Lyric latest: Musicians hit Freud below the money belt

Lyric latest: Musicians hit Freud below the money belt


norman lebrecht

October 11, 2018

From the musicians’ latest statement:

‘Freud and Lyric’s upper management have exploded the budget from $60.4 million in 2012 to $84.5 in 2017.  Where has that $24 million gone?  Certainly not to the orchestra.  As we’ve pointed out, the orchestra’s share of the budget shrank from 14.6% to 11.9% during that time.

‘Here’s one clue:  while the musicians’ salaries have stagnated, Freud’s has not.  He saw a compensation increase of 18% from 2014 to 2017.  In 2016 alone, right after the orchestra musicians agreed to a wage-neutral contract with health care cuts, Freud got a 16% raise.  His annual salary last year was a staggering $784,387 – roughly 12 times a musician’s base salary of $65,912 this year.

‘Consider this simple fact:  each orchestra musician stands to lose at least $6,000 this year as a result of Freud’s proposed cuts.  He makes that much in just three days.’

Steady on. You guys are going to have to work together again some day.



  • Michael B. says:

    This is ridiculous. Why is so much money going to this legion of suits who can’t and don’t play, sing, or conduct one note? What do these people do anyway? The American music establishment will have to give most of these administrators the heave-ho if they want organizations like the Chicago Lyric Opera to survive in any manner.,

    • Doug says:

      Look, I am on the side of the musicians in this case, but to ask “what do these people do anyway?” is complete and total ignorance of institutions that keep the art alive. But back to the matter at hand: run Freud out of town on a rail.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      They raise funds and thats more than 50% of the budget. So it is very, very important. But the “suits” need to realize that when people donate, they are donating to the music, of which the orchestra is a big, big part.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        It seems that most US orchestras and opera companies employ a large number of administrators to raise money…to largely pay for the administration.

  • Larry says:

    Excellent point by Doug!

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    You need front office to do everything the musicians cannot. Stupid thing to say “what do they do”?

  • Such salaries for staff are totally out of proportion. It is the result of a parasitic mentality which sees the art form as a means of enrichment, skimming resources which are meant for the performances: i.e. the musicians. Management staff is important and necessary but should be considered entirely subservient, not exploitative.

  • buxtehude says:

    @ John — I think as culture of looting got a big boost about thirty years back when “arts management” found its way into college and university curricula. Suddenly there was a way for people who couldn’t paint or play or dance, to play a prominent part and even to make out very well indeed, hence the top-heavy and often overpaid superstructure you sometimes find. It’s very noticeable in dance, when the corps is paid almost nothing to dance on broken feet. Of course even the highest paid AAs don’t see their role as looting.

    But as you say management and marketing is essential and about as un-fun nowadays as being a university president, those people can rarely take the job for more than a few years in the US. Even the overpayments don’t represent a surplus that could make a big difference if reclaimed. When admin salaries are in future slashed Boards will still manage to find someone to apply the knife, if more crudely and with fewer fine words.