The orgy of blogging going on at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference Blog and the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Salon prevented me this week from getting out Around the Horn on its usual Monday schedule (or Tuesday, or Wednesday). Late is better than never, however, and so here is the latest round-up of interesting items from the web:

  • Arts community consultant Arlene Goldbard has launched a new website that synthesizes the conversations that came out of the May 12 meeting between arts activists and the White House. The site provides an opportunity to get involved if you like.
  • Our good friend Adam Forest Huttler of Fractured Atlas is interviewed by CultureBot’s Andy Horwitz.
  • Our other good friend, Alex Ross of The Rest is Noise fame, has packed up shop and re-opened at the New Yorker‘s website. The blog is called Unquiet Thoughts and is better than ever.
  • Friend of the arts Rocco Landesman, better known as Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, is everywhere this week after laying low for his first couple of months on the job. First, he gave the closing keynote at the aforementioned GIA Conference, the full text of which you can read at his blog. Oh, and second, he (or rather, the NEA) has a blog! Third, he’s going on a six-month tour across the USA looking at how “Art Works” (the NEA’s new slogan) works in downtown communities, kicking off, of course, in Peoria, IL. And he has interviews in the LA Times and Variety. Unstoppable!
  • The Great Recession continues to take a toll, even at the top. The Wallace Foundation announced, while GIA was in mid-conference a borough away, that it would be laying off 15 members of its 51-person staff, including two in the arts program.
  • Hells yeah! The Chronicle of Philanthropy linked to me!
  • New models R us! Chris Ashworth opens up the discussion with a proposal to increase access to the artist and the artist’s process for $$$. Scott Walters comes out with his own paradigm that brilliantly blurs the lines between producer, presenter and community center, and adds some inspiration from a Danish health club to boot. Great stuff.
  • Isaac asks theaters, “Do you actually want younger audiences, or do you just want their money?” Great question. Also in the social media outreach vein, check out Beth Kanter on the subject.
  • Turns out a Carnegie Hall propmaster made more than a half-million dollars last year, with several of his cohorts close behind. The general phenomenon is not new, but the size of the paycheck is. Leonard Jacobs asks so what? Well, this is why I continue to be unconvinced that unions and nonprofits make for a good mix. Carnegie makes a good chunk of its money from charitable sources, and the thought that taxpayer, foundation, and individual funds are essentially lining the pockets of the already-well-to-do, whoever they are, doesn’t exactly sit well. I would imagine that there are quite a few stagehands in NYC who would be perfectly willing and capable of doing a fine job for Carnegie Hall for less than $530,444, don’t you?
  • Two new publications of note: first, two grad students on all-ages music spaces and their role in the community (haven’t read the whole thing yet, but what I’ve seen looks very promising); second, Animating Democracy takes it to the next level with a mapping initiative.
  • Did you know that Andrew Taylor’s MBA in arts management at the University of Wisconsin is free? I didn’t until this week, when I met a 2007 graduate from the program at GIA who is now Director of Research for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Check it out, emerging leaders! In other MBA news, apparently social entrepreneurship is ascendant because of an “underlying sense of guilt about what happened during the crisis.” You don’t say.
  • Are we ready for lifelogging?
  • We’ll know we’ve made it when the arts are part of visions of the future like this one.

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  • http://www.clydefitch.com Leonard Jacobs

    Your argument is facile nonsense, Ian. You’re telling me five full-time techies at Carnegie Hall — that’s all there are, Bloomberg says — constituting approximately 3% of what Bloomberg reported was an annual operating budget of $84 million, is tantamount to “taxpayer, foundation, and individual funds…lining the pockets of the already-well-to-do…”? Really? Did you read the comments below my post? Like the one that points out — correctly, it seems — that Bloomberg’s reporting ignores how much of that $530K consists of overtime paid by renters of the hall? Renters, who, let’s be explicit, thus contribute additional income to Carnegie Hall? Oh, wait, let me see — the Hall should realize all the income and the techies that those renters are renting should receive…well, what, exactly? Ian, I’m surprised at you.

    Let me add: I’m surprised that no one, including you, has questioned whether how ethical it was for Bloomberg to publish the name of the techie at hand. If this fellow earned that living through legal means and situations not of his own design (unless he negotiated his own contract!), do you also support his name and his salary being made public? I mean, Carnegie Hall’s 990s are a matter of public record, sure. The man’s salary, too, is a matter of public record. But his name?

