Thursday, March 20, 2008

On Salaries

A snapshot of why it might be a good idea for most theatre artists to think about a different business model than the current corporate Big Box theatre.

Here are the salaries of the artistic directors for two of America's major LORT theatres:

AD #1: $325,000
AD #2: $400,00

And Managing Director salaries for the same theatres:

MD #1: $308,000
MD #2: $208,000

AD #1 and MD #1 oversee a LORT B+ contract. Minimum actor salary for this period (these are figures that are two years old): $754 per week -- total if 52 weeks worked: $39,208

AD#2 and MD#2 oversee a LORT A contract. Minimum actor salary: $800. AD #2 is on a 40 week contract -- weekly salary: $10,000.

Compared to CEO salaries in corporate America, having a leader making between 8 and 13 times as much as the lowest paid actor (we won't compare it to the lowest paid employee) is pretty reasonable. But then, those CEO's are also overseeing a revenue stream considerably larger than the $16M - $29M of these theatres.

If we compare these salary to the annual revenues, we see another story: the head of Dell, for instance, received 0.7% of Dell's annual revenue as salary, whereas AD #2 received 1.4% of the theatre's revenue. Combining the AD & MD, Theatre #1 pays salaries of nearly 4% of annual revenues to two people, and Theatre #2 pay 2.1% of annual revenues.

Hey, I'm not griping about people making a decent salary. And in many ways, these people are at the top of their professions. But I agree with George Bernard Shaw, who said he didn't have anything against money, he thought everybody ought to have some. Somehow, something seems out of whack.


Freeman said...

Scott -
You're saying that the effective CEOs of some of our major theatrical institutions make a FRACTION of what a lot of people make to play baseball or run marketing firms. $300,000 isn't nothing, but compared to what some people make in this world, it's peanuts.

The fact is, these ADs and MDs are NOT overpaid. They are underpaid. So are ALL of us. Because we are unsubsidized by the government, undersupported by patrons, and expected to thrive compared to businesses that run factories overseas or have reproducible deliverables like downloadable content, gasoline or computers.

I feel like implicating the regional theaters, who are doing all they can to simply stay alive, in the problem is missing the big picture. If a Managing Director makes $300,000 dollars a year, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money that would have to flow into the American Theater as a whole to raise the average salary of a professional actor. Or playwright for that matter.

We need to shift governmental and social priorities towards more financial support of the arts. If Barack Obama can raise millions from small donors, imagine a FRACTION of that effort going into a regional theater.

Scott Walters said...

Matt -- Sure, if you compare dollars to dollars, an AD gets paid "peanuts" compared to a baseball player. But if you look at how much money a baseball player generates, versus how much an AD generates, that may change the picture a bit.

Sure, we can wait for "governmental and social priorities" to change, if we've got a century or so. Or we can change the way we do business.

A $10,000 a week salary might make sense in the current regional theatre system (but really? does it?), but I think there is a better way, one where everybody involved -- actors and playwrights as well as AD's) makes the money they need. Theatre shouldn't be a part-time job for everybody except a select few.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this one too, Scott (surprise, surprise). A few years ago I left a gig at a regional LORT C theatre, and when I had my exit interview I let the Production Manager know that I had recently discovered how much the (now former) managing director was earning, as well as other top paid staff members. I was appalled. Not at the income of the MD, but at the income gap -- it was, as you said, corporate America standing before me in the arts. In the theater, no less. How could it be justified? A subsidized non-profit arts organization? I made damn sure that they knew how ridiculous this was, though I knew nothing would change.

Freeman said...

I think, essentially, we have a lack of perspective here. I'm not saying that we shouldn't observe other models or even rethink how we'd like to approach theater. Everyone has that choice. If the way regional theater is constructed doesn't work for you, hey, seek out new adventures.

I simply don't think that the money being paid to executives at regional theaters, like the Guthrie, for example, is the problem. They could work for free and still not solve the problem.

Nick said...

No good, Matt. Would you tolerate this inequity in a theatre ensemble in which you were a member?

80% of Equity actors will have no income whatsoever in any given year with an annual median earnings of $7,040. Meanwhile Todd Haimes at the Roundabout makes $672,000.

Artistic Director Salaries

Actors Theatre of Louisville $150,000
Alabama Shakespeare Festival $155,000
Alley Theatre $246,000
American Conservatory Theater $235,000
Arena Stage $210,000
Children's Theatre Company $152,000
Guthrie Theater $404,000
Hartford Stage $151,000
Huntington Theatre Company $200,000
Lincoln Center Theater $392,000
Roundabout Theatre Company $672,000
Shakespeare Theatre Company $242,000

David Tech Guy said...

wow its ridiculous how much money some of these companies make. here we are struggling to make practically min wage and their sitting back and kicking it. I wonder if they like the salaries they make.

Anonymous said...

It;s the end of theater as we know it . . .

Dave Marcus said...

This is a smart piece. I wonder if part of reason that ADs and MDs make a higher percentage of revenue is that government and the donors who spend it's money are not expecting any monetary return on their investment. So there is one less group of people (namely investors) who get a slice of the revenue pie. Thanks for writing this and don't be surprised if I quote it .

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