbidding something was a sure way to get the Danes to do more of it.

That forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest, and also falls among the same line, so do the saying about not knowing what you got until it's gone.

Anonymous said...

The real advantage is Image. All those fancy patrons who attend classical concerts don't want bad press. They wanna come across as civil and supportive of the arts.

peterike said...

#SWPLproblems

Hunsdon said...

This almost sounds like a lead-in to an extended Sailerian riff on the NFL replacement referees. Even before the escalating problems with blown calls over the last three days, the broadcast people seemed solidly in favor of the NFL's capitulation to the referees.

While "it's just a game" and I wouldn't put the referees on a pedestal, it is becoming obvious that they have a highly developed skill set which will be difficult to replace.

Anonymous said...

Steve, why not endorse Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party? If you and Derb, and a few others get on the bandwagon, maybe he can get enough votes to get noticed (he's polling around 8-9% in Virginia)

jody said...

i'm definitely confused by this. how do orchestra players get paid, if not by ticket sales? so they're demanding a higher cut of the ticket sales? or they have contracts which pay them a negotiated salary regardless of sales?

i've never regarded these people highly. i don't dislike the players in an orchestra. i've seen the pittsburgh symphony orchestra under lorin maazel a couple times and it was pleasant enough. but they're just a cover band, nothing more. playing the same 200 year old songs over and over, instead of writing their own new, good music. 100 grand to bang on a timpani? EVERY major rock drummer is VASTLY superior to these guys. and they're paid like it too. 100 grand a year? try a million.

let's not even get into strings. stuffy violin players who picked up the instrument because they knew they didn't have the slightest chance of ever playing guitar at a serious level.

this is why there are so many east asians playing classic music professionally. they're great at copying, terrible at writing good new original music. they meet all the prerequisites for playing symphony music.

Anonymous said...

unions have every reason to favor the little guy though(even if they don't), how well compensated would these players be if they didn't live in the 1st world?

Carol said...

I used to be a member of the Las Vegas local. We had some awesome strikes back in the day. I remember when labor shut down all the hotels on the Strip in 1970. Everything out there went dark. We'd go on sympathy strikes with Culinary and Dealers too. Good times.

But the unions were hated by their own lower-echelon members, and they managed to undercut it by starting up this phony rival "union" called Orchestra Leaders circa 1978. I think Roy Acuff was behind that. You'd join for $5 then tell the AFM you didn't need to be in their union. It worked. I left a Montana union town in 1979 and returned in 1982 to find the union had gone poof.

The pay for us non-elites has been flat ever since.

pat said...

As it happens I'm a member of The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA). That's the opera singers union. I joined around 1970 for a performance of "The Good Soldier Schweik" by Robert Kurka. I sang four roles including the Third Psychiatrist. Kurka is almost forgotten today because he died young. Schweik is a masterpiece and Kurka was a genius.

I moved back west soon after and the AGMA isn't big on the West Coast so I honorably withdrew. That means I don't pay dues and I haven't for forty years, but I'm still a union member.

I used this fact to my advantage when I was eliminating hundreds of union jobs in local government. In truth I don't think being a union member ever got me much sympathy. Union solidarity isn't what it once was.

Albertosaurus

El Supremo said...

Its hard to stay mad with Barenboim.

Not only a fine conductor, but a great force for preventing art from getting beaten down by ideology and political correctness, pushing forward with the first performances of Wagner in Israel and standing up to the various petty bullies and the professionally indignent.

Anonymous said...

Jews support Obama, and conservatives oppose Obama in the name of Jews.

Dummies.

AllanF said...

"unions are best able to serve the highest-skilled workers"

Aerospace Engineers
Crane Operators
Airline Pilots

Yes, it's much easier to form a cartel when scabs can't be shanghaied from skid row.

Such is one of the many ironies of life. Those least in need of cartel protections most easily form them.

alonzo portfolio said...

Why do they need to go on strike?

Well, the obvious answer is that the teachers just got a raise. Can't have a bunch of professional illiterates closing the gap.

Anonymous said...

I'm in favor of unions as long as they do not wage war against other workers, as long as they don't erect artificial barriers to entry.

Steve Sailer said...

Right, which is another reason why unions of star performers work well.

Anonymous said...

"Trade unions are a British invention..."

The modern mass movement has its roots in Britain, but there had been isolated precursors before.

Striking tomb builders in ancient Egypt.

"In about the 25th year the reign of Ramses III (c. 1170 BCE) the laborers were so exasperated by delays in supplies they threw down their tools and walked off the job in what may have been the first sit-down strike in recorded history."

