Daily as an arts manager I receive dozens of unsolicited emails and material from artists I’ve never heard of and those materials are instantly discarded to clear my inbox and desk of excess clutter. Meanwhile I sometimes meet talented artists who ask, “how do I get booked to play more?”
Quite a number of years ago I had my first fulltime job in arts administration in a major US orchestra. I assisted the General Manager in administering the contracting of guest artists. The first thing I was told was to throw out all unsolicited material–no one wanted to see it, or hear it. I was horrified at the waste and for awhile made the effort to return the material–only to be met with angry inquiries and indignant letters about why I hadn’t put the material in the correct hands! Needless to say, from then on I simply trashed unsolicited promotional packages.
So if emails, glossy packages and promotional CD’s won’t get you a booking, what will?
Our business, the music business, is very much a word-of-mouth industry. Most of your bookings are going to come from direct or secondary contacts in the industry so you have to make sure that you make as many contacts as possible and that all those contacts are very positive.
1. The Music Director: When you perform with a conductor, remember that individual is likely also Music Director of 1 or more additional orchestras or ensembles. Find out about those connections, show interest, get details and you may be on the way to a follow-up performance with one of maestro’s other groups.
2. The Orchestra: Remember that many of the musicians in the orchestra have contacts with additional orchestras and ensembles, and may themselves be administering a chamber series in the area. Be cordial and friendly with orchestra members and find out about these networking opportunities.
3. Arts Administrators: Far from all programming decisions are made by Artistic Directors. Often decisions are left up to Artistic Administrators and General Managers, and certainly administrative vetoes are something to be avoided. Unpleasant, pushy, demanding and disorganized guest artists are just unlikely to be invited back. And if you have an agent who falls into this category, you might like to re-think whether that bull-dog attitude is good for you in the long run. If your agent managed to push someone like me into exceeding the orchestra’s capacity to pay or accommodate you in some way this time—enjoy it. You are extremely unlikely to be asked back and word that you are difficult or your agent is difficult will be telegraphed from manager to manager in short order. So unless you are a leading international virtuoso whose whims must be tolerated, think twice about bullying orchestra administrative staff. They will accommodate you once and then write you off the list. Remember that smaller organizations may not be able to provide as much as larger organizations. The simple willingness to take a taxi rather than demand personal airport pick-up will endear you to many a harried administrator’s heart!
4. Other arts organizations. Don’t forget the decision-makers in other local and regional arts organizations when you are performing. Likely you have more complimentary tickets than you can use. Invite decision-makers to be your guests at a performance. Don’t just invite the top people. If they can’t come, invite the Marketing Director, the Arts Administrator, the Program Assistant. Word of your great concert will travel in that organization.
5. Your web site: While aggressive forms of marketing (email spam, mega brochure mailers) are a waste of money, having a good up-to-date, easy to find website is essential in today’s world. When I hear about a potential artist, I immediately Google them. If I can’t find information right away I form a negative impression.
In addition, once I have booked an artist I need photos, bios, quotes from reviews. If they are all on your site, your promotion gets started months before artists who have to be asked for promotional material or who send material in paper format. We are simply too busy to be efficient at re-typing, scanning and editing copy that is in such an inflexible format. If you want to have more control over how your bio is edited, provide a number of “brief bio” options on your site. If you have one two page opus, be prepared to only see the first paragraph or two in print most of the time. If you think that’s your agent’s job, how well are they doing it? If not too well, it might be worth your while to bite the bullet and put your own site together.
6. Reviews–You need them. Post them on your website and circulate to all the contacts that you make in your developing career. Extracting a few choice quotes makes it easy for your bookers to get your promotion off the ground all that much faster!
What do you need to be booked?
1. Talent. 2. Opportunities for decision-makers to hear about your talent directly or through trusted contacts. 3. A comprehensive website for research purposes and promotional purposes. (doesn’t need to be fancy) 4. A professional and agreeable attitude with everyone in the business so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot!
The third in a series of articles on arts administration.
