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SF Symphony Musicians and Board Reach Contract Settlement

November 10, 2020

As SFCV has reported before, the Bay Area’s big music organizations have had to renegotiate contracts with their artistic personnel to maintain stability during the pandemic shutdown. Last week, the San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors and the musicians of the orchestra agreed on a contract that, crucially, provides flexibility for future online and remote productions.

Because the orchestra is predicting a cumulative loss of up to $40 million by the end of the 2020–2021 season, the musicians had to take a 30 percent cut to base pay through the end of 2020. Increases are planned through 2021 and 2022 to recoup this loss, and additional pay increases will be triggered in tandem with revenue growth from concerts.

Crucially, though, the contract also increases the flexibility of work services in order to facilitate the digital-media productions that are coming to the fore during the shutdown. If you believe that some of this kind of performance will persist beyond the shutdown era, then this aspect of the contract is absolutely critical to the orchestra’s success in the future.

San Francisco Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson commented:

This new labor agreement reflects a shared understanding of both the challenges the Symphony faces as a direct result of the pandemic and the opportunities that lie ahead. We are enormously grateful to our musician colleagues for sharing in the difficult sacrifices necessary to achieve deep cost savings across the entire organization. Members of our Orchestra fully embrace their role as cultural ambassadors, and we are especially appreciative that they have been so open to redefining Symphony work services in a manner that expands opportunities for digital and media projects as well as education and community initiatives. The framework established in this new contract sets a foundation of much-needed stability and ensures that our musicians will continue to be able to connect with our community and global audiences in meaningful and creative ways.”

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.