Paying the piper...or not.
Alex Ross explores the weird world of conductor salaries in this brief article.
Do I care that James Levine and Lorin Maazel make that much money? Not really. I've never had much use for Mr. Maazel, except for a splendid Bruckner 8th done in Berlin, so I am not altogether positive about his salary. However, James Levine could make a creditable case for being the greatest American conductor since Leonard Bernstein. No one, hindsight being what it is, would gripe about Lenny's salary.
I'm not yet some fanatic stylite, sitting on a pillar, waiting for the snap of the seventh seal, so I am somewhat familiar with the world around me. That is to say that I know what various people make, roughly, in various professions. For all the work, travel, research, and general crap that conductors do, they're not overpaid.
James Levine makes, what?, three and some change a year. How does that much money in a city like New York or Boston relate to a salary in a city like Bloomington, IN? Cost of living, especially in major metropolitan areas, needs to be considered. The Peyton Manning thing is apropos here. I know how much it costs to live in Indianapolis, IN. Even in the affluent north and northwest suburbs, where many Colts players live, the cost of living doesn't require two or three million a year.
More like five or six hundred thousand. Big cities need big paychecks. And big results.