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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001265.txt from 1998/04

From: Jonathan Cohler <cohler@-----.net>
Subj: Re: Pay analysis of Full-time Orchs
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 20:31:17 -0400

Jack Kissinger wrote:

>The problem with the Jonathan's analysis is not in its calculations
>(though others may choose to question the basic assumptions) but rather
>the question it addresses. The issue is not whether an orchestra can
>"easily" afford to listen to all comers but rather whether the expected
>benefits of such a strategy outweigh the nonzero costs.

This is a valid point. Cost/benefit analysis should be at the root of all
good business decisions. To use a bit of reverse reasoning...clearly,
there is some positive monetary value to getting a better player, or
orchestras wouldn't hold auditions at all. The question as you state below
is "what is that value?" and "how does one quantify it?" in any meaningful
way.

You made some arithmetical areas in your presentation, so I'll restate it
here and offer an argument about the benefit side of the equation.

You assumed a committee-member cost of \$30 (which I believe is low), but
keeping it for now, here's the arithmetic:

\$30 x 5 committee members = \$150 per hour

\$150 per hour x 7 mins / 60 mins per hour @-----.50 per candidate

Now, as you correctly state the real question for the orchestra is "does
the benefit from these additional 200 auditions exceed the \$3,500 cost?"

>Now for the benefit. I really can't even begin to estimate specific
>values for the parameters here so I can't do calculations but I can
>outline the procedures for a simplified analysis and leave it to others
>to fill in the blanks. First you must determine the probability that
>the committee would have found a better candidate (by their criteria,
>whatever those criteria are) in the "rejected" group than their top
>choice from the "accepted" group. (I suspect Jonathan will assess this
>probability quite high. Personally, I believe that resumes do provide
>meaningful information about at least some of the candidates so I would
>probably assess it considerably lower.)

I believe that there is a very high probability (in the 80 to 90 percent
range) that an additional 200 auditionees will introduce a better quality
result. Certainly, Larry Liberson and the DSO seem to believe this.

Speaking from the point of view of a person who has read hundreds (if not
thousands) of resumes of all types (in the music business, the publishing
interviewed and hired dozens of employees and auditioned thousands of
musicians, I am totally convinced of the following statements:

1. Resumes generally give you a good indication of a person's
level of experience.

2. Resumes tell you very little about how well a person performs.

In business, the best pre-indicator of an employee's job performance is his
intelligence tests for potential new employees). In music, the best
indicator of a person's playing is a person's playing.

Therefore, using the resume as an adjunct tool after an audition is useful.
Using it before is meaningless. A mediocre player who has stuck it out for
fifteen years and slowly worked his way into the freelance union ranks in a
city is still a mediocre player, albeit one with a longer resume.

If you get down to the finals and you have two equally great players, then
by all means choose the one with the longer resume, because there may be
some valuable experience there. But all the experience in the world is no
substitute for playing ability.

> Then, one must assess the
>expected increment in benefit to the orchestra from discovering the
>better player. Here I have to ask two questions: (1) How much better is
>the "rejected group" candidate likely to be? (Remember, the fact that,
>ex post the "best" candidate may have been found in the "rejected" group
>doesn't mean that the best candidate in the "accepted group" is chopped
>liver!) and (2) Even if the "accepted group" choice is "merely"
>competent (else the search is expanded) while the "rejected group"
>choice is a superstar, how much revenue (and other measurable benefit)
>is a second clarinetist likely to account for?
>

This is a tough question to answer especially on a micro-economic basis.
However, if you look at the effect over time of consistently hiring
significantly better players to fill all vacant positions in an orchestra,
then you can probably imagine the orchestra getting better and better in a
macroscopic way. This in turn could result in better publicity, the
attraction of larger audiences, more sponsors, more students to come to the
city, and in general a more successful enterprise.

This is precisely what good music directors and boards of directors do. If
a MD/board is successful, you can imagine an orchestra's budget growing
from say \$25,000,000 to \$35,000,000 over a period of several years. If you
average this type of growth down to the per player level, I think you can
see that it could very possibly be a strong argument for getting the best
that you can in the individual audition processes.

Unfortunately, it is not a simple player-by-player analysis. I don't think
one could easily attribute incremental revenue to the new 2nd clarinet
player.

But I also think the incremental cost discussed above (of \$3,500) is small
enough that it doesn't take a great deal of "vision" for the orchestra to
see how this strategy could pay off in spades!

----------------------
Jonathan Cohler
cohler@-----.net