[Callers] Scheduling/programmer Question

James Saxe jim.saxe at gmail.com
Wed Sep 11 20:00:10 PDT 2013

Kalia Kliban wrote:

> The way we book here [in the greater SF Bay area] is on a
> quarterly basis.  The programmers (each venue has their own)
> request the available dates from callers and musicians partway
> through the previous quarter, and then assemble the next
> quarter's program from who's available. ...

and Linda Leslie asked:

> I am very curious about how the programmers have decided to
> schedule in this way, Kalia. Did they get together and decide
> to do it this way, or did this just naturally happen? ...

I'm not Kalia, but I'm one of the dance programmers* in her
area and I think I can shed some light the topic.

[*To be specific, the BACDS Palo Alto contra series is
programmed by a committee of which I am a member, along with
SW callers' list members Alan Winston and Eric Black, and
others.  Many other local dance series have single individuals
in charge of programming (for example list member Erik Hoffman
for the BACDS Berkeley contra series), though there may be lots
of other people involved with setting up the hall, publicity,
etc. etc.]

First, I should say that not all local programmers work in the
manner Kalia describes--sending out a big mailing to request
availability dates, accumulating responses, and then sending
out the quarterly schedule.  And even those who do use that
method often do some of their scheduling with more lead time
and more one-at-a-time inquiries to specific bands or callers,
particularly when booking out-of-area performers or when booking
performers for special events (e.g., New Year's Eve).

That said, there is a strong tendency to work on a quarterly
cycle, and the reason--at least for BACDS dances--is that we
have for many years published a quarterly printed calendar.
The calendars are mailed out (to those members and other
mailing list subscribers who have elected to receive paper
mailings rather than electronic publicity only), along with
other publicity flyers, near the start of the month preceding
a calendar quarter.  For example our October-December 2013
calendars went out a few days ago.

In order for calendars (and other flyers) to be printed in
time for the mailing, the bookings need to be done during the
previous month or so--in August (or maybe late July) for Oct-Dec,
in November (or late October) for Jan-Mar, etc.  The later in
this window the bookings get done, the more you can end up with
last-minute scrambling for one reason or another.  On the other
hand, the earlier you try to do it (especially if you try to
do it many months earlier), the more you're asking performers
to commit far in advance, which some may be reluctant to do--
especially if they're the kind of people who sometimes get
bookings for weddings or corporate parties that pay better than
even the larger local contras.

Concerning the choice of sending out a general solicitation for
availability dates vs. contacting bands and callers individually
and filling in the calendar piecemeal, I know of pros and cons
on both sides.  An advantage of the one-at-a-time approach is
that performers may feel more appreciated if they're contacted
individually and in circumstances where they know that an offer
of availability will result (and fairly promptly) in a booking.
An advantage of the batch method is that you know what more of
the puzzle pieces look like before you have to put them together.
So, for example, you don't make a commitment for date X with band
Y only to discover later that some other band has date X as their
only available date and/or that you have really slim pickings
for date Z, which band Y might have filled if you hadn't already
booked them for dace Z.

Other advantages and disadvantages might be cited for either
of these approaches to booking or for mixed approaches, but
I'll stop here.  I'd be interested in knowing what other dance
programmers do about all this and why.

Linda, I hope that answers your question.


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