There are real down sides in paying musicians based on attendance. There
are lots of factors: competing dances, birthday parties, weather and
somethings that are even more flukey - a transit problem for example.
We do promise a guarantee that makes it almost worth while for the
musicians to come to NYC. Many nights we come out behind on the dances.
Once there is enough admissions to meet our expenses they get half. So it
means that if they attract more of their friends and followers they get
half. Many of our dances do not make enough for basic expenses. We have
to have a rather major fund raising campaign at the end of each year to
make up for our deficits.
NYC is bigger in any way. We have more dances that many places. We
probably pay more rent. We probably have more newcomers over a period of
time. That means we have more people that do not come back.
I hope our experience is helpful to others. One of the things that I think
makes these dances difficult to run is the talent and committment of the
musicians and callers. Most of them work hard practicing, rehearhising,
and making arrangements and programs. There are musicians that have
studied this stuff for years and want to make a living at it. I really
appreciate it and all of us dance organizers need to. However, in the
scheme of thing there are just not that many contra dancers. Those that
do, want to dance weekly but still it is not unusual for there to be 60
dancers in the hall. if we have 200 it is a major feat. Dancers want to
dance frequently so they do not want to pay much. I can get a ticket in
the top row of madison square garden to hear sting sing for 181.00. If we
charge 25 to hear Wild Asparagus, or Perpetual e motion there would be a
revolution. We need to consider financial realities to keep the program
On Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 4:47 PM, Mac Mckeever <macmck(a)ymail.com> wrote:
I have always struggled with the concept of paying the
band, caller and
sound tech a percent of the admissions. It penalizes them when attendance
is down for something out of their control ( a huge number of dancers went
to an out of town weekend or the weather was really bad) and, of course,
the opposite can be true for good nights.
Instead, we have a standard pay schedule not tied to attendance and make
adjustments for special occasions as needed. We monitor it throughout the
year to be sure it is all evening out. If there is a problem over time, we
tweek our strategy to put us back where we need to be. We have close to
100 events a year - so there is a big enough sample to keep any single
dance from causing a problem.
From: Merle Mceldowney <merle.mceldowney(a)gmail.com>
To: A list for dance organizers <organizers(a)sharedweight.net>
Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 3:24 PM
Subject: Re: [Organizers] Booking & treasury - (was: booking as a team?)
It can get really complicated. We pay the musicians a set amount with a 50
percent cut of the gate. We need that 50 percent. Many of our dances do
not make the expenses, so the ones
that do well help out with the ones that