DaveinHackensack said...

"Aerospace Engineers
Crane Operators
Airline Pilots

Yes, it's much easier to form a cartel when scabs can't be shanghaied from skid row.

Such is one of the many ironies of life. Those least in need of cartel protections most easily form them."


But that was also one of the stated rationales for using union labor in the past -- that "union" = "quality". You don't hear that as much these days, but a few decades ago, you did. I remember a newscaster interviewing a carpenter working on the ball they drop at New Year's in Times Square, and the reporter asked if the ball was in good shape or whatever. The carpenter said, "Sure: it's union made".

Similarly, there's a throwaway line in the book The Elements of Screenwriting, by the old USC film professor Irwin Blacker, about how Hollywood films have high production value because of strong unions.

I think the idea was to extend that perception to less skilled labor as well, but the crappy cars put out by American companies with union labor in the '70s and '80s put a dent in that -- especially when contrasted with the higher quality cars Japanese and German companies started making with non-union American workers.

Anonymous said...

Steve, why not endorse Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party? If you and Derb, and a few others get on the bandwagon, maybe he can get enough votes to get noticed (he's polling around 8-9% in Virginia)


Why not just come right out and shout "Obama in 2012!"?

Anonymous said...

let's not even get into strings. stuffy violin players who picked up the instrument because they knew they didn't have the slightest chance of ever playing guitar at a serious level.

You should stay off the topic of strings if that's all you've got. Violin is a far more difficult instrument to master than the guitar.


this is why there are so many east asians playing classic music professionally. they're great at copying, terrible at writing good new original music.


Apples, oranges. Playing music and writing it are two very different things. It's rare that one person is really good at both. And just fyi, it's been decades since the music world revolved around guitar music. You're showing your age.

Steve Sailer said...

Hollywood's technicians' unions are overwhelmingly white, pay very well, and make the top movies in the world. I'm not sure why management in Hollywood hasn't tried to break the tech unions and replace them with cheap Mexican workers. Maybe because crafts people have long personal relationships with stars, and the studios can't afford to alienate, say, Angelina Jolie because the replacement labor doesn't light her perfectly the way the old union guys did.

I'm always fascinated by how nobody in the government or the press ever notices that film crews shooting on the streets of L.A. are extreme examples of disparate impact against Hispanics, even though they are highly visible. (Passerbys always stop to gawk to see all the excitement, then get bored and move on.)

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Fern%C3%A1ndez

"Fernández was the model who posed for the naked knight holding a sword now known worldwide as 'Oscar'."

Well, I'll be damned. It should really be called The Mapache.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvDAqlmOQ_w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ok0zBDixQM

Who's laughing at Mexicans now?

Anonymous said...

i've seen the pittsburgh symphony orchestra under lorin maazel a couple times and it was pleasant enough. but they're just a cover band

Possibly the spergiest comment ever made on this blog, which is quite an accomplishment.

-bbtp

Anonymous said...

stuffy violin players who picked up the instrument because they knew they didn't have the slightest chance of ever playing guitar at a serious level.

LOL Are you trolling, jody? The guitar is one of the easiest instruments to learn. The violin is one of the hardest. Anyone who has ever played both instruments will tell you that.

beowulf said...

"As president of the Chicago musicians union, my late father-in-law helped lead the CSO's last strike back in 1991..."

As if we needed more evidence Steve is a Nixon Republican (which we all should be).

Richard Nixon's Father: Union Organizer, Political Activist
President Nixon's father once stirred local trolley line labor unrest
History and transportation coincided rather neatly in Columbus shortly after the turn of the last century...

http://thenostalgialeague.yuku.com/topic/2883

Mitch said...

""unions are best able to serve the highest-skilled workers"

Aerospace Engineers
Crane Operators
Airline Pilots"

And, funnily enough, teachers, firefighters, and cops.

Maya said...

I was looking at that Chicago teachers' strike hungrily, for an opportunity to scab.

Of course, that's only because I'm no longer inclined to feel even a drop of loyalty or buy into the ideals of any school, district, political party, ect., and I would leave mid-lesson, without a second thought, as soon as something better would be on offer. And, obviously, I'd only go there for the money and the location, with the intent of gaining the most out of the arrangement while expanding the least amount of energy possible.

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of classical music (not an expert).

I find that I enjoy the recordings from the mid to late 1950s to the late 1960s by American conductors like Reiner, Ormandy, and Szell the best (though I also like Haitink and Von Karajan who were European conductors leading European orchestras).

A find these older recordings tighter and more dynamic.

