The MMIAM Journey

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Abruzzo Associates Releases New Data on Performing Arts Center CEO Executive Compensation Reductions in the Wake of Covid-19

James Abruzzo, a member of MMIAM’s International Advisory Committee, and Jessica Drymer, a 2020 MMIAM graduate, have been working together at Abruzzo Associates since September.

James is Global Head of DHR International’s Global Nonprofit Practice as well as the founder and President of Abruzzo Associates, a consulting company specializing in compensation studies and contract negotiations for nonprofit organizations.

Last month, they developed a survey intended to determine the extent of Covid-19-related reductions to individual income faced by performing art center CEOs in North America. The pandemic has affected the compensation of the highest tiers of management at North American performing arts centers – an industry that has been devastated by the widespread cancellation of performances – but the precise amount of those cuts was not yet known. The survey revealed that 85% of performing arts center CEOs have experienced a reduction of their established annual salary since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic; 60% have taken cuts of 20% or more, some even 50% or more. Their established bonuses were likewise severely affected. Other executive management team members have also had their salaries reduced, with over half taking cuts of up to 20%.

The survey was distributed to the CEOs of 56 of the United States’ and Canada’s top performing arts centers, with the intention of gaining insight directly into the experience of CEOs in terms of how their own compensation has been affected since the spring, as well as that of their executive management team members. The results have been truly eye-opening: the vast majority of performing arts center CEOs have experienced significant cuts to both their salaries and bonuses, with both no deferment or a clear end in sight for most.

Of the survey’s results, James Abruzzo said, “We all understand that the performing arts industry is in an almost death-spiral. But behind the data, and somewhat hidden, is the personal toll the pandemic is taking on the leadership in the field. While this survey pertained to performing arts center executives, I believe it is also indicative of the situation of the leadership of symphony orchestras, ballet and dance companies, and opera and theater companies. Many of these leaders are suffering the psychological toll of furloughing and laying off fellow executives, union members and performers, coupled with the uncertainty of when things will return to normal. Their ‘psychic reward’ – namely, playing a part in the creation and presentation of live arts – is now absent, and their financial security is also threatened.”

The results show, for instance, that over 2/3 of the performing arts center CEOs who completed the survey have taken cuts to both their salary and bonus, and that the average compensation loss for the last four months of FY2020 alone is $108,000 and the high is $460,000 or more. Only a few of the respondents expect that loss to be deferred for payment later.

For the full discussion of the survey’s findings, please visit: