The most expensive batons in America

The most expensive batons in America


norman lebrecht

June 22, 2016

The new list of maestro earnings from Drew McManus reveals the following pay scale.

1 Jaap Van Zweden, Dallas, $5m (see here)

2 Riccardo Muti, Chicago Symphony $2,309,837

3 Christoph Eschenbach, NSO, $2,274,151

4 Michael Tilson Thomas, San Franc Symphony, $2,105,920

5 Alan Gilbert, NY, $1,751,570

6 Gustavo Dudamel, LA Phil, $1,661,493

7 David Robertson, St Louis Symphony $1,043,313

No other maestro crosses the million mark.

Full list here.


riccardo muti


  • Steve says:

    You left off MTT (2.1 million with SFS)

  • Peter says:

    I doubt McManus knows all the clauses of all these contracts, so these numbers might be misleading. Typical bonus pays not included in negotiated sums can be media royalties, tours, consultancy work for concert planning (sic!) etc. etc. etc.

    • Drew McManus says:

      Those are all reasonable considerations and the article actually covers all of those items plus the growing trend of separating artistic and non-artistic duties into separate line item compensation reports. you can read more in the sections within the article titled “How Terms Impact Compensation,” “What The Numbers Don’t Show,” and “The Trend Continues.”

      Having said all of that, in 2008 the IRS restructured how executive compensation is reported in Form 990s so that it does a much more comprehensive job at including items outside of traditional salary.

      Although it won’t catch 100 percent of remuneration, they do a far better job than before those changes became regulations.

      But in the end, the reports should inspire patrons to investigate on their own and ask questions. After all, transparency is what helps keep the US nonprofit system accountable.

  • sue says:

    It’s just NOBODY’S business what these people earn. It’s what the market will tolerate and their ‘bankability’ which matters – dollar figures are not anyone else’s business and indeed are a breach of privacy.

    Perspective needed; movie stars earn 10 times that amount of money and yet the people scream that managing directors of big companies (who earn less and are always answerable to shareholders) shouldn’t earn the incomes that THEY do!! Total hypocrisy.

    • Brian says:

      In most countries, orchestras receive public funding and (in the U.S.) tax breaks, so it is very much the public’s business how much conductors are paid.

      Moreover, look at what rank-and-file players in these orchestras earn. Most are under $150K. Should there be such disparities with the person who waves a baton?

    • Gary says:

      When they come to me begging for money, it is very much my business.

  • Itsjtime says:

    Sue, darling…. You may have just write thee dumbest comment if the year.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      And you have just written the most patronising comment of the year. Like it or not, a product or service is worth “what the market will stand”……….you have obviously never operated in a business capacity otherwise you wouldn’t have made such a crass comment.

      • Sue says:

        Hilarious. I ran a huge and very successful agribusiness for 23 years in Australia which employed staff. My son has his own successful winery and has learned a lot about running a company from his parents. I am also a stock holder and investor who regularly attends company AGMs.

        Stick to music; that’s obviously as much as you know about economics.

        • Elingtonia says:

          My response was to your critic, not to your comment…………..

        • MacroV says:

          “What the market will bear” is a reasonable argument; “nobody’s business” is not. Since you’re a veteran businessperson you’ll surely be aware that any publicly listed company (at least in the United States and I would hope in Australia) is required to disclose the compensation of its top executives. Only a privately-held company would be exempt. And in the US, a non-profit organization like an orchestra definitely must disclose compensation of its top management, given both its tax-exempt status and the fact that such organizations routinely hit up private individuals for contributions.

          I for one find it hard to understand how the good people of the Dallas Symphony determined that the market valued Van Zweden so much higher than his peers. I suppose a good agent persuading the board of directors of such a high valuation is also part of “market will bear.”

      • John says:

        Ellingtonia, I can’t make a “Like” or “Love” emoticon for your comment, but consider me having done both. What a patronizing moron he is. Consign ITSJTIME in the pompous, condescending nerd corner of this blog.

    • Sue says:

      Spoken like a true bolshevik.

  • Douglas says:

    What about Europe, where it’s all public money?

  • jaura says:

    Why is James Levine always left off these lists? He made in that season at least $1,200,000 and that was for a handful of performances! It has been a total scandal that an extremely ill individual should have had such a stranglehold on an organization such as the Met. Thank God it is finally over (except not really). And I know what some people are going to say—he made the orchestra what it is today, blah, blah, blah. Gave his life selflessly to the company for 40 years, blah, blah, blah…

  • Bennie says:

    Just like one of the Goldman Sachs slogans:


  • Alexander Platt says:

    Ah, these A-list conductors….what great humanitarians.

  • EricB says:

    Interesting, but yeah :
    1. Why is Levine left-out ? Because he’s a “lyric” and not symphonic conductor ?
    2. It’s only “in America”, when it’d be much more meaningful (though I admit pretty hard to compute on a trustable basis) to have a worldwide comparison.

    • MacroV says:

      I assume Drew is limiting his review to orchestras, and not factoring in opera companies (and the MET is in a category of its own in terms of US opera companies).

      Drew is also working from required filings from U.S. non-profit organizations, which gives some basis for apples-to-apples comparisons. Bringing in European institutions would muddy things up a bit.

      • Drew McManus says:

        You are correct, the Orchestra Compensation Reports examine symphonic orchestras, not opera or ballet organizations. Likewise, they include organizations with $2.5 million total expenditure and higher and their musicians must operate under a collective bargaining agreement and be a member of either ROPA, ICSOM, (AFM player conferences) or IGSOBM.

        You are also correct in that providing an apples to apples comparison between EU, UK, and US ensembles is a decidedly difficult task. I’ve performed those types of comparisons as part of consulting projects but the amount of work invovled is prohibitive for something like a blog which I author as a hobby. If the reports ever attract a major sponsor, expanding it to include ensembles outside of symphonic orchestras and countries beyond the US is certainly an option.

        Having said all of that, it is fair to point out that I do not actively court such sponsorships (but if anyone is interested, feel free to get in touch).

  • Kurt says:

    Wow. Crazy comments. More meaningless drama in the commemts than a hippo with diarrhea. Sorry just has to add more drama for drama’s sake.