A friend, who is more knowledgeable about classical music than me, suggested that I like these conductors; because they were working with orchestras (Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, etc…) they shaped before union rules made it more difficult to fire under performing musicians and/or work the musicians like Eskimo sled dogs by rehearsing non-stop.

If that is true than it goes against the idea that unions add value (at least to the listener).



Regarding the terrible officiating in the NFL, some players and fans are claiming that it is endangering the players and damaging the football brand and that if the NFL isn’t careful they might “jump the shark” and find themselves out of favor with the public. This happened they claim to professional boxing when people began to lose faith in the fairness of the scoring system and referees when there were too many questionable fight outcomes (boxing had other issues but the sense it was not completely above board certainly bothered some people).

Some people have even suggested it could impact the election if it is still going on in November (i.e., a lot of angry white men upset that .they can’t watch the game they are use too… Why that is un-American and a sign of our decline! Go Romney!).

No question the real refs weren’t perfect (who can forget the terrible calls by Bill Leavy during the Steelers/Seahawk Super bowl that cost the Seahawks the game), hence the introduction and reliance on instant replay

However, these replacement refs seem worse by a considerable magnitude.

Usually, there are at least one or two bad calls on any given Sunday over the aggregate off all the games, now it seems as if every game on Sunday has atleast one or two or even three absolutely terrible calls (and probably a lot of calls the refs are not making that they should).

I wonder if there is any chance that the replacement refs can get better fast. Is this the type of transition (i.e. from Division III to NFL) that could have a fast learning curve? Maybe they just need to ref more NFL games to get the hang of it?

Their shaky officiating is certainly adding an element of suspense to the games (though from an unintended source).

Truth said...

"...they're just a cover band, nothing more. playing the same 200 year old songs over and over, instead of writing their own new, good music. 100 grand to bang on a timpani? EVERY major rock drummer is VASTLY superior to these guys. and they're paid like it too. 100 grand a year? try a million.

let's not even get into strings. stuffy violin players who picked up the instrument because they knew they didn't have the slightest chance of ever playing guitar at a serious level."

LOL. lower case jody hit the chronic a little early today.

Charlesz Martel said...

I weep for my culture.

Five Daarstens said...

I have come to believe that the IT industry needs some kind of guild or union. Since 2001 IT jobs have stagnated with pay and benefits. It is one of the most important sectors of the economy and arguably there would be much much less of a middle class without it. And yet the jobs keep getting outsourced or done by immigrants on visas.

alice said...

Really? SPCO is about to strike? MN orchestra is at lockout. And their mgt is saying they've been spending more than 10% of endowment per year for several years now to maintain musicians' salaries, rather than the 5% they can afford.

Is it typical that all of these groups strike at once? Just luck? Or are they terrified of what is coming next, trying to get their last meal before it all evaporates?

Nother said...

"No shortage of ace classical music grads all over the world who will work for less."

Ha. One of the keys to the AFM's power is its ability to blackball artists. The union has a say in who is in the orchestra and you don't want to be on the wrong side of these guys. In fact there is a shortage of ace classical music grads who would cross a picket line and risk being blackballed.

Anonymous said...

Of course these guys don't have to worry about being outsourced to India or having Mestizios replace them.

Anonymous said...

"Passerbys always stop to gawk to see all the excitement, then get bored and move on."

First "thru", now "passerbys".

"Passersby", please.

ATBOTL said...

If only those individualist, libertarian leaning computer programmers had understood this, some of them might still have jobs.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Buckley fired you because you let your kid get used as a strike prop for your father-in-law?

I mean come on if you are going to advertise to the world the fact that basically you'll support any cause that helps any family member do not be surprised if you get fired from an ideological magazine. I mean Buckley froze his own kid out the magazine because he saw he was basically a metrosexual version of Fredo.

Family uber alles simply is not a conservative position. It might be natural, its probally evolutionary, but it is not conservative.

jody said...

i can tell i hit a nerve with the classical music nerds who think there are actually ANY great musicians employed as full time workers in this industry in 2012. in reality there is not one.

this post is about how much money they make? but if they were awesome musical talents, they would be making millions of dollars a year playing modern music. instead they deliberately chose an ancient, dead musical art form so they can play in a cover band. period. that's it.

if this post were about sports, everybody would be flying in to explain the obvious. "Other music pays more, there's no good musicians in year 2012 orchestras."

name a great violin player in 2012 who is even close in earnings to other major musicians. WHO ON EARTH picks up a violin in 2012 if they actually have great musical talent? i'll check the billboard 200 but i don't think violin players are hot right now. or ever.

