ISO musicians take big pay cut to end contract dispute

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Management and musicians at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra have reached a labor-contract agreement, effectively ending a month-long lockout, the musicians' union announced Tuesday morning.

The performers said they returned to work Tuesday after ratifying two contracts late Monday, including a bridge agreement that lasts through Feb. 3, 2013, and the major financial terms of a five-year contract that spans Feb. 4, 2013, through Sept. 3, 2017.

The musicians were locked out Sept. 8, resulting in the cancellation of the first five shows of the season.

The musicians' union said the new five-year contract will cut the pay for musicians by 32 percent in the first year and reduce the year-round performance schedule by eight weeks during the first two years.

Orchestra management said the cuts are needed because of shortfalls in private donations and other revenue. The deal cuts base pay for the musicians from $78,000 to $53,000 in the first year. Pay rises to $70,000 in the final contract year, a 10-percent pay cut from the current salary.

The musicians are making $11.5 million in concessions over the length of the contract, the sides said.

Under terms of the new contract:

— The ISO's annual performance season will be shortened from about 45 weeks to a range of 38 to 42 weeks;

— Musicians' pensions and benefits will be continued;

— Positions will be cut from 87 under the previous contract to 74. The orchestra currently has 72 contract employees.

The agreement does not include an early-termination clause, language that led to a standstill earlier this month.

But the two sides might have to return to the negotiating table in February if the ISO misses a fundraising goal, said board Chairman John Thornburgh.

The parties negotiated the contract with the understanding that the ISO would raise $5 million during the bridge contract. Thornburgh said he was confident the group would reach its goal. The organization already has pulled in some money, he said, and plans to announce a significant contribution within the next few weeks.

The increased donations would bolster the ISO’s endowment, which executives have said has been giving out money at an unsustainable rate.