One of the most frequent questions an arts administrator gets asked by members of the audience or interested others is, “How do you decide what’s on the program?” Or, on a very bad day, “How did that damned piece of trash get programmed?”
When I served as interim General Director of Opera Ontario, I played a key role in an initiative to look at the processes within the organization with a view to reforming the human resource structures that supported those processes. Here’s what the artistic planning flow chart looked like.
Whether you can read the fine print in the diagram or not, it should be clear that the answer of how program planning happens is not a simple one! This is true of all arts organizations but I am going to speak from what I know best, the planning processes in orchestra, opera and music presenting organizations.
Central to the planning process is the relationship and exchange of ideas between the Artistic Director or Music Director and whomever is in the key Artistic Administrator role–in the case of the chart above the Central role in planning is the relationship between the Music Director and the General Director, with many other streams feeding information into the mix.
Sometimes audience members assume that the Artistic Director or Music Director is solely responsible for what gets on stage or is heard in the concert hall. While the AD has a key role in setting the priorities for the season, usually decides on the theme for artistic seasons and the repertoire for many concerts, it is rare to find a situation in which the AD takes total responsibility for artistic planning. Why?
Time is one obvious factor. In a major US orchestra where I served as Artistic Coordinator, the Music Director spent 14 weeks with us during the year, half of that time was spent in rehearsal, leaving little time for Artistic Planning meetings. Many Music Directors lead more than one orchestra and have active guest conducting lives. Our orchestra performed 150 concerts during a 39 week season. It’s not hard to see that others would have to connect the dots in the Music Director’s plan for the season. The Music Director would set out the plan for major concerts, plan the repertoire, indicate some guest artists, shortlist alternatives and leave it to us to try to make happen. We’d touch base over the roughly three years that it takes from initial plan to season announcement, tweaking repertoire, artist line-up and schedule.
In addition to the input from the Artistic Director, arts organizations have to listen to their audience, consider what their budget can manage, keep on top of trends in the arts community, listen to the needs and abilities of their musicians, consider priorities of government arts councils, and consider other funding sources for programming. Secondarily, arts organizations have to consider links to other programming, ties to festivals and/or community events, and finally, the logistics of production planning.
I frequently hear from audience members who wonder–sometimes with considerable irritation and longing–why we “just can’t program the music that everyone knows and loves.” And there are several answers.
The first one is that audience taste IS a huge part of what we think about when we program–but it can’t be the only thing. Experience has taught arts administrators that even the audience tires of programming that only offers them mainstream repertoire. The fact is that people don’t know what they like until you offer it to them. The sucessful Artistic Director will offer their audience the occasional unfamiliar fare that will fit well with more familiar programming to tweak their interest and give them something novel to think about. Only then does the programming stay fresh.
We pay our Artistic Director for his/her vision as an artist and we have to respect that vision and not subjugate it unduly to audience taste. But obviously we can’t pay our Artistic Director if no one comes to the concerts so those two polarities are really an important balancing act in programming. But they are not the only forces.
In thinking about the development of our musicians, we have to provide them with some new challenges to keep their artistic lives interesting and to retain the best musicians–a goal that also serves our audiences well.
We also have to consider the mandate of our national, provincial and municipal Arts Councils in developing and supporting artists and the body of creative art within their jurisdiction. More than once I have heard Board Members in meetings–sometimes with Arts Councils–say, “but you are penalizing us for programming what is popular, what the audience wants”.
Yes they are, …. and …. what’s more…in some ways, that’s their job.
This is astonishing news to rookie Board Members who often believe that the job of Arts Councils is to reward the number of bodies you put in seats at your concerts. Quite the contrary. The Arts Councils’ job is support the development of art with a longer view–to support that which is not commercially viable, or not yet commercially viable, and in particular to foster the artists and creative arts within their jurisdiction.
So if your organization relies on funding from government arts councils–and in Canada music organizations derive an average of 30% of their annual budget from government sources according to the last survey of the Business and the Arts Council–then you have to consider in what way your programming can utilize local artists and music composed within our own country, province and municipality. For those of us that care about the future of the art form, this is not an onerous task, but really makes us a living part of the art form as opposed to serving in the other important role of being curators of the art of the past. Where would Mozart have been if the audiences of his day turned up their noses at “new music” and refused to listen to what were then contemporary compositions?