    If you mentioned my post at all, I’d have hoped from you a more thoughtful and far more comprehensive view.

  • http://www.clydefitch.com Leonard Jacobs

    I used “whether” and “how” together in a sentence. Oops. I meant to choose one.

  • http://createquity.com Ian David Moss

    Well, Leonard, in your post you did say to “disagree with the following if you like,” so I did. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that this is not a new sentiment on my part, and also that I’m not a fan of huge paydays for nonprofit executives or artistic personnel either. The rationale is based less on morals than business: I simply don’t believe that there aren’t great people who would be willing to do an equivalent or nearly-as-good job for far less. Not for peanuts, mind you–I am sure these stagehands do indeed work hard, and would not at all begrudge them a comfortable, upper-middle-class salary (which in New York would almost certainly require six figures). But let’s be honest: $530,000 a year is rich. And people have no business getting rich off of philanthropy or taxpayer dollars, in my opinion. (FYI, Carnegie gets nearly half of its money from contributed income, according to the article.) I know some disagree with me on this, but that’s how I feel, because the money that people donate to Carnegie Hall so that it can bear these costs is money that isn’t getting donated to smaller arts organizations who could use it more, or soup kitchens, or whatever. The arts already have an image problem in that they’re seen as being for rich audiences; this kind of stuff just furthers that meme.

    As for the ethics of revealing the name, well, the name is public info too (via the 990). It’s a little forward of Bloomberg, but frankly if you’re getting half a million dollars a year from an organization that receives a crapload of money from the city, I want to know who you are. There’s a website that publishes the name and salary of every city employee–at least the Carnegie staff aren’t subject to that.

    With all this said, I’ll admit that I’m not as knowledgeable about standards in stagehand pay as I am for, say orchestra players. So if you can show me that Carnegie is actually saving money on them relative to other types of presenting institutions, I might see things a little differently. But from what I’ve read and know so far, it sure looks to me like a not very good use of money.

  • http://www.clydefitch.com Leonard Jacobs

    You mention “money that people donate to Carnegie Hall so that it can bear these costs is money that isn’t getting donated to smaller arts organizations who could use it more, or soup kitchens, or whatever.” First, you’re still refusing to address the fact that this “money” comprises 3% (by Bloomberg’s numbers) of Carnegie’s operating budget. You’re also still refusing to address how much of these five salaries are actually being paid directly by renters of the Hall — thus constituting income for the Hall, not expenditures. Are you suggesting renters who opt to pay OT for these techies should spend their money on “smaller arts groups, or soup kitchens, or whatever”? Shouldn’t your criticism be directed to them, then? We’re going to have to agree to disagree about this, I guess.

    As for your comment on Bloomberg’s “forward” use of the fellow’s name, you justify it because, through legal means not of his design, he made all that money? In other words, Ian David Moss thinks if you make too much money, your name should be dragged through the mud? I hope someone does that to you someday. That’s just terrible. What did that guy do to deserve it? Did he steal it? Did he commit a crime to get it? Did he violate some rule? How, Ian, is he not innocent? If your problem is with the system, fine, that’s your opinion. But to blame this guy for the system is out and out mean. And appalling.

    • http://createquity.com Ian David Moss

      First, you’re still refusing to address the fact that this “money” comprises 3% (by Bloomberg’s numbers) of Carnegie’s operating budget.

      3% of something huge is still pretty big. $2.5 million is nothing to sneeze at – that’s more than the entire budget of the organization I used to work for. Let’s say for the sake of argument that you could find equally-good stagehands to do the job for half as much. In that case, you’d save the taxpayers, donors, and audiences more than $1 million a year, which is certainly not nothing. And the stagehands who were getting $250k a year or so for their hard work would still be pretty happy, I would hope.

      You’re also still refusing to address how much of these five salaries are actually being paid directly by renters of the Hall — thus constituting income for the Hall, not expenditures.

