[Callers] Band, Sound and Caller Fees was: Caller Fees

Martha Edwards meedwards at westendweb.com
Wed Jun 22 11:19:20 PDT 2011

The relative merits of pay for callers, musicians and sound people  would be
a good topic for discussion.

I'm both a musician and a caller, too, and while calling is harder for me,
it's possibly because I've not been doing it for 60 years, which is about
how long I've been a musician. So you might say I put in the hard work years
ago on playing music and am putting in the hard work now to call. If I
became a sound person, I'd have to work pretty hard, too. But just about the
time that I got to be worth paying a lot of money for, it would probably be

But I am curious - in your groups, are callers paid more, or less, than
musicians (on average)? How about the sound guys?  And on what do you base
the amounts?

I remember a discussion on approximately this topic a couple of years ago,
where someone had moved from a large dance community, where she was paid
rather handsomely, to a small community where everyone was a volunteer. If I
remember right, she enjoyed being a part of both communities, but noted that
the one difference was that the volunteers were more likely *not *to show up
if there was a difficulty, whereas the paid talent would show up even in a
snowstorm. You were paying, in other words, for professionalism.

Then there is a curious situation that has developed here. Our musicians,
years ago, were part of the dance community. They'd come to our dances, and
at our dance weekend, they'd dance, and jam on the lawn, and we'd all dine
together. Then we started rewarding them with higher pay because we liked
their contribution so much. The result over time was that they started
treating it as a gig rather than as a social event. Now they show up about
ten minutes before dance time, they play, and then they either go home or,
at our dance weekend, they find some out-of-the-way place to jam, away from
the dancers.  I just looked at our list of bands, and there's only one
person - okay, two - listed in our local contra dance bands that regularly
dance with us any more. Is that normal in your communities?


On Sun, Jun 19, 2011 at 6:52 PM, Cynthia Phinney <online at starleft.org>wrote:

> At our series (a small local dance in rural Maine), we divide the door up
> into one share each for band members, caller, and sound (sound gets one
> share) for bands of five people or less. Once the bands get over five
> people, the caller gets a larger share.
> My experience of being both a caller AND a musician, is that calling is
> significantly more work than playing. I also find that it is more work,
> usually, to call for a large band than a small one. Communication is more
> challenging, and there is usually more doodling and chatting in the
> background from the band. Plus - for us - some of our larger bands are
> students and so the music isn't perfectly honed for dancers, which means
> that the caller is needed even more to help keep the dancers on the phrase
> since it isn't so crisply defined by the musicians (our dance also has a
> significant percentage of inexperienced dancers).
> -cynthia
> -----Original Message-----
> From: callers-bounces at sharedweight.net
> [mailto:callers-bounces at sharedweight.net] On Behalf Of Dan Pearl
> Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2011 12:50 PM
> To: callers at sharedweight.net
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Caller Fees
> Interesting!
> I chair the Thursday Night Dance Committee of NEFFA, which runs a weekly
> dance
> at the Concord Scout House, in Massachusetts. I would characterize our pay
> as
> good. Here are the basics:
> 1. We expect equal shares for all performers (musicians/callers).  In only
> very
> unusual circumstances will we pay different amounts.
> 2. Guarantee (per performer) is dependent on # of performers. 3 => $155; 4
> =>
> $145; 5 => $125; 6 => $104; 7 => $89.
> 3. Performers who travel a distance (say over 1 hour) to get to the dance
> get
> $15 extra.
> 4. Bonus *is* dependent on attendance. We assume that if people came out in
> droves to dance, the performers probably had something to do with it, and
> they
> should be rewarded.  For a well-attended night, it is not unusual for
> performers
> to make around $200 each. For an exceptionally well-attended night, they
> might
> make $300 each.
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For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance. ~ William Butler Yeats

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