Facing $10 million in lost revenue, BSO musicians, staff agree to pay cuts

April 18, 2020 at 2:43 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

Andris Nelsons and Mark Volpe have both agreed to salary reductions in the wake of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s financial losses due to Covid-19 cancellations.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced a series of cost-cutting measures Friday, which include salary reductions for musicians and furloughs for a large number of staff.

“To everyone affected by COVID-19, we extend our most sincere wish that this period of health crisis passes soon,” said BSO president and CEO Mark Volpe in a released statement. “I am forever grateful to everyone here at the BSO who has expressed such grace and understanding regarding the difficult measures we’ve needed to take, though I don’t underestimate in the least the hardship and challenges these cutbacks will create for many of my colleagues.  

Unionized BSO musicians have agreed unanimously to a salary reduction of approximately 25 percent through August. The musicians have also agreed to restructure their allotments for vacation time over the next two years. Contracts were tweaked as well to allow for the orchestra to use archival footage of performances during the hiatus.

Volpe, who is retiring from the BSO next February, will take a 50 percent reduction in his base salary. Music director Andris Nelsons will not receive any compensation for the cancelled performances, and Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart will also take a “substantial” cut in pay, according to the press release.

In addition, 70 full-time employees will be placed on furlough beginning April 20 through May 31, though the BSO will maintain health coverage for those affected.

The cancellation of concerts due to the shutdown over the spread of Covid-19 has resulted in more than $10 million of lost revenue for the orchestra. $6.2 million of that amount is due to the cancellations alone, with another $4 million lost from venue rental, tour concert cancellations, and other income.

The organization was forced to cancel 130 events due to the pandemic, including the last seven weeks of the BSO’s 2019-2020 season and the entire Boston Pops spring season. Also cancelled were the BSO’s February tour to Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

All told, 80 percent of the BSO’s full-time employees will be affected by the salary cuts and furloughs. Those follow the more than 400 part-time employees that were furloughed previously due to the cancellations.

The cost-cutting measures only address a fraction of the total revenue lost, the release stated. On Saturday, the BSO press office added that if there were additional concert cancellations—including this summer’s Tanglewood Festival—the cuts and furloughs would be reviewed and possibly extended to preserve the long-term financial health of the orchestra.

“I want to assure everyone that we are doing everything in our power to evaluate strategically the impact of the pandemic and develop the solutions needed to get the orchestra on track after this crisis has passed,” said Volpe.

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