      I didn’t mention it because I didn’t think it was particularly relevant. This is the same argument used for why investment professionals at foundations and big institutions should get paid more than the chief executives of those places. But that argument carries more weight, because (a) investment managers’ performance has a direct influence on how much money the organization brings in, and (b) the investment pros have another, private-sector market that potentially pays them far more than they would earn at even the richest nonprofit. Do you think people rent Carnegie Hall because of how awesome the stagehands are? Are they a draw in creating new business? No, they rent Carnegie Hall because it’s freakin’ Carnegie Hall! I mean, sure, you need stagehands who are good enough, but as long as they don’t screw anything up, you’re pretty much going to bring in the same income either way. And as for the private-sector market, other than Broadway, what do they have? Again, if you can tell me that they make twice as much on a B’way show, then maybe that changes things a bit. But you haven’t challenged my basic point that there must be people out there who would do this work, and do it well, for much less money. That’s what it comes down to for me. If you can prove me wrong, by all means, go ahead, and I’ll happily change my tune.

      In other words, Ian David Moss thinks if you make too much money, your name should be dragged through the mud? …. If your problem is with the system, fine, that’s your opinion. But to blame this guy for the system is out and out mean.

      Heavens, no — where did you get this idea? No one’s dragging this guy’s name through the mud, certainly not me, since I haven’t mentioned it anywhere on this blog. I don’t blame the dude for anything. I do blame the system, and that is in fact my opinion. But part of the system is that this guy’s name and salary are public if he makes over a certain amount of money and is among the top five employees of Carnegie Hall–which he is. It’s not like this was a surprise – he had to know that when he took the job, especially since this story has appeared in the NY press before. You can’t really blame Bloomberg for reporting on public information. Now, maybe you can look at them askance for making the stagehands the lede instead of Clive Gillinson, who made more. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish, and anyway they judged that the stagehands’ pay would come off as more surprising and therefore more newsworthy. I don’t really understand your outrage here. You seem to think that his privacy was violated without his permission, but he signed away that permission when he took this job. If he didn’t know that and his union and employer made no effort to tell him, then that’s their disgrace, not Bloomberg’s.

      • http://www.clydefitch.com Leonard Jacobs

        1) Three percent of something huge may still be something pretty big, but it still means that 97% of the operating budget went elsewhere, and that is more than 32 times as big as that “pretty big” number. We can all do fuzzy math.

        Meantime — who cares if that 3% figure is more than entire budget of the organization you used to work for? As you rightly noted, not every hall is Carnegie Hall. Is your comparison some prelude to a socialist rant that all halls should have equal budgets? I’m a Democrat, but that’s just ridiculous.

        As for finding equally good stagehands to do the job for half as much, that’s fine, I guess. But are you saying you’d rather have those five techies — who’ve broken no laws and done their jobs well, so far as we know — fired? What do you want to have happen, exactly, to these five specific individuals? No more abstractions, no more bemoaning the “system” — what do you want to be done with these five people?

        As for the argument that your idea would “save the taxpayers, donors, and audiences more than $1 million a year, which is certainly not nothing,” let me ask you this: Are you suggesting these donors and audiences wouldn’t have to give what they gave? Isn’t it true that the Hall would simply find other uses for the money? How would you guarantee, legally, that those other uses would enlarge the salaries of the least paid at Carnegie Hall — or at least not pad the pockets of the best paid at Carnegie Hall? (As you seem intrigued by income distribution, isn’t this a fair question?) As for taxpayers, could I suggest, for the benefit of your readers, that you amortize and publish what $1 million would work out to per capita? Let’s start with the number of taxpayers in New York State, for example. Are we talking pennies, nickels or dimes?

        2) As for the probability that some large percentage of these five techies’ salaries are being paid by renters of the Hall — thus contributing to the Hall’s income stream — you “didn’t mention it” because it wasn’t “particularly relevant”? It’s entirely relevant. Are you saying that when the Hall earns money from renters, no overtime should be paid by those renters to the techies if the renters want or need them there? Are you saying the Hall should be the sole beneficiary of all rental revenues? Yours is the kind of philosophy that justifies unions — and pushes them to bargain for extremes because they simply don’t trust management. And management very often is not especially trustworthy. Also, it isn’t “the same argument…for why investment professionals at foundations and big institutions should get paid more than the chief executives of those places.” Bloomberg made it clear that the techies did not earn more than the head of Carnegie Hall. And, yes, I do think when people rent Carnegie Hall, they factor in the technical capabilities of its staff. No, that’s not the primary reason they rent it — let’s not be stupid about this. But by your logic, a typical renter couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the technical abilities of the house, which is an ignorant thing to suggest. You get a huge star at Carnegie Hall and you ask them, “Would you rather have stellar techies or techies that are just ‘good enough’?” — what do you expect them to say? Do you hear them saying, “I’m Paul McCartney, I want techies that are just good enough”? There is a lot more at stake here than “don’t screw anything up,” Ian. By your logic, Spencer Tracy’s famous dictum about not bumping into the furniture makes a “just good enough” actor.

        You want me to challege your point that “there must be people out there who would do this work, and do it well, for much less money”? Fine, here goes: you have also, by saying this, endorsed the idea that journalists shouldn’t be paid, shouldn’t make a living. You’ve endorsed the grand race to zero. You’ve chug-a-lugging the Chris Anderson Kool-Aid that everything should be free. After all, there must be people out there who will write and report for “much less money” too, right? It’s infuriating to have someone like you enthusiastically devalue someone else’s workplace — in this example, my workplace. I cannot let you push such a risible idea without a strong response. In fact, I’ll give you this promise: Whatever position you hold next, I will propose that there must be people out there would do the same job for “much less money,” matter how high or low your salary. Why? Because there must be people out there…

        3) The $530K techie “had to know” Bloomberg would print his name when he took the job? No, I tend to doubt he’s reading Bloomberg News. True, he may know, and should know, that Carnegie’s 990s are public. That’s it. Which you did state. The thing is, what if some disgruntled creative community member decided to look him up and beat the crap out of him? Are you suggesting it couldn’t happen? It’s different with an executive or artistic director. You may not think so; we can agree to disagree about that, too. But it is.

    • http://createquity.com Ian David Moss

      Sorry, I should clarify that I meant “there must be people out there who would do this work, and do it well, for much less money” absent the market-distorting presence of a strong union. That’s why I mentioned unions in the original post.

  • http://createquity.com Ian David Moss

    Man, Leonard, you are really taking up the battle cry of these stagehands something fierce. Either that, or you really love to argue. :) I’m having trouble figuring out which. Anyway, let’s see what we can do here (note, the commenting function won’t let me reply more than three levels deep, so for anyone following along, this is a response to the 10/24 12:19am comment).

    Three percent of something huge may still be something pretty big, but it still means that 97% of the operating budget went elsewhere, and that is more than 32 times as big as that “pretty big” number.
    I’m not sure exactly what your point is here, but if you’re trying to suggest that there must be other “fat” in that 97%, you’ll get no argument for me. I’m only singling out the stagehands because Bloomberg (and, to be fair, you) did.

    are you saying you’d rather have those five techies — who’ve broken no laws and done their jobs well, so far as we know — fired? What do you want to have happen, exactly, to these five specific individuals?
    Thus far, this has all been in the realm of the hypothetical, as you point out. In practice, I’m not sure there’s much that can really be done about the situation. I’m sure the union wouldn’t stand for them being fired, of course, and the current contract was preceded by a strike, so obviously it’s already come to that. My objection has to do with speculation (and yes, I am fully aware that it is speculation) that the high salaries are the result not of competitive bidding for specific people’s services but rather a philosophy of, “well, this is Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Hall is rich, so we should be able to charge whatever we want.” This drives up costs, plain and simple. Because if Carnegie has to bear enormous costs from its stagehands, that raises their fundraising target, which then perpetuates the notion that Carnegie Hall is huge and therefore can pay whatever it wants. Do you see how this is a self-perpetuating cycle? The problem is if, down the road, Carnegie Hall runs into budget troubles because it has these huge fixed personnel costs that it has no control over, you know who to blame for that situation.

    What should be done about it? One option would be some sort of policy intervention from above, but I’m not sure exactly what form it should take–hard salary caps seem to me like going a bit too far. I don’t think you can expect the union not to take advantage of its position, either — that’s what it’s there to do. The best result, I think, would be if foundations and individual donors started finding other uses for their charitable dollars–since there are plenty of other uses for them, both in the arts and elsewhere. I’ve long been skeptical of supporting big institutions like Carnegie for exactly this reason. With a decline in contributed income, Carnegie could come back to the union and be able to make an honest case that these costs are no longer sustainable, which would help get them back down to a reasonable level.