you can tell professional violin playing doesn't take any raw musical ability because asians pick that instrument so heavily. they just want to learn extremely old sheet music and play it over and over like a robot.

go ahead, tell me i'm wrong. i was forced to play clarinet and sax for 4 years and shoved into the school band, where there were lots of nerds and losers and asians playing all the classical instruments, none of whom had 10% the talent of the best guitar players in high school who were slogging away in their garages. thankfully i was allowed to quit before high school and pick up a real instrument, guitar, then later i started playing drums too. why do you think they are called band nerds or band geeks? their personality is the opposite of a real musician.

jody said...

there's one instrument which asians pick up, piano, which really puts down the idea that any of these virtuoso classical players are any good. if so many asians are being forced to play piano from age 6, where are all the good adult asian piano musicians?

yuja wang is a very good player:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1fgo7hp-Ko

think she could write even a single song as good as alicia keys?

africans, some whom could not care less about classical music, just come in and bang out great original tunes on pianos without 10 years of suzuki instruction. i'd say at age 6, africans piano players are outnumbered by asian piano players 100 to 1. yet by age 20, it's completely reversed. notable african pros outnumber notable asian pros 100 to 1. are there even any notable asian pros? africans help establish entire genres on piano, asians...hammer away on century old sheet music.

when does a symphony pianist just say, i'm tired of the small time, and i'd like to enter the big time, and now i'm gonna write something like, oh, songs in the key of life, and make millions like stevie wonder. if they can't even do that, how are they even close to somebody like elton john or billy joel, who are beyond stevie?

Anonymous said...

i can tell i hit a nerve with the classical music nerds who think there are actually ANY great musicians employed as full time workers in this industry in 2012. in reality there is not one


Eh, you wouldn't know a great musician, or even a good one, if he fell out of a tree and landed on your head.


there's one instrument which asians pick up, piano, which really puts down the idea that any of these virtuoso classical players are any good. if so many asians are being forced to play piano from age 6, where are all the good adult asian piano musicians?


Not sure what your hang-up with Asians is all about. In spite of what some childish Youtube comenters think, Asians are not especially musically talented compared to Europeans. I gather that you are wound up about "classical music" because you think those darned Asians play it?

Anonymous said...

africans, some whom could not care less about classical music, just come in and bang out great original tunes on pianos without 10 years of suzuki instruction. i'd say at age 6, africans piano players are outnumbered by asian piano players 100 to 1. yet by age 20, it's completely reversed. notable african pros outnumber notable asian pros 100 to 1. are there even any notable asian pros?



Great, you're another one of those goofballs who thinks that blacks are really musically talented.


africans help establish entire genres on piano


You do seem determined to make a complete fool of yourself tonight.

jody said...

"And just fyi, it's been decades since the music world revolved around guitar music. And just fyi, it's been decades since the music world revolved around guitar music. You're showing your age."

is this guy serious? we're talking about orchestras playing music by guys who have been dead for TWO HUNDRED YEARS, but i'm the one showing his age?

didn't steve just post about how he doesn't understand why people around the world are filling up stadiums in 2012 to hear bruce springsteen play his guitar? i just checked the billboard 200 and the number 1 selling album in the united states this week is dave matthews band - away from the world. yikes! another guitar player!

http://www.billboard.com/charts/billboard-200#/charts/billboard-200

when i check the billboard 2011 year end tour list, it shows me that U2 made the most money last year - concluding a 3 year tour in which they sold 7 million tickets for a mind blowing 736 million dollars in sales. that's not a typo. they sold almost a billion dollars in tickets in 3 years of shows.

http://tinyurl.com/c8sdnls

bon jovi (guitar players, again!) came in second with a "mere" 293 million dollars in sales.

"irrelevant" roger waters of "dated" pink floyd fame, was barely able to coax out 150 million dollars in ticket sales from 92 shows. hardly anybody turned out for these events!

but i'm supposed to believe the "best" musicians are taking 200 grand a year in a stuffy chicago concert hall?

Anonymous said...

i was forced to play clarinet and sax for 4 years and shoved into the school band, where there were lots of nerds and losers and asians playing all the classical instruments, none of whom had 10% the talent of the best guitar players in high school who were slogging away in their garages.


I feel like I'm watching one of those womens daytime TV shows.

"and then i found out that my dad was banging my girlfriend and life sux and its just not fair man now pass the joint"

Anonymous said...

WHO ON EARTH picks up a violin in 2012 if they actually have great musical talent? i'll check the billboard 200 but i don't think violin players are hot right now. or ever.

