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

Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing winston at slac.stanford.edu
Wed Jun 22 13:44:29 PDT 2011

Martha --

Around here, for regular dance-society gigs, callers get the same as one
musician (if there are three or four musicians); musicians start getting
smaller shares in bands with five or more people.  In BACDS, sound pay is
a half-share.  (At balls and camps, sound pay is usually less than a caller or
musician gets, but sometimes gets bulked up if it includes renting equipment
owned by the sound guy.)

Contra-dance minimums at BACDS dances are 50/50/25 (caller/musicians/sound),
everything-else minimums (which pretty much means English dance), are 20/20/20
but we usually don't actually pay a sound person for English.

Palo Alto contra has a roster of sound people, some of whom get paid, some of
whom volunteer, but all of whom are very professional about it.

My Regency dance group has free admission for caller and musicians and nobody
gets paid other than that.  The lead musicians are invested in the group and
will always either show up or locate a sub; other band members are more on and

I see most but not all local English and contra callers dancing at dances
called by other people pretty regularly.  I see maybe 40% of local musicians
dancing elsewhere.  But in many cases killer musicians got recruited to play
for English because of classical background and skills, rather than rising from
the ranks of the dancers, so we sometimes see them get recruited into dancing.

We've certainly had a thing with bands who have been playing a long time for
whom the thrill of playing for a half-full room of dancers is gone.  I've 
heard that "I'd rather sit on my porch and jam with my friends than come out
for fifty dollars."  (And if that's how you feel about it, that's what you
should do, and no harm done.)

And we also have people who make their living from music (patchwork of teaching
classes, private students, concerts, our low-paying dance gigs, etc) who come
out and dance just to dance, and that's beautiful when it happens.

-- Alan

> 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
> easy.

> 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?

> M
> E

> 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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> >
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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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 Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL   Phone:  650/926-3056
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