« George Clooney Reprimands the President | Main | Kinsley vs. Kinsley »

November 28, 2005

Marginal Revolution Looks at Musical Protectionism in Europe

European labor and musical protectionism:

Marginal Revolution: Musical protectionism, continued :

The French police are arresting symphony orchestra musicians from Eastern Europe. Why?

The reason for importing musicians from the east to play in countries like France is simple: money. "The tour would've been too expensive with French musicians, so there wouldn't have been a tour at all," Mr. Miller argues. While a company like the one conducted by Mr. Miller might charge about €15,000 ($20,055) for a show, a French orchestra would probably cost three times that amount, Mr. Miller reckons--pricing them out of the 300- to 800-seat venues they were playing, typically in towns of less than 100,000 people. "I don't feel at all that I'm taking work away from a French musician," Mr. Miller told me. Musicians like the Bulgarians he was conducting, meanwhile, "need the work, they don't hold out for very high fees and they play well." "Artistically," he added, "the tour was a great success."

Not all the musicians have their papers:

A German conductor, Volker Hartung, whose Cologne New Philharmonic was also employing some East European musicians, was arrested as he came out for an encore following a performance of Ravel's "Bolero" and Bizet's "Carmen." After also being held for two days, Mr. Hartung was released with a warning but, according to the Guardian newspaper, has been banned from performing in France "until further notice." This was, according to Gerald Mertens, director of Deutsche Orchestervereinigung, or the German orchestra union, the second time Mr. Hartung was arrested in France for underpaying his musicians and not obtaining proper authorization for them to perform in France.

After deep reflection and debate, the French musicians' unions have decided to side with the French police, and not with the Muse. In fact, some of the arrested musicians blame the unions themselves for the crackdown.

Posted by DeLong at November 28, 2005 12:38 PM