Participating in community festivals can provide several huge bonuses to arts organizations and this participation generally impacts on programming. (eg. In order to qualify for a regional Mozart festival, you generally have to program Mozart.) Sometimes the reverse happens and programming can suggest festival possibilities. As General Manager of Soundstreams Canada in 2003-2004, we were programming a major concert of works by R. Murray Schafer on the occasion of his 70th birthday year. It seemed likely that others would be doing the same and so we looked about and asked those organizations to join us in packaging and marketing our various concerts as a Schafer festival.
The advantages to this sort of festival are: the ability to pool marketing dollars and get more marketing than any one arts organization could afford, cross-marketing between the audiences of each arts organization, the access to special funds ear-marked for festivals, sharing resources of various kinds between arts organizations, package deals that benefit arts attenders, the ability to build comprehensive arts education events around the thematically linked events. Programming for existing festivals or to make festivals possible is a win-win for everyone.
Less obvious to the audience members may be the links that the arts organization is making to educational or audience o
utreach initiatives. For example, the audience members at an orchestra series may not know that the programming of three works relating to literature over three concerts, is part of a “Literacy in Education” project that is being delivered in community High Schools. Programming those works not only builds cross-curricular connections for students but also allows for some economies for the orchestra in being able to apply some of the educational program funding to administrative costs and rehearsal costs, as allowed by the program. Building an educational program or educational concert on repertoire being offered on a main stage concert makes that program more affordable.
Audience outreach programs both deepen the enjoyment and understanding of existing audience and are initiatives that reach out to potential new audience members. For an example this season, my orchestra, the Toronto Philharmonia, is doing some outreach to the Chinese community that lives within the audience catchment area. We have programmed this concert which features a composition for erhu and orchestra and Chinese classical music artists, in the hopes of engaging newer members of our community and attracting the investment of Chinese business and corporations in the area. But we wouldn’t have programmed it unless our Artistic Director thought it was great music and fit well in the context of this season. We also hope our existing audience will find the program engaging, broadening their experience to the sounds of a Chinese traditional instrument–albeit in the context of a western orchestra concerto.
The importance of programming within budget is largely self-explanatory but the way this plays out within the program planning team may not be so clear. We start with a draft budget of assumptions about artistic costs. When one concert is finalized over-budget because the soloists could not be contracted for less or the Music Director insists on a larger orchestra, we have to make up the savings on another concert. This can involve decisions ranging from presenting an emerging artist, a concert with a chamber-sized orchestra or deciding that the concert must be programmed entirely from music that the orchestra owns–to save on music rental and shipping costs.
Of particular interest to artists is how those rare “emerging artists” spots are filled. It is simpler to tell you how they don’t get filled. In my experience it is never because an agent has talked us into it or an unsolicited CD arriving on our desk has blown us away. Agent material and unsolicited CD’s are disposed of unopened in most arts organizations–a terrible waste but no one has the time or inclination to review them and returning the material costs us money. Most often the Music Director has heard the young artist perform with another orchestra, a recital or at a competition, and extends an invitation to the young performer to appear with the orchestra in a future season. Occasionally the recommendation can come from another trusted source. Sometimes organizations tap into young artist programs from Europe or Asia that subsidize travel or otherwise help with the programming of young artists from their country. Lastly, we may choose to develop and promote the careers our own musicians by offering them a concerto appearance. This year our orchestra is presenting our Principal Violist, Jonathan Craig, playing the lovely Walton Viola Concerto on April 10 2008. details.
When people ask me about how financial considerations affect programming, they are often asking whether corporations, major donors, foundations or government arts councils force particular programming choices on the orchestra. I have to say that I have never known that to happen–which surprises people. What happens more often is that we have two or three artistic ideas and only one of them finds sponsorship. We look at the mandate and interests of a corporate or foundation funder and pitch them the program that we think might appeal.
How does production logistics affect programming? Usually a program starts with one artist or repertoire selection that is non-negotiable and all else is built around that core.
If we have X artist playing Y concerto, we first consider the instrumentation of the chosen Y concerto. If it has, for example, harp and trombones as part of the orchestration, we’ll want to utilize them in the other half of the program–or at least we’ll have that option. If the concerto has a smaller orchestra with limited brass, no harp, no piano, we may want to look at a complimentary programming selection within the instrumentation of our core selection. Otherwise we are adding cost to our program–perhaps to little artistic value.
What else? We consider the problem of seating latecomers in building our program–the main reason why so many concerts begin with short works– and we have to also think about our concert order.
I overheard a group of audience members speculating recently about why the symphony was on the first half and the concerto was on the second half–a less frequent concert order. Speculation ranged from, “they wanted to stop people from going home at the intermission who just came for the soloist”, through, “that symphony would have put me to sleep in the second half”, to “they wanted to end with a bang!”
All excellent thoughts and worthy of consideration. However, the real reason was that the opening small work at the top of the concert had orchestral piano as a part of the instrumentation. Had we also had the piano concerto in the first half, we would have been required to move all of the violins off stage, move most of the violin section’s chairs and music stands, then move the piano from the rear of the orchestra into soloist position–all while the audience sat twiddling their thumbs and rattling their programs. A tasteless interruption in a beautiful evening of music.
These are just some of the factors that must be balanced in programming an arts season. And finally, despite the varied considerations and forces acting on programming, the season must emerge with a sense of unified artistic vision through the Music Director’s ability to say “no” to whatever great or cost-saving idea might come forward when it really is just not artistically possible.
The World Bank has been in the news recently with the focus on the misdeeds of its CEO, President Paul Wolfowitz. As the revelations have come forward in the news, it has been publicized that a whistle-blower brought allegations of conflict-of-interest and other irregular human resources practices to the bank’s Board of Directors who took no action on these allegations. In retrospect, the Board looks pretty foolish and was certainly not fulfilling its stewardship role.
What is your board’s policy on whistle-blowing? What role does your board have in assuring that proper human resource management practices are being followed? If you can’t answer those questions, then this article is for you.
Board responsibility for human resource policy: Boards do have a responsibility to assure that their organization is following fair and legal human resources policies. Beyond assuring the health of their organization and being good employers, the board’s oversight of human resource policies has fiscal implications and boards generally understand their responsibility for fiscal stewardship. High staff turnover costs money in training new staff and the expectation that new staff will be less effective during the period while they are familiarizing themselves with the job and key tasks. Egregiously inappropriate human resource management puts the organization at financial risk in a variety of ways: human rights complaints, employment standards complaints, wrongful dismissal law-suits, and fines and penalities for late or incorrect employment benefit deductions are obvious financial repercussions of poor human resource management. Less obvious is the loss of sponsorships, donors and grant funding when the “buzz” in the community about your organization is that it is ineffectively managed and a poor employer.
Separation of Board and Management responsibility: “But what about the separation of management and board responsibilities?” you ask. “Isn’t human resource policy a management role?” The role that board plays in human resource management can vary, but it is an important one.
The role that board plays in human resource policy needs to be clearly defined in the organization. And the personnel policies of the organization also must be clearly defined.
This is one aspect of non-profit governance where Board and Management must work together and where responsibility is shared. Boards can sometimes overstep their bounds and compromise the role of manager by becoming involved in day-to-day supervisory management issues. But washing their hands totally of human resource policy issues—often in a mistaken belief that this is the way to show support for management’s role—is unacceptable. Doing so is to abdicate a key responsibility of the Board for stewardship of the organization’s financial position and reputation in the community.
Defining the Board’s role in human resource policy: What defined roles can a non-profit board assume in human resource management? The answer depends on the size of the board, the size of the organization, the role of the board and the strengths within the board. Initially in a new organization or an organization without any human resource policies, the board will likely want to develop and assume responsibility for writing a human resource manual of policies, ideally in cooperation with management and department heads. In developing the organization’s first human resource manual the Board should 1) look for resources from national/provincial agencies supporting non-profit organizations, 2) collect manuals from other similar organizations to its own, and finally 3) look for evidence of existing policies within its own organization.
