Communications Sally Swansong VS Lyric Opera Case Study


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1. Case overview

2. The strategy/ Preparation:
3. Starting point/ Complications: 
4. Start over point/ Compromise:
5. Did my strategy work?

6. How it benefits me:
7. Was it a success?

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You have just become a partner in a finn that manages and acts as agents for managing
celebrities’ short and long tenn careers (your compensation is a standard I 0% of anything a client
makes). Sally Swansong is certainly not a major client. but you want to do a good job with this
first assignment as partner, especially since you have an interest in expanding your firm’s opera
practice. This is the first time you have handled Ms. Swansong’s account.
You met Ms. Swansong yesterday. She is an older soprano who still has a good voice, especially
for her age. During your discussions with her, you gathered the following information:
She has not had a prime role in more than two years, although she has had a number of secondary
roles. Her popularity has been declining. Lyric Opera, for whom Sally has sung many times over
the years, has a production of Ma11011 lescaut scheduled to open in three weeks. When the names
of all the perfonners in the opera except the title role were announced by Lyric several weeks
ago, Sally got in touch with the Artistic Director to ask if there was any possibility of that role
being open. The title role is generally acknowledged to be a prize for a young soprano, which, of
course, Sally isn’ t. However, Sally knows the part well and has sung it successfu lly many times.
Yesterday, she was infonned by the Lyric that they might be interested in a signing her for the
Ma11011 role. A meeting was scheduled for today at which you, Sally’s agent, will meet with the
Lyric Business Manager to discuss the situation.
The Lyric Opera is an established institution in a major metropo litan area. As with most opera
companies, it is a non-profit entity that is financed by a combination of ticket sa les, foundation
and corporate grants, and income from a modest endowment. By and large, it usually breaks
even over the course of the year, with fairly good attendance in its 2000-seat hall. Ticket prices
range form $ 18 to $55. This production of Manon lescaut is scheduled to run for six weeks, with
three performances per week.
Sally desperately wants this role. Most importantly, it could signal a real comeback and would
give her a good chance at landing a regular part in a forthcoming PBS series on opera. The TV
special would pay $80,000 and would probably lead to other singing, radio, television and public
relations engagements. Sally was overjoyed at hearing of Lyric’s possible interest. Indeed, she
told you that getting the part is what counts; the amount of compensation is of secondary
importance. “Frankly,” she said, “I would be willing to sing the part for nothing, except for
reasons of professional pride.”
Sally’s pay over the last two years for secondary roles in operas of this type ranged from $15,000
to $I 8,000. Four years ago, when she was at the pinnacle of her career and the apex of her
profession, she received $26,000 for perfonning the title role in Manon at Lyric. Since then, due
to inflation and the increased popularity of opera, the amount paid to top opera singers has
increased by about 50%. Sally recognized, however, that she is older now and cannot count on
sold-out performances the way she could then.
Last year the inexperienced young soprano who sang the title role of Manon for the Lyric was
rumored to have been paid over $35,000. The last time Sally sang for the Lyric was three years
ago, in the secondary role in Manon, for which she received of $15,000, and got reasonably good
reviews. Although it is difficult to generalize, performers in lead roles in operas of this type are
usually paid at least twice the amount received by those in secondary roles.
One of Lyric’s major concerns is likely to be what kind of attendance Sally’s performances would
generate. Lyric averages around an 85% house over the course of a year, but many performances
are sold out. One the other hand, a bad house can be financially devastating. This is probably
why Sally has been offered fewer roles recently. While her voice generally remains strong, she
has had a few mediocre days now and then, which wasn’t true four years ago. If Sally’s
perfonnances generated a paltry 50 or 60% house, this would surely be her last leading role and
destroy any chances of landing the PBS series or other lucrative, high-profile agreements. In fact,
anything under 80% would probably lead to that result.

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ally Swansong VS Lyric Opera

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