Obvious troll is obvious. Bored tonight, jody?

jody said...

here's the actual list of the top 25 tours in 2011. note the best selling "new" musician is taylor swift, and what instrument does she play?

http://tinyurl.com/8784lwo

97 million dollars worth of guitar fueled, young woman angst.

she probably made 3 times as much money by herself in 1 year than EVERY person in EVERY ORCHESTRA in the ENTIRE WORLD made last year. and that's just ticket sales. that excludes record sales, video sales, and music royalties.

Steve Sailer said...

I don't much about the musicians in the greatest orchestras like the CSO, but at a fine orchestra like the Chicago Lyric Opera, most of the musicians are highly competent craftsman who want to make a middle class living playing classical music. The average member of the string section is not a volcanic musical genius and doesn't want to be.

Anonymous said...

bon jovi (guitar players, again!) came in second with a "mere" 293 million dollars in sales.

"irrelevant" roger waters of "dated" pink floyd fame, was barely able to coax out 150 million dollars in ticket sales from 92 shows. hardly anybody turned out for these events!

but i'm supposed to believe the "best" musicians are taking 200 grand a year in a stuffy chicago concert hall?




You're supposed to know what a "musician" is, dumbass. It's not necessarily the same thing as a composer or songwriter, which are the people you're jonesing for.

Max Martin does not perform any actual concerts, but he wrote a lot of the stuff you hear on the radio. Other people - "musicians", as we call them - then perform the songs he wrote.

Stop confusing "music writers" with "musicians" aka "music performers". Those super fly guitar players you had a crush on in high school who played "Stairway To Heaven" and "My Woman In Tokyo" and "Come As You Are"? - they were musicians in exactly the same sense as a piano player or violin player performing Bach.

Anonymous said...

A friend, who is more knowledgeable about classical music than me, suggested that I like these conductors; because they were working with orchestras (Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, etc…) they shaped before union rules made it more difficult to fire under performing musicians and/or work the musicians like Eskimo sled dogs by rehearsing non-stop.

Yeah, conductors like Toscanini, Reiner, and Szell were notoriously harsh taskmasters who drilled their players mercilessly and shaped them like clay. Although there were unions back then, it seems conductors had a lot more power back then. I doubt most orchestras nowadays would tolerate the kind of antics that Toscanini, for instance, regularly engaged in. Still, once in a while a conductor could go too far. My music teacher told me of the time a visiting Italian conductor leaned over and spat on a violist whose playing displeased him. The entire orchestra walked out and demanded the conductor be fired. He was. This was in the late 1950s, I believe.

Steve Sailer said...

Another approach in this rock guitarist v. classic string players debate is to look for interviews with big names in each field where they talk about big names in other fields. Top musicians are pretty realistic about their own talents versus those of others, and have a lot more insight than non-top musicians. They aren't likely to badmouth each other, but you can study the extent of their praise for clues. I'd hardly be surprised if say, Yo-Yo Ma and Eddie Valen have listened closely to each other and talked about what they heard.

Kylie said...

Apparently jody doesn't realize how much of rock music's success is due to its image. Comparatively little importance is given to the music itself.

Light shows, performers' onstage appearance and offstage antics or stances account for a lot of their appeal. Put those rock into black suits and have them perform just the music their genius has moved them to create without all the bells, whistles and lights and watch ticket sales plunge.

Anonymous said...

Paraphrase jody:

"Violin players make less money than guitar players so obviously they suck"

Your odd decision that things popular with the masses must be superior to things less popular is only slightly more embarassing than the fact that you've publicly denigrated the violin. If by some curse of God I was unable to appreciate the wonder that is the violin I would certainly at least have the intelligence not to say that out loud - never mind repeatedly and incoherently.

Mr. Anon said...

"jody said...

this post is about how much money they make? but if they were awesome musical talents, they would be making millions of dollars a year playing modern music. instead they deliberately chose an ancient, dead musical art form so they can play in a cover band. period. that's it."

It's hardly ancient, and it's not yet dead. And as to why people still care about it - it is because it is good. Bach has been dead for over 200 years, and people still want to listen to his music. D'ya think anyone will have even heard of Bon Jovi or Whitesnake in 200 years?

Truth said...

I agree with you jody. 50 Cent is worth 300 million dollars, he's a REAL musical talent, not like those Asian nerds!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5tgymfvdYY

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I tried to post this earlier but may have hit the wrong button. If it did go through post this one instead if you can.

I was a semi-professional guitar player who worked his way through college playing in a cover band performing stuff like Van Helen, Deep Purple, Steely Dan, Rolling Stones … literally rock songs by every major act.