Finding existing policies in your organization: How do you look for policies within your organization when you don’t yet have a human resource manual? Ask everyone in the organization to send you copies of memos and decisions that have been made on any human resource issue. If employees have been allowed to carry vacation time accrued for a year in your organization, you don’t want to write a policy that allows for no accrual of vacation time. You want to be consistent and fair in your development of policies. You may be pleasantly surprised by the amount of policy that is in place within the organization. By bringing these policies together in a manual, you make them accessible to all and reveal the few places where policy development is needed.
Ongoing Board oversight of human resource policy: Boards can write policies, approve policies or merely warrant that proper personnel policies are in place. But in all cases they should be aware of the existence of a human policy manual and assure that those policies are appropriate and appropriately followed. Often a committee of the board, made up of individuals with particular expertise in human resource management is charged with the job of writing and oversight of human resource policy. This committee may be mandated to write all policy or take on only key policy areas as articulated by the Board.
Health and Safety policy: Non-profit boards often forget health and safety issues when writing human resource policy. Don’t make this mistake. Beyond office workplace safety issues such as repetitive strain injury, non-profit organizations often engage in activities that can place employees at risk. You want to be on the record as mandating that employees follow safety precautions when lifting heavy materials, operating machinery or traveling on company business. You want to assure that federal and provincial safety standards are known and followed. If your workplace is large enough to require a Health and Safety Officer, insure that your Personnel Policy Manual articulates the procedure for selecting one. Accidents will happen, but you want to assure that you have policies in place to protect employees from being asked to engage in unsafe practices. Non-profit workers have reported violations such as being asked to work in food bank warehouses without safety boots or hard hats while stacking crates that could crush them if they toppled. Arts workers have been asked to ride unsecured in the backs of trucks carrying exhibition materials weighing tons, and workers have been made sick after being exposed to toxic levels of print fumes from working in unventilated conditions with boxes of thousands of freshly printed brochures.
Conflict resolution: What is the Board’s role in workplace conflict resolution? Conflict resolution should be a part of the employment policies articulated in the personnel policy manual. The volunteer board understandably does not want to hear day-to-day employee complaints. If they are, this is symptomatic of a flawed system of dealing with complaints in the workplace. But it would equally be a mistake to shut down dialogue with employees. A policy of never listening to
employees would pave the way to a future embarrassment similar to the one facing the World Bank Board this year. They were presented with the evidence of management wrong-doing and they shut down the employee bringing them this evidence. As a result the employee went to the press.
Progressive system of dispute resolution: Within the personnel policy manual there should be a clearly articulated progressive policy for employee complaint resolution in the same way that there should be a progressive discipline policy for employee violation of company policies and job role expectation.
What does this mean in practice? It should mean that the first step in any employee complaint is that the employee first discusses the matter with their direct supervisor, or where that is inappropriate (for example if the complaint were to involve harassment by that very supervisor) then to go to the next level of authority. Response to the complaint with a suggested plan of action should be delivered to the employee within a reasonable time frame that should be spelled out in the employee manual. Should the employee not be satisfied with the action plan, the organization should provide a vehicle for a final appeal process. It should be clearly stated in the employee policy manual that no punitive action for employee complaints will be tolerated by the organization.
Board role in dispute resolution: The Board should provide some means for employees to carry complaints forward beyond the management level. By the time employee complaints are heard by the Board, usually two or more attempts to resolve the complaint will have been made at the staff level, departmental and upper management. It should be noted that it could be construed as a violation of the employee’s right to privacy to force the employee to discuss their complaint in front of the whole Board. Instead it is often advised that the Board develop a Personnel Committee to meet with employees in a confidential manner and to share their deliberations with the Board, without violating confidential information about individual employees. Such a committee will usually be comprised of two or three individuals that the Board views as having the best skills for such a committee.
It should be noted that in a unionized setting, the Board’s Personnel Committee will work within agreed upon arbitration processes.
