With much of the classical music industry shut down by the new coronavirus pandemic, one of the leading management firms has been taken over by an unusual buyer in an unconventional transaction.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music announced on Tuesday that it had purchased Opus 3 Artists, which represents approximately 250 musicians and attractions, a group including conductors Daniel Barenboim, James Conlon, Christoph Eschenbach and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
David Stull, president of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, declined to disclose the financial details of the management firm’s purchase.
Opus 3 president David Foster said the coronavirus pandemic – which ended live performances in March – prompted the agency to evaluate the future.
“When the COVID problem hit and we had to reduce our workforce,” Foster said, “it became clear that we would have significantly lower incomes. So the question is, what are you doing?”
Foster said he had received inquiries about sales.
“There were approaches to commercial entities and then David Stull called,” he said, “and the more I thought about it, the more interesting I thought a combination with a conservatory would be, because in the broadest possible context it’s very, very important. ., indeed crucial that the message of classical music and its access to classical music and classical performing arts, not just classical music and live performing arts, become available to as many people on the planet as possible, and I thought this could be a way to fulfill that mission. . “
Stull had spoken to a donor about the possibility of financing an agency acquisition. He does not identify the donor or the amount now, but says he hopes to reveal the identity one day.
“We could have partnered with another commercial venture, I think, but that wouldn’t have given us the breadth of possibilities, both for the artists and more broadly for the art form,” said Foster.
Foster said the agency would have a business relationship with students at the San Francisco Conservatory and will continue to acquire clients from Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, and elsewhere. The transaction was necessary because the pandemic made future revenue streams unpredictable.
“Will the audience come back and in what numbers?” he said.
Columbia Artists Management Inc., one of the leading agencies, announced on August 29 that it would be closing. Foster worked for CAMI from 1972 to 1994.
The conservatory, which serves approximately 500 students, broke ground two years ago and is in the process of opening the Bowes Center building in San Francisco. Opus 3 has 27 employees and there are cost savings from combining back-of-house, administrative and recording functions.
“We realized there is a real synergy here that could be possible, that could really help us overcome so many of the challenges in the classical music industry related to the economics of these things,” said Stull. “I hope we will see more alliances like this emerge, creating enormous financial power and opportunities for both organizations. But to get to those alliances, you have to let go of what I would describe as some of the qualities of the corporate ego, which has historically been an essentially important part of classical music. “
Opus 3 artists include conductors Marek Janowski, Marin Alsop, Patrick Summers and David Robertson; pianists Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Radu Lupu and Garrick Ohlsson and Danil Trifonov; violinists Sarah Chang and Gil Shaham; sopranos Christine Goerke and Lisette Orospesa; mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Blythe and Kate Lindsey and Tamara Mumford; bass Morris Robinson; baritone Nathan Gunn; composer Osvaldo Golijov; Broadway star Patti Lupone and saxophonist Branford Marsalis.
“Having a constant influx of artists interested in outreach in communities or taking up excellent work and projects and bringing our students together with that activity educationally is extraordinary,” said Stull.