Also play jazz guitar and have studied and performed with some of the greats in that field.

I am also a fan of classical music.

Regarding rock musicians versus classical musicians and guitar players versus violin players.

All styles of music have their own forms, beauty, and signs of excellence IMHO.

I think the answer is that people are just different... some musicians gravitate to the precision that classical music requires while others are more attracted to the looser, less formal, less precision driven rock or jazz styles and or to composing.

There is no question in my mind that becoming a great classical musician requires tremendous dedication and is in some ways more difficult than being a rock performer or composer. The level of “precision” that is required to excel in that field is astonishing. On the other hand, I have met some great musicians, including some classical ones, who are mystified at how someone can create something like a song “out of thin air” or improvise a solo.

If you perform in a rock band or jazz band nobody in the audience is likely to notice if you make some minor errors (Major errors yes minor errors no …I say this from the experience of having performed in public many times and having been congratulated for what I deemed sub par performances on occasion by audience members who were oblivious to what I thought was a little sloppy performance).

One the other hand, I recall going to see a classical concert to listen to a piano concerto I was familiar with (Mozart #21) and was surprised when the pianist, the great Rudolph Serkin, missed “two” notes (of course he got the other thousand right). The fact I noticed (and others probably did too) says something about the demands of the music and what the listeners expect from the performers. In a certain sense, for the classical performer there is more rather than less “pressure" during a performance.

Classical music has a script you must follow almost to the letter (except regarding a cadenza or when interpreting attack or tempo), whereas rock and jazz are more flexible and slight errors are not noticeable or assumed to be improvising by the audience (who let’s face it are often ignorant of the inner details of the music unlike many fans of classical music who are sometimes musicians themselves).

Some people, like Taylor Swift, like to experiment with song forms by putting some chords together and writing a medley over it to create hit songs; while other people like Yo Yo Ma like to practice for hours on end performing Bach and measuring themselves against previous performers.

I think that it is great that we live in world that has both types of personalities.

Regarding guitar and violin, I would think violin is more difficult because there are no frets to tell you what note you are playing on a violin, You have to train yourself by ear, hand placement, and feel (which is a lot harder). Also the violin involves bowing which seems harder than using a plectrum as well (at least it seems that way to me).

Also I don’t think money is necessarily a good barometer to judge greatness, because not everyone is solely motivated by it when pursuing a career. And we all know or should know that a lot of great artists died in poverty.

I think most classical performers pursue it because they love it … and that’s a good thing.

El Surpemo said...

"Yeah, conductors like Toscanini, Reiner, and Szell were notoriously harsh taskmasters who drilled their players mercilessly and shaped them like clay"

Toscanini once got exasperated with a harpist who missed a note and cut all of the strings on her harp except for the one she needed for that piece.

However, the Vienna Philharmonic is organized almost like a guild, has no permanat conductor, and still manages to be perhaps the best philharmonic orchestra, so the Great Man theory of conducting doesn't always work.

stari_momak said...

What?!? A flame war over the merits of rock vs. classical talent and no mention of Yngwie Malmsteen?

pat said...

Jody is a fool, I feel diminished just responding to his tripe. But I'll suck it up and try to explain some realities in terms even he can understand.

In pop music there is something called a "one hit wonder". A pop group that can manage just one hit in their life time is less respected than a group like the Beatles who had hit after hit. So too in Broadway music. Irving Berlin wrote show after show in which almost every song was a hit. He is honored and revered. We have no other like him today.

Almost every symphony ever written is now forgotten. Almost every opera too. So when you notice that people are still amazed and enchanted by Mozart, you might begin to appreciate that musical talent has not been distributed evenly.

I once hired Jeff Raskin to conduct an opera. He was a particularly good deal because he provided his own orchestra too.

Raskin of course was a polymath - the brains behind Steve Jobs. He mentioned once in passing that those who listened to classical music were smarter. That's true. The average IQ in the concert hall is higher than that in the rock band stadium.

Rock and Roll is for the average man. Rap is for the retarded.

You can objectively measure the information content of music. Douglas Hofstadter does something like this in his book "Godel, Escher, Bach". Dumb people just can't properly appreciate better music.

Also this Jody person conflates performer with composer. Andy Williams died today but as far as I know he never wrote one of his own hits. Yet he was unquestionably a superior musical artist.

Orchestra violinists usually don't compose but no job is more competitive. Typically they audition behind a screen. They are as good at what they do as the human race can provide. Show some respect.