Other duties of the Personnel Committee: Other duties of the committee will include annual evaluation of the Executive Director or General Manager, periodic reviews of compensation levels in the organization relevant to the sector, reviews of organizational structure/departmental structure, and the important task of exit interviews. Exit interviews provide a series of snapshots of the organization from different vantage points from people who can provide impartial viewpoints as they no longer have a vested interest in protecting their jobs or advancement within the organization. A policy of exit interviews is effective only when conducted with all possible employees. It is less useful when the Board only chooses to interview either positive or very angry exiting employees.
In smaller organizations, one or more representatives of the Personnel Committee may be involved in employee evaluations and in all cases the Board should assure a fair, objective, consistent evaluation process and that evaluations are in a standard written format with opportunity for employee response.
Key indicators of an organization with effective human resource policies:
1. A Board approved consistent and regularly updated employee policy manual that is provided to all employees. 2. Employees are aware of company policies, can articulate them on query, and compliance is high 3. Most complaints are resolved at the departmental or management level without Board intervention. The occasional complaint that comes to the Board level is dealt with according to established policy. 4. Management and Personnel Committees work together on human resource policy and have good lines of communication 5. Annual evaluations of management and staff are consistent, fair and transparent. The results are written and staff response is invited. 6. The organization never or very seldom experiences law suits for wrongful dismissal, complaints to outside bodies regarding employment practices. 7. Staff turn-over is low in comparison to other similar organizations.
If all or most of these key indicators are present in your non-profit, congratulations, your board is doing all it can to promote a healthy, effective organization with high employee productivity and little risk of financial repercussion due to violations of workers rights.
Key indicators of an organization that needs to work on human resource policy.
1. No policy manual exists, or if it exists it is hard to find, inconsistent, has large gaps in policies. 2. Employees are unaware of company policies or employees have conflicting understanding of company policy based on local memos and departmental policies. Confusion leads to disregard of company policy and low compliance. 3. The organization lacks an effective dispute resolution process. There is no “court of last appeal” in the organization. The Board either hears nothing about disputes within the organization or periodically is inundated by employee complaints, deputations by employees. The Board lacks any policy for dealing with these employee complaints and either shuts them down, ignores them or takes on management roles in dealing directly with situations in the workplace. 4. Management and Board have no authentic communication on personnel issues, there is no committee of the Board charged with personnel issues. Board has a “not our business” attitude, shuts down or deals punitively with whistle-blowers, or alternatively, interferes in the daily business of management by instituting decisions on employee policy without consultation with the manager. No exit interviews are conducted. Staff are warned that communication with Board members is inappropriate and will be punitively dealt with. 5. Evaluations are sporadic, inconsistent, verbally conducted without written format or report. There are no objective measures applied nor is there opportunity for employee rebuttal or response. Evaluations seem punitive, only occurring when a manager has negative news to impart. Evaluations are without oversight. Alternatively, evaluations only contain good news and feel-good messages and board involvement is only requested to rubber-stamp good news pronouncements from uniformly positive evaluations. 6. The organization has experienced a high level of wrongful dismissal complaints, status of employment complaints, allegations of human rights violations, employment standards complaints, etc. 7. High staff turn-over is common-place in the organization. The organization has recently experienced a mass exodus of employees fed up with workplace unfairness and management inconsistency.
If your organization has to say “yes” to only one of these 7 points, likely you have one area of human resource management that you need to address in order to assure that you have an effective human resource policy. But if you answered “yes” to two or more points, your Board is leaving the organization open to potential financial loss and/or reputation loss. At the very least you are not doing your best to keep the resources of high-achieving, experienced employees productively employed in your organization. You are le
tting your employees down and compromising the Mission of your organization.
(The first in what I plan to be a series of articles on arts administration and volunteer board development.)
Many arts organizations begin their existence with a single artist–an Artistic Director/Founder supported by a volunteer board and perhaps some paid staff members in administrative support roles. Some arts organizations begin and end with this configuration, not living past the lifespan of their founding artist.
Others through growth or succession-planning begin to contemplate hiring their first General Manager or Executive Director . If your organization is at this point then this article is for you.
