Saturday, October 31, 2009

Piano Movers at Carnegie Hall Make More Money Than the Piano Players? Where's The Pay Czar?

METRO US -- The guys who push the piano onto the stage at Carnegie Hall make more than the guy who plays it. Dennis O’Connell, who oversees props at the legendary concert hall, made $530,044 in the fiscal year that ended in June. A concert pianist making $20,000 a night would have to give 27 performances to beat him.

The four other members of the full-time stage crew — two carpenters and two electricians — had an average income of $430,543 during the same period, according to Carnegie Hall’s
tax return (see a portion above). Only theater director Clive Gillinson earns more with his $946,581 in salary and benefits.

The stagehands have a powerful union: Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees shut down 26 Broadway shows for nearly three weeks in November 2007. Its strike cost the city $40 million, the city comptroller said at the time. Stagehands and producers agreed on a five-year contract that both sides called a compromise.

Labor historian Joshua Freeman said the union’s power to shut down a vital part of the city’s entertainment industry gives it leverage.

MP: Total compensation for the five stagehands at Carnegie Hall totalled $2.175 million. And musicians and promoters are worried about "ticket scalping?" Seems like they should be more concerned about "stagehand scalping."

Thanks to Art Little.

Update: As OA points out in a comment, "Direct and indirect public support ($37.7 million) is more than program revenues ($28 million). So more than half of Carnegie's funding (56%) isn't from selling tickets, but handouts of taxpayer money."


At 10/31/2009 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So make it simple hold the concert in New Jersey (am sure there are suitable halls there and trains do run there). Clearly the choice of venue makes a difference to the promoter, or he would move to Jersey (or possibly even Brooklyn or Westchester). So its the venue that is the value and these folks, just like star athletes are extracting their share of the revenues. (Recall that 50 years ago pro sports was not so lucrative and pay was a lot lower).

One interesting question is what is the size of the stage crew today versus 80 years ago. It was pointed out that 80 years ago longshoremen were the dregs of society, but now they are among the highest paid workers, since they run cranes, and there are a lot fewer of them.

At 11/01/2009 12:29 AM, Anonymous LoneSnark said...

There are more than just legal restrictionsat play here. Many a Soprano episode involved some business man that thought he would be clever and cut out the Union (read Mob).

At 11/01/2009 1:25 AM, Blogger KO said...

What a joke. We're to believe these guys work 80 hours a week on average? Do they live there? Clearly they're just getting 40 regular hours and 40 overtime hours every week.

And if you look at the tax return, direct and indirect public support is more than program revenues. So more than half of Carnegie's funding isn't from selling tickets, but handouts of taxpayer money.

At 11/01/2009 7:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incredible. And Seattle is wondering why Boeing management left Seattle and has now announced a major move to non-union South Carolina.

A quote from the Seattle Times: In an interview, the Machinists' international president, Tom Buffenbarger, said Boeing has "no loyalty ... except to the almighty dollar."

It seems as if unions have no loyalty except to the almighty dollar as well.

The last machinist's strike at Boeing sent the company looking for new manufacturing facilities and they found them in non-union South Carolina.

At 11/01/2009 10:00 AM, Blogger bix1951 said...

and what university did these guys go to?

At 11/01/2009 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The union is just doing its job, look out only for the short term interests of its members, for that is what they want, (look at the Ford contract rejection). This short term view is consistent with the view of management in most cases as wall street forces it. Our society is based upon get rich quick, and eat drink and be merry for tommorrow we die, and of course our chicken little media reinforce this.

At 11/01/2009 5:12 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

remember what Reagan did to the sir traffic controllers?

i have no idea why the theaters don't just fire everyone and start again.

it's not as though there are no other skilled electricians and stagehands around...

At 11/01/2009 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they are working 80 hours a week, perhaps they should hire a few more people and cut the OT hours.

At 11/02/2009 8:09 AM, Blogger BMWright said...

Wow, thanks for these amazing facts. And to think I gave up theater school for business school in my youth. I feel like Marlon Brando when he said, "I could have become a contender..."

I'd bet even the President of the UAW-CIO and I know every MI auto union worker would say that's insane!

And your right if the Arts get government funding then it's insane for American taxpayers and Theater fans to be paying stage hands more than the President of the United States!

Hell, I be happy to give these guys my two business degrees for their jobs and free theater tickets. I'll bet a couple of laid off investment bankers would do the same right now.

At 11/02/2009 11:03 AM, Blogger Braxton Hicks said...

Disturbing. Why not automate the piano moving? I'm sure a robot could position the piano accurately for a fraction of the cost.

At 11/03/2009 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IATSE is incredibly powerful. Down here in the Baltimore Area, a small Gretchen Wilson concert can make an unskilled college student 17.50 an hour just pushing and unloading crates. At least a quarter of the 8 hour shift is spent sitting on your butt or shooting the breeze.

But even more amazing, in the local 22 in DC of the IATSE, an UNSKILLED UNTRAINED NEW EMPLOYEE can make 32 an hour with the union taking about 2 an hour of that.

Does this sound like economic efficiency to anyone at all?


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