Someone noted that there are a lot of East Asians now in the violin sections of major orchestras. This is new. When I was a teen the trick question was, "Name three violinists who aren't Jewish". Everyone got Ruggiero Ricci, no one ever got another. Now there are many Asian string players.

I suppose you have noticed that Ashkenazi Jews and East Asians are the two highest IQ groups we have on this planet. Think that's a coincidence?

Albertosaurus

not a hacker said...

"Passersby", please;
Soooooo...is "thru" acceptable spelling now?


Were were you when I was trying to break Steve of the superfluous 'of'? Charming gallicism, my ass.

Anonymous said...

Asians are a little like blacks, though, in that they "mature" at a much younger age than whites.

Although with blacks, it's a physical maturation, whereas with Asians, it's more of a "mental" maturation.

Whites come along very, very slowly, but sometime in mid- to late-puberty, they eventually accelerate past the Asians and leave them in the dust.

And no, there still isn't a single ADULT Asian classical instrumentalist in the world today who is worth a hill of beans.

Plenty of "child prodigies", and plenty of former child prodigy has-beens, but no good adults.

vinteuil said...

In (partial) defense of jody, there is, and long has been, a serious problem in the world of "classical" music: the present is not living up to the past.

A hundred years ago, the programs of the great orchestras were dominated by relatively recent works. New pieces by the likes of Sibelius and Elgar and Rachmaninov were greeted with genuine excitement. But nowadays, audiences generally approach new pieces with a combination of boredom and dread: another bitter pill forced down their collective throat 'cause it's supposed to be good for them.

They'd much rather listen to something written 200 years ago, for the hundredth time - and who can blame them?

It's a serious problem.

vinteuil said...

That said, I wonder what jody might make of, say, Vladimir Horowitz playing Scriabine's "Vers la flamme":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdL0u4DFf7Q

Does he seriously think that there has ever been any rock guitarist playing in this league?

DaveinHackensack said...

Kylie,

"Apparently jody doesn't realize how much of rock music's success is due to its image. Comparatively little importance is given to the music itself.

Light shows, performers' onstage appearance and offstage antics or stances account for a lot of their appeal. Put those rock into black suits and have them perform just the music their genius has moved them to create without all the bells, whistles and lights and watch ticket sales plunge."


Image plays a role in classical music too. Consider the Washington Post's experiment with violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. A world-renowned classical musician played a $3.5 million instrument to a 1000+ passersby in a subway station and got $32 in tips.

Anonymous said...

"Dumb people just can't properly appreciate better music."

There are lots of dumb people who like popular classical music like
Nutcracker, Beethoven's Fifth, Bach's Air, and etc.
But some classical music require more training or patience.
As for modern music... I dunno.

Anonymous said...

"Rap is for the retarded."

I'd say more Jews today listen to rap than classical music. And for every Asian into classical music, 1000 are into rap.

Anonymous said...

"In (partial) defense of jody, there is, and long has been, a serious problem in the world of "classical" music: the present is not living up to the past."

The form has been exhausted. It happens to all the arts.
What painter excites us today like masters of the past?
What Jazzer in the past 20 yrs made the difference of Ellington, Armstrong, Parker, Coltrane?

This is why creativity is more about technogizmotics than traditional artistry. Art forms have been explored to their limits--even in cinema. So, the thing is how can we use technology to do the same thing but differently?

Anonymous said...

Some great classical style compositions of the 20th century were in cinema.

Jerry Fielding's score for THE WILD BUNCH is remarkable.
And Bernard Hermann's work on VERTIGO.
And Delereau's work for Truffaut and Godard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUs4awmb3-o

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWoItWtJBTQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHqRGG9ZhSk

And Morricone's work on ONCE IN WEST and ONCE IN AMERICA.

And DUCK YOU SUCKER.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxTTF_8Pyso

Hunsdon said...

We can argue the merits of different styles of music until the cows come home and are milked to the gentle strains of Beethoven, or Ludacris. jody has made his opinion known, to much mockery.

I was more interested in the union aspect than the music-- although I'm always down for some good working class tuba stories!

Steve's observation that "The simple answer is that the richest musicians go on strike because they are the best and thus the hardest to replace" has been echoed down through union history; they are called "trade unions" after all, or in Russian "prof-soyuzi." (Professional'nie soyuzie, or professional unions.)

Contrast the relative success of the AFL and CIO with the fairly brutal suppression of the "one big union" (the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies).

This story actually reminded me of something I read about years ago, before the fall of the Soviet Union, about officers in the Red Army trying to form a union. (Even at the time, I thought public employee unions were a bad idea.)

vinteuil said...