It’s natural that in the selection process that Boards focus on finding the best candidate for their position and articulating the new role of General Manager or Executive Director in their organization. Most do this well and there is a lot written about finding the right candidate.
However, what most organizations in this position don’t think about doing–and where there is little guidance available–is to take the time to consider how the Artistic Director’s role is going to change, how the Board’s role is going to have to change to accommodate the new manager, and how the day to day life of the organization will change.
Without prior organizational planning and consultation about what responsibilities and authority the Artistic Director wants to surrender or is willing to surrender, the new General Manager or ED is going to be launched on a collision course and the organization will have a rough adjustment process. It will be very difficult for the new manager to be the change-management facilitator. Failure rates for first managers are high.
You know you want your manager’s job description to complement the role of the AD, but, do you really know what your founding Artistic Director does in the organization or are you basing this on assumptions? Don’t just ask him/her. You need to actually observe how time is spent. It may prove to be a different picture than the Board imagined. This observation can be accomplished best by job shadowing on a few days scattered through as long a period as possible. At the very least, much less reliably, ask your AD to keep a time chart for a week to indicate how time is spent.
What excites your Artistic Director? What part of the job do they really love and will they find hard to share or relinquish? Again, don’t just ask them, but observe and reflect on past experience. They may believe that they love artistic planning but if planning is always late and haphazard but grant applications are always masterful and ontime, then the assertion that artistic planning is top priority might be suspect. Our actual priorities are not always the same as what we believe our priorities should be. Ignore this and you may hire an excellent grant writer as a manager but your AD, who it turns out loves the “thrill of the hunt” that grant applications entail, may refuse to surrender the grantwriting. Meanwhile your artistic and production planning may continue to be late and haphazard because no one in the organization is priorizing that work. If you have an AD who is best at some of the administrative roles associated with a manager, maybe you need a different configuration to complement that business savey. Perhaps you need an Artistic Administrator or Producer role.
Once you have done your homework on the strengths, weaknesses and interests of the AD, you are ready to construct a job description for your new manager that complements your Artistic Director. Be aware of clusters of responsibilities so as not to create fragmented roles that are unworkable.
Next consider the authority that must match the responsibilities that you have given each role. Imagine and forsee likely scenarios. For example, if you have given the Artistic Director full power over artistic planning and the new manager the responsibility for maintaining the organization’s positive bottom line, what happens when the Artistic Director proposes a project that is not in the budget? Can the manager veto the project? Does the Board need to amend the AD’s job description to require him/her to seek budget approval? This is a central issue that is the downfall of many AD/ED relationships. It needs to be understood by all members of the Board that vetoing a project because it is too costly or too late in the planning cycle for successful integration in the season, is not artistic interference. If the authority is not given to the manager in this instance then what will the process be? Will the Finance Committee of the Board make the decision?
Who ultimately is in charge? This may seem like a simple question but I have experienced an organization where the Board President on hiring the new manager believed that new role was one of sole organizational leadership, the new manager believed their role was one of joint leadership and the AD believed that he continued to be the overall organizational leader. Spell this out and make sure everyone is on the same page. Does your organizational chart reflect the correct structure? Have you changed the organizational constitution and bylaws if needed to reflect the new management role? Is your salary structure consistent with the organizational chart? For example, do you have someone paid as an outside consultant who is shown as an employee or manager on your org. chart? It is always dangerous and unethical to misrepresent an employee as a contractor but it is particularly inappropriate to have an outside contractor making day to day financial decisions and signing contracts for your company on a permanent basis. Yet some arts organizations don’t consider the implications of having staff report to a contractor. Some board members may be unaware that their ED or AD is paid through a private service contract.
Who supervises junior staff? If you assume it will be the new manager, does your AD appreciate that he/she can no longer ask the nearest person to research something for him/her? Be realistic. There may be need to assign some staff support to the AD but that should be spelled out. What happens when this step is neglected? In all likelihood, the AD will continue to function as they have in the past, directing junior staff as they see fit. Junior staff will have two bosses with conflicting assignments. Good staff will suffer while opportunistic staff will manipulate in various ways. Your new manager will have their authority compromised in a way that will be hard for them to recover from.