    As much as you are taking up the banner for these five people, Leonard, wouldn’t you rather see some of their huge pay packages redistributed to a wider range of recipients, creating more jobs not just for stagehands but paying work for other kinds of artists as well? Because that’s exactly what would happen if donors chose to redirect some of their money to other, smaller arts organizations in NYC that they currently give to Carnegie Hall and the events that I described above came to pass.

    Are you saying that when the Hall earns money from renters, no overtime should be paid by those renters to the techies if the renters want or need them there?

    Fine, I’ll concede some ground here. I still think that in most cases it’s probably not going to have much of an impact on total revenue, but given the reputation of the hall it certainly does make good business sense to have top-notch people to serve Carnegie’s customer base. Like I said before, I’m not suggesting in the least that they don’t work hard or don’t deserve a good salary — just that there’s a lot of room between “a good salary” and $400-500k.

    You want me to challege your point that “there must be people out there who would do this work, and do it well, for much less money”? Fine, here goes: you have also, by saying this, endorsed the idea that journalists shouldn’t be paid, shouldn’t make a living. You’ve endorsed the grand race to zero. You’ve chug-a-lugging the Chris Anderson Kool-Aid that everything should be free. After all, there must be people out there who will write and report for “much less money” too, right? It’s infuriating to have someone like you enthusiastically devalue someone else’s workplace — in this example, my workplace. I cannot let you push such a risible idea without a strong response. In fact, I’ll give you this promise: Whatever position you hold next, I will propose that there must be people out there would do the same job for “much less money,” matter how high or low your salary. Why? Because there must be people out there…

    Ummm….what?? First of all, let’s take the temperature down a notch, shall we? I respect you, Leonard, but personal threats are not the way to win me over to your position. Second, you’re missing my point. I’m not endorsing the idea that “everything should be free” — I’m surprised that someone who has been reading my stuff for as long as you have wouldn’t realize that. I’m deeply concerned about how everyone who wants to be an artist or, yes, a journalist, is going to make a living. The difference, for me, is in the amount that we’re talking about. Rather than link you to things I’ve said before, I’ll simply reprint part of a post that followed up on one of those I pointed you to above:

    [Adam Forest Huttler asks] Is there a number you have in mind that, once crossed, makes compensation unreasonable?

    Is there a magic number? Following my logic above, no, but Seth Godin says the following in the post I linked to the other day:

    After a million dollars or so in salary, the absolute amount that a person is paid has no real impact on their life. They can’t eat more meals in a day or wear more shoes. What matters to the manager is the relative amount. How much more would I make over there? Why does that company pay its CEO more than my company pays me?

    Seth’s number is a million bucks; I’d put it a fair bit lower than that, particularly if one doesn’t live in New York City or the Bay Area. But basically that’s the idea. I have no problem with reasonably demanding jobs supporting reasonably comfortable, upper-middle-class (or lower-upper-class) lifestyles. As one gets further and further beyond that horizon, though, for me the expectation becomes exponentially greater that the higher salary will be justified by some sort of extraordinary evidence of impact. And if it’s not, then I for one start to lose trust in individual and organization alike.

    By the same token, I’m not against unions per se, by any means. But to me, the role they serve in society is to protect workers from being exploited by companies who have much more power than they. The situation here is quite the opposite: the union has quite a bit of power, and is using it to contribute to the personal enrichment of several of its members. So in this case, I think a little market competition would be helpful as a reality check. It is not at all the same thing as saying the market should rule in all situations.

    The thing is, what if some disgruntled creative community member decided to look him up and beat the crap out of him? Are you suggesting it couldn’t happen? It’s different with an executive or artistic director.
    I actually don’t see at all how it’s any different with an executive or artistic director. I eagerly await your explanation for that one.

    Anyway, what I would suggest at this point, Leonard, is that you take this back to the Clyde Fitch Report and make a real story out of it. Continuing to debate it in the comments section of my blog isn’t going to accomplish a whole lot, particularly since this is not something I care that much about one way or the other — remember, this is all in response to a single paragraph on the subject in my original post, which is all I had planned to write until you started dogging me on the issue. You obviously care a lot about this, and unlike me, you actually have experience and training as a professional journalist. So I say, get out there, do some research on the recent stagehands’ strike and how it affected the current situation, maybe talk to a few people at Carnegie if you can, and tell us what you find. It would do the blogosphere a service and who knows, maybe you’ll change my mind too.