@anonymous 3:21 PM:

"classical" music is not a single "form" of music.

Think of Perotin's *Sederunt Principes*.

Next think of Mozart's *Don Giovanni.*

And then think of Gabriel Faure's 13th Nocturne.

What "form" do these works share - other than that they are all "classical?"

If you think that "classical" music can ever be "exhausted," then you haven't yet understood what it is.

Anonymous said...

Image plays a role in classical music too. Consider the Washington Post's experiment with violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. A world-renowned classical musician played a $3.5 million instrument to a 1000+ passersby in a subway station and got $32 in tips.

I don't deny image plays a role in classical music, but the WaPo experiment wasn't exactly fair. Bell was playing in a subway during the morning commute, when people are in a hurry to get to work. I'd love to linger and listen to someone of Bell's caliber play the chaconne, but probably wouldn't if it meant I'd get fired for being late. They should have had him play in the early evening, when people are coming back from work. He would have got a lot more money.

Kylie said...

"Image plays a role in classical music too. Consider the Washington Post's experiment with violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. A world-renowned classical musician played a $3.5 million instrument to a 1000+ passersby in a subway station and got $32 in tips."

Hardly an apt analogy. He wasn't playing in any kind of concert forum but to passersby, many of whom probably either lack situational awareness or have learned to "tune out" most of what goes on around them.

Reg Cæsar said...

. Art forms have been explored to their limits--even in cinema. --anon.

A good point, that John Stuart Mill Made about composing music, ca. 1826.

Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Puccini and Harry Warren were unavailable for comment at the time, not yet having gone through, as Steve might say, the formality of having been born.

Reg Cæsar said...

...a paradox of labor economics that few Americans grasp anymore: unions are best able to serve the highest-skilled workers.

Which is close to that other paradox economists point to: Unions don't shift resources from capital to labor, so much as from one segment of labor to another.

Both phenomena are regressive.

Anonymous said...

Guitar vs Violin, an argument I doubt these guys ever have, or maybe they do.

If Bell had played something people had heard on Bugs Bunny or from Disney or at wedding, he would have made at least $80.

I barely listen to classical music, but who doesn't recognize that a violin is the source of the most poignant sounds on earth. There has been no evolution in this regard.

Charlesz Martel said...

So based on your logic, the best restaurant in the world is McDonald's, because their sales per square foot and profitability per dollar of revenue is the highest in the world for a food-service operation?
Economists have no way of measuring value separately from the price function. Some people can, and we have a name for them- cultured, educated, and civilised.

Anonymous said...

there still isn't a single ADULT Asian classical instrumentalist in the world today who is worth a hill of beans


Sure there is. Check out Kotaro Oshio on classical guitar.

kaganovitch said...

Maya wrote "And, obviously, I'd only go there for the money and the location, with the intent of gaining the most out of the arrangement while expanding the least amount of energy possible"

Are you sure you're not a member of the teacher's union already

Truth said...

" but who doesn't recognize that a violin is the source of the most poignant sounds on earth. "


Finally someone gets it. The violin is the traditional centerpiece of the orchestra because the scale is meant to mimic the human voice.

Maya said...

"Are you sure you're not a member of the teacher's union already"

Positive. I opted out. Why would I pay to be a member of an organization that would care little or not at all about me?

And why would you shame a prison bitch for not feeling like he owes any good will or loyalty to his current rapist?

Reg Cæsar said...

So when you notice that people are still amazed and enchanted by Mozart, you might begin to appreciate that musical talent has not been distributed evenly. --pat/Albertosaurus

If you want to make a case for talent over skill, then Mozart is the worst poster child imaginable, due to his extreme training regimen as a child. He was the Tiger Woods of his day.

Wolfgang really only had two inborn advantages of note: an insanely dedicated father, and the patience to learn from him. Same as Tiger.

Now Camille Saint-Saëns, he had talent. He just never developed Mozart's skill.

Severn said...

The violin is the traditional centerpiece of the orchestra because the scale is meant to mimic the human voice.


For examples of it's ability to do so, see this clip

Or this one.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

And no, there still isn't a single ADULT Asian classical instrumentalist in the world today who is worth a hill of beans."

Yeah, that Yo-Yo Ma is such a talentless hack!

Boiling Pot said...

I wish that all those musicians in the C.S.O. had been fired like Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. Nobody's shytte smells like roses, and those arrogant musicians in monkey suits need to know. The people of Chicago could just stay home and listen to their recordings. I will never, ever patronize any organization whose hacks get paid $144,000 per annum just because they've got a powerful union.