Consider the planning/activity cycle for your organization in light of the job description you are giving your new manager and consider where you may need to finetune other job descriptions. If you have asked the new manager to provide a budget by April of Year One for the Year Two starting August 1, then when does your Artistic Director have to provide a completed program? A deadline for artistic planning must be set a month or more before the budget deadline. If you have set a deadline for the development of a season brochure or catalogue then artist decisions and contracting must be completed well before this deadline. Failure to consider these relationships in the planning cycle will leave your organization in the dark as to why things are delayed.
If information is power, what about corporate communications? Is your AD willing to keep a manager in the loop on program planning? Or will the new manager learn first about projects by seeing work junior staff has been asked to perform? The communications requirements that you set in place at the outset will determine the directional flow of communications.
Is your Board ready and able to support the new manager’s role? Do you have a management committee in place? Is your Board stacked with personal friends of the AD, making it difficult for impartiality should conflicts arise? If so, you might want to consider expanding the Board with some new members. It’s great to share t
he AD’s vision as a Board, but you are also going to have to support your new manager. Lastly are there management roles that the board has taken on that now have to be signed over to the new manager. Often finance committee and marketing committee roles become less “hands on” with a new manager and this adjustment has to be foreseen and planned for.
Once you have considered all these questions, you should be in good shape to find a good manager for your organization and not lose time spinning your wheels in change mangement.
Artists, arts audiences, and arts lobbyists were gratified by the announcement in the Canadian federal budget of new money for the Arts in Canada, with $50 million to be applied in the 2006-2007 fiscal year and an additional $30 million for 2007-2008.
Organizations waiting in line for their first Canada Council operating grant got excited that this might be their year to gain some secure operating funds instead of depending on the ups and downs of one-time project funding exclusively.
In Canada Council’s newsrelease of October 2006, the method for allocating the funds was not spelled out although it was suggested that one possible way of allocating funds would be through,“a special competition (in the case of arts organizations which currently receive operating funding) or through the Council’s regular programs for individual artists and activities aimed at increasing public access to the arts.”
Nowhere in the public announcement carried in newspapers across the country, nor in Canada Council’s press release was it made clear that in fact the Council was going to priorize giving money to its existing operating clients. Yet when the , guidelines were announced to apply for the new funding this was the language “Guidelines. Who is eligible? Organizations currently receiving annual or multi-year operating funds may apply.
And what if your organization is not receiving annual or multi-year funding? The answer, “No further action is required at this time”.
While the Council suggests that additional money is being allocated to project grants to help non-operating clients, I could not find anywhere on the site how much money is being allocated to which programs.
Note that to become an operating client of the Canada Council, an arts organization must already be in receipt of funding from their provincial arts council. To become a provincial client, you must be supported by any municipal funding body for which you may be eligible. Canada Council operating clients are among the oldest and richest arts organizations in the country.
My organization, the Toronto Philharmonia, has been in existence for 35 years, 30 years as a community orchestra–called at that time the North York Symphony–and spending the last 5 years as a professional orchestra. During that time we’ve given an annual classic music series, provided educational programs to local schools and offered adult education opportunities in music appreciation. Hardly a newcomer to Canadian arts.
But we are not operating clients of Canada Council. We’ve been told that we stand a scant chance of being funded under the professional orchestras program simply because there is a lack of funds in the program and our location in the mega-city (although serving the former borough of North York)makes us a low priority for funding. While nationally, music organizations receive an average of 30% of their budget through government funding, our orchestra has to raise 90% of its funding through private funders and ticket sales. Yet we are ineligible to apply for a share of the new funding. Is this fair? Is this what you expected to happen when the new arts funding was announced?
Once again, it appears that the rich arts organizations will get richer while smaller arts organizations serving local communities get the short end of the stick. If you don’t think this is fair, please feel free to comment here but also let your local MP know that you’d prefer that new arts funding be distributed to the poorest arts groups in the country, not the richest.