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Thread: Are conductors overpaid?

  1. #16
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Should and shouldn't is irrelevant. They do, and it's great that at least some real artists are raking in the dough too.
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    The fact is that 25000 pounds for one concert is too much. Compare this to the money earned by the great composers, and you'll get my drift. There are so many examples. Like Berlioz couldn't earn a living from music, he was only given guest conductorships, he had to earn his living from musical journalism. He was only recognised with a Legion of Honour at the very end, but I doubt this made much difference to him financially. So when you compare the lives of these jet setting conductors to those of the composers whose works they perform, there is a huge, unjustifiable discrepancy. Not to mention the players in the orchestras which they conduct...
    Question: does 2 wrongs make 1 right? Does underpaying the conductors justify underpaying the composers/orchestra crew?

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    The fact is that 25000 pounds for one concert is too much. Compare this to the money earned by the great composers, and you'll get my drift. There are so many examples. Like Berlioz couldn't earn a living from music, he was only given guest conductorships, he had to earn his living from musical journalism. He was only recognised with a Legion of Honour at the very end, but I doubt this made much difference to him financially. So when you compare the lives of these jet setting conductors to those of the composers whose works they perform, there is a huge, unjustifiable discrepancy. Not to mention the players in the orchestras which they conduct...
    There is no sensible link that can be drawn between the justifiable pay of present-day top conductors and the earnings of historical composers whose works they perform. On your reckoning top rate conductors should be paid a pittance when performing works by Schubert, but handsomely when playing works by Brahms. Most people wouldn't have the slightest trouble seeing that this argument doesn't make any sense at all. The fact is that there's a "going rate" for top conductors and run-of-the-mill musicians, and the two are poles apart. Much the same applies in any profession. No amount of huffing and puffing about these disparities will change the situation, so it's academic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    So then let me ask if you were to become in charge of the remuneration committee for the London orchestra that reputedly has paid hitherto £25 k per performance to one of its conductors:

    (i) What amount would you set in future that you considered fair?

    (ii) How would you determine this amount?

    (iii) What would you do if the conductor thought the amount too low, pointed two fingers at you and moved elsewhere?


    What's fair and what is reality in our current economy have no relationship. Personally, I have no problem with what a conductor such as Rattle, Gardiner, Salonen, etc... is earning. In no way does it seem exorbitant considering the challenges of the job, the scarcity of the skills on the level of which we are speaking, etc... $100 million for an athlete over 5 years, or $50 million a year for a less-than-mediocre singer pop star or actor? I'd he no problem with telling them to go elsewhere (and you can probably guess where)... I don't think we'd lose out much if Madonna stopped recording or Tom Cruise made no more films... but obviously there are others of another mind. If they are willing to foot the obscene salaries I have no problem. Where the problem arises in when public money is utilized to subsidize such salaries... as in the case of many sports stars where the cities subsidize the costs through tax abatement or other means as a result of of a misguided belief that a professional sport's team is essential to a city's survival/reputation. I doubt New York would collapse into obscurity without the Yankees or Jets. Its also hard to believe that the CEOs of corporations such as GM are worth their astronomical salaries. My guess is that even the most inept MBA could have driven the company in bankruptcy equally well. The idea of continuing to pay such salaries as well as bonuses after borrowing public money from the government is not merely questionable... it is simply criminal.
    From your reply I gather that you have no comment on the fees currently paid to the top conductors of the London orchestras? I take it that you are content with these fees, and that all of your observations (e.g. to Madonna, Tom Cruise etc) relate to what you perceive to be excessive earnings in other contexts, not classical music.

  5. #20
    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 52paul View Post
    Are conductors overpaid?
    NO.

    Next- before I comment further, I want to make sure I'm not misapprehending the points made in the following:
    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    I don't think we'd lose out much if Madonna stopped recording or Tom Cruise made no more films... but obviously there are others of another mind. If they are willing to foot the obscene salaries I have no problem.
    I'm guessing you cited these two as examples of those whose earnings would be untouched by the (now not so theoretical) Compensation Czar, for which dispensation they're doubtless grateful. Yet when you say this--
    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    Where the problem arises in when public money is utilized to subsidize such salaries...
    is this also a generalized complaint, OR is it your viewpoint that receipt of public monies opens an employment entity up to the ministrations of the Compensation Czar?

    Since Lc12 "me, too-ed" these points, I'd be interested in his feedback, as well

  6. #21
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    i have no concept of morality and simply bow down before "the market". whatever it decides is right and just

  7. #22
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    I am with Rasa on this one. The time a conductor spends on the podium is very short compared to the time spent in applying his experience, skills, technique and knowledge behind the scenes. In many ways he ( or she ) is, like the original composer; the creation of the music - and the composer's interpretation of it has to be taken into account.

    I can't remember the actual data but I read in a Karajan autobiography of the number of times music would be rehearsed before it was heard / seen / experienced in the concert hall. It was impressive. That TV programma, Maestro, infuriated me. The very thought that all a conductor does is wave a little stick was so utterly false. But that's what you get when you have a dumbed down population.