  • It's not the board, staff or city's fault
    to all those blaming the board or the admin, the city, the Irsays or the Simons... the real struggle the ISO faces is lack of interest from the public, low ticket sales and missed fundraising goals year after year are from lack of public support, not lack of effort or ability on the part of admin staff... a 1700 seat hall that doesn't sell out consistently in a major metro? That speaks to the population's lack of interest, not the mayor or the gov's resistance to give over tax dollars. Go buy a subscription and donate $10 a month if you really want to see the ISO survive and thrive!
  • Come again?!
    1) I am happy the musicians are back. 2) I am sad the musicians got screwed. 3) This has nothing to do with Ballard - nothing. 4) This has everything to do with the ineptitude of ISO board. Period. 5) I very much look forward to the 2013 season at Connor Prairie. I will be there, again, to support the ISO.
    • Missing in Action!
      I'm thrilled that the symphony will be back in business, not so thrilled that the musicians have to take it in the shorts to make it happen. I'd really like to know why Mayor Dullard was never of help nor did he havwe any comment during the current lock-out. I think it's deplorable that, if it was a sports issue, he'd have been willing to provide all the money tax payers could muster. But for our wonderful symphony . . . not even a word of encouragement. Apparently he's happy sitting in his big office holding onto his jock strap. Too bad for Indianapolis.
      • Cost of living
        First, I'm glad to see that an agreemen has been reached. Hopefully, the management of the ISO can start to work to build their endowment over the coming decades to avoid this kind of crisis again. I won't claim to be an expert on pay for classical musicians but there is one point often left out of this debate. Indy is one of the smaller cities to have a full time symphony and is definitely one of the lowest cost of living cities for a classical musician to live. A job in Indy that pays 70k or more with a fully funded pension is a pretty good job relative to this job market and cost of living here. It's funny how employees (or advocates for them) always want to complain about their pay in Indy but don't also recognize how cheap it is to live here. We've more than once been ranked the most affordable city for housing. That's not saying the musicians are overpaid or underpaid but it's frequently left out of the debate that while salaries may be higher in places like NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. cost of living is also enormously higher. Most of the other 18 full time orchestras in the US are going to face a higher cost of living in their city than Indy.
      • Selfless Sacrifice
        If you compare the ISO to its counter-parts in equal markets, they have made the ultimate sacrifice to continue providing a priceless service to our city and arts community. Detroit (a city struggling to even survive) is paying its symphony $80,000 a year with that being a decrease from $100,000 plus prior to 2011. Anyone still think that our musicians are overpaid?
      • Mayor Ballast
        That this whole thing transpired without a peep from our "mayor" is unconscionable. If this had happened in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Denver, Philly, Baltimore - in short a real city - their mayors would have been all over it. But our "mayor" need to be down under to see if he could bring us a didgeridoo factory I guess, so a real, bona fide Indiana business was just not that important, I guess. Well, THAT we can fix with our votes. Man, where is a real mayor like Lugar or Peterson when you need him?
      • Misinformed.
        I don't believe these posters are asking for the city to subsidize anything. Currently we ARE subsidizing the Pacers and the Colts to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year (more than that if you count the money blown on the Super Bowl we didn't need). I think the conversation involves the city INVESTING in an industry that brings more revenue to the city than the Pacers. And $78,000 for a FULL TIME position for someone with an advanced degree who works in an industry that brings in $400 million a year is actually a bargain, if you ask me.. And it IS sustainable...easily...when you have a board and management in place that know how to sustain it. But what the ISO has foisted on its musicians in the last 10 years is not that - mismanagement of endowment funds, poor marketing, failed fundraising tied to hubris and being defrauded by the Bilby's, absentee music directors – it all points to unsustainable management, not an unsustainable business model.
        • Full-time, not part-time
          DC Indy - You're grossly mistaken that the work the symphony musicians do is part-time. This is one of fewer than 20 full-time orchestras in the US. The season was 45 weeks per year, which is the number of weeks that there are shows. They work year-round. In addition to full-time (40 hour) work weeks, many of the musicians teach private lessons and volunteer at schools to provide inner city kids with an opportunity to learn how to appreciate and perform music. That helps build up our city. I'm a sports fan as well, and hope our Colts and Pacers climb back up from their poor performance history. As GEO already pointed out, the symphony is a victim of many years of bad management and absentee music directors. There are plenty of people who do enjoy and support the arts. I am a season ticket subscriber to the symphony, so I already spend over $1,000 per year to attend the concerts, but that doesn't mean I can write another check on top of that to support the organization. The board was irresponsible with the money, and for that, music fans should just be okay with possibly losing top talent and soiling our city's reputation as a place to enjoy something as universal as a professional orchestra? I don't think so. Just because you don't like classical music or like to pay taxes, don't lose site of what the activity on the Circle from the ISO provides for our fine city.
        • Other Resources
          First, $78,000 per year for only part time work, plus a pension (probably one of those underfunded union defined benefit plans) seems pretty generous. If it's unsustainable, so be it. If you like to attend the symphony, great. In addition to paying for your tickets, you have the opportunity to make a generous contribution to the ISO. And the ISO has all kinds of opportunities to raise funds from other sources than ticket sales. As another contributor posted, this is 2012. Don't blame the citizens of Indianapolis, or the mayor. And don't expect the taxpayers to subsidize it.
          • Ignorance is bliss....
            However you did (probably inadvertently) actually hit on the real problem facing our orchestra. It's not costs or ticket sales, it's inept management and poor marketing and ham-handed fundraising and a succession of absentee music directors since Maestro Leppard that are the actual cause of this problem. I agree with the Geo post above, it's a real shame the musicians are made to bear the brunt of this and effectively have to underwrite the failures of the people - the board and the management - that have been charged with the stewardship of this Indiana treasure. It really is a dark day...too bad only the musicians and we true supporters actually realize it.
          • Immeasurable Value
            The ISO is part of an arts "industry" that brings $400 million - $400 million - a year to Indianapolis. The ISO set its flag in the Circle and was one of the first "investors" in downtown Indy BEFORE the mall. Yet the ISO receives $175,000 a year (part of $1 million a year) that the city invests to support Indy's arts machine. Compare that to the Pacers. They bring $55 million - 10 times less than the arts community – to the city yet Indy pays about $10 million a year in extortion money to keep the team here. Makes no sense. This isn't an art versus sports argument. It's an argument that there is room for the arts in what the city supports. A symphony brings investment. It brings business. It brings stature. All supposed "reasons" the city dumped almost a billion dollars into a money-losing Super Bowl bid. Maybe the big game had better parties. The hookers were certainly hot. Maybe the big game was a bigger ego boost. But the symphony is a better investment and the city swung and missed on this one. The ISO musicians were already the lowest paid of any major symphony in the country. That they were made to bear the brunt of bad management, poor marketing, lackluster fundraising is a real shame. And we've not yet begun to feel the impact. As one poster mentioned below, we will in a year when our top musicians have left and we are the Indianoplace Community Orchestra. This is a dark day for Indy and the small-minded John Thornburghs and Jackie Groths of the world are probably gloating now, but its going to be their names mentioned with derision in the ISO's epitaph. Shame on you.
          • Not quite
            David, you clearly haven't been to any of the performances in the last couple of years. Have you seen the crowd at the Happy Hour shows? At the Ben Folds show? Even at Friday night classical shows? It may not be a full house at every show, but the crowd has grown younger, the energy greater, and groups like Forte allow people who are passionate about symphonic music to connect. You assumption that those of us who support the ISO are out of touch is naive and frustrating to the many people who have sent their lives enjoying classical music. Thinking beyond just the music, the benefits a full time orchestra bring to the city are innumerable. Musicians constantly teach music in our urban schools and give kids a reason to not wander the streets and get n trouble, often for no pay. They teach private lessons to children in every school in the city. They bring life (and huge crowds) to Connor Priairie every summer. And they put Indy in a small circle of cities in the US that supports a full time orchestra, which draws people to the heart our city, both literally and figuratively. Just because you do not support classical music, don't try to speak for our city. Oh, and by the way, I'm 37 and have many friends my age and younger (including my four kids) who don't know what they would do without what the ISO offers to our city.
          • Too Bad
            Too bad this was framed as a contract dispute between the ISO and the Musicans Union. Think of what could happen is the 2 sides would work together to increase the reveunes of the orchestra (instead of fighting over the last few dollars left). Clearly the ISO could not continue to stay in operation with declining revenues and increasing costs.
          • Get with the times
            What is truly sad is that the few people who are symphony "supporters" do not get it. This is 2012 and people's tastes have changed. No longer do they wish to spend money on the symphony when they have other, better, entertainment options available. It is time those people realize the basic principle of economics...supply and demand. If they want the symphony to be full time with great pay and benefits then form a non-for-profit fundraising organization to supplement the pay of the ISO. Oops, there already is one...
            • RIP
              It's going to be sad to see the musicians of our ISO leaving over the coming months to pursue more lucrative offers at other orchestras - and in other cities - that actually value them and their hard-earned talents. It didn't have to be this way - dealing with the symptoms instead of the real problem which is a nearly decades-long management void. But that chicken will come home to roost, I suppose, when the Indianoplace Community Orchestra takes the stage, oh, in about a year, give or take. Bad deal forced by bad people on a good orchestra. Shame on us all (and I'm talking to you, Mayor Ballast).

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