Carnegie Crew Banks Big

Some artists dream of playing Carnegie Hall in New York City. They might be better off dreaming of joining the venue’s stage crew.

A recent New York Times report uncovered that the top earning employees after the venue director were Carnegie’s property manager, two carpenters and two electricians.

Salaries for the employees ranged from $422,599 (plus $107,445 in benefits) for property manager Dennis O’Connell to $327,257 (plus $76,459 in benefits) for electrician John Goodson, the Times said.

Comparably, stagehands at the city’s Avery Fisher and Alice Tully halls reportedly average $290,000 per year.

Lois Gray, a professor of labor relations, gave the Times an explanation as to why the stagehands earn such amazing salaries.

“It reflects bargaining power and one’s economic position,” Gray said. “You don’t pass moral judgments on these things. Baseball players are scarce, and talent is scarce.”

From Gray’s perspective, it’s easier to find a replacement on short notice when an artist cancels than it is to find a replacement stagehand.

“They can’t be replaced in the short run,” she said. “In the long run they can be replaced. None of these entertainment venues is willing to wait for the long run.”

The stagehands also have the backing of a pretty powerful union – IATSE Local 1. A 2007 strike by the group managed to shut down most of Broadway for more than two weeks.

Still, most of the stagehands put in about 80 hours of labor per week, according to the Times, and some say the paychecks are warranted for the work that gets done.

James Nomikos, former operations director at Carnegie, told the paper he never had a problem with stagehand salaries.

“They sacrifice their family life, their time. By the time their careers are over, they’re broken with all that heavy lifting,” he said.