    Very often the conductor too is multi-skilled and able to competently play instruments. Placido Domingo is not only a great opera tenor; he ticks most boxes when it comes to the creation and management of production. He also conducts, and is a gifted pianist.

    The conductor is, depending on personality, very much involved in all aspects of production. It was said of Karajan that he took responsibility for so much that went into a successful production that he would have manned the box office and guided people to their sets if he could. Worth every penny.

  8. #23
    Junior Member 52paul's Avatar
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    In today's Guardian there is a response to the original article. It is by by Clive Gillinson, artistic director of Carnegie Hall and ex managing director of the London Symphony Orchestra. His response is entitled:

    "The role of the conductor is crucial to the performance of an orchestra

    A great musical experience cannot be created simply by getting the notes right"


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...live-gillinson
    Last edited by 52paul; Oct-28-2009 at 19:30. Reason: Forgot to add link

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by 52paul View Post
    In today's Guardian there is a response to the original article. It is by by Clive Gillinson, artistic director of Carnegie Hall and ex managing director of the London Symphony Orchestra. His response is entitled:

    "The role of the conductor is crucial to the performance of an orchestra

    A great musical experience cannot be created simply by getting the notes right"


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...live-gillinson
    This latest article doesn't amount to a row of beans in terms of furthering the discussion. It was argued in the original article that a conductor's contribution cannot be so vast as to justify fees of £25,000 per performance as paid to top conductors by some London orchestras. This further article merely re-asserts what most sensible classical music fans already know, namely that conductors can play a vital role in producing good/outstanding results. It doesn't touch on the issue of the need/morality of paying sky-high fees paid to a select few conductors. The answer of course is that those at the very top of the conducting profession are rare, highly talented creatures, and it's simply the outcome of market forces that determines their fees. It's only some left-wing socialist newspaper, "The Grauniad" that would carry such a silly story in the first place.

  10. #25
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by michael walsh View Post
    I am with Rasa on this one. The time a conductor spends on the podium is very short compared to the time spent in applying his experience, skills, technique and knowledge behind the scenes. In many ways he ( or she ) is, like the original composer; the creation of the music - and the composer's interpretation of it has to be taken into account.
    hmmm... I would never say the composers job isn't labor intensive. It can be every bit (and often more) demanding than the performer's quota. Every try composing something that you knew you'd have to work on for 1-3 years?

    But conductors work pretty damn hard too. It's not exactly all hunky dory trying to memorize every single aspect of a symphony that is going to last an hour or two. I've done some conducting myself, and it's some of the most mentally rigorous work a person could possibly do.

    How would you like it if someone handed you a massive stack of paper and told you you'd be all right if you'd just pretend you're The Rainman?
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

  11. #26
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    Honestly, I think conductors are paid rather fairly. It would shock you to know how much a soloist is paid per performance (This isn't classical, bu for example, Bernadette Peters doesn't leave her house for under $100,000). We have to keep in mind that many conductors earn the money they are making: flying around the world, leaving their families, endlessly studying scores, etc. Yes, we as conductors LOVE this experience, but we also consider it work. Ok.. I admit.. I think lots of these people are overpaid. But as long as soloists coming in are making SOO much more, and the administrative and business executives are making SOO MUCH MORE than the orchestra, I think the conductor's pay should not be cut.

  12. #27
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    Whether top conductors are overpaid or not is debatable.
    But any one who thinks that working with the top orchestras and opera companies on a regular basis, or being the music director of any of them is an easy job,could not be more mistaken.
    Becoming a world-class conductor requires not only great talent, but years of rigorous training in music theory,history,composition and conducting technique.
    One has to master at least one musical instrument first, such as piano, violin or cello etc.
    And the techiniqe of conducting is anything but easy. The basic beat patterns are very easy to learn, but actually putting them into practice is extremely tricky.
    One has to have a superb ear and be able to detect faulty intonation and orchestral balance , as correct it, as well as to ensure precision of ensemble , which is far from easy.
    One has to have thorough knowledge of all the different orchestral instruments, bowing for strings etc, and if one is going to conduct opera, vocal technique.
    A conductor has to learn how to rehearse efficiently and to show leadership. It requires an enormous amount of ability in dealing with musicians and psychology to earn the respect of the musicians, who do not suffer fools gladly, and can detect an incompetent conductor instantly
    and won't tolerate incompetence for a minute.
    Conducting the top orchestras and opera companies is an extremely high pressure job and being a music director requires constant decicion making and the ability to deal with people
    effectively.
    It requires decisions in hiring or(rarely) firing musicians and working with audition committees on this, which is anything but easy, long term planning of repertoire, dealing with the
    orchestra;'s management and patrons, which is also anything but easy.
    In addition, conducting is extremely tiring physically and conductors are prone to physicl ailments such as bursitis, back trouble etc.
    Being a world-class conductor may sound like a really glamorous job, but it's one of the toughest jobs in existence.

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  14. #28
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    Sometimes you need to get some more compensation for being the person to deal with difficult people and the stress that comes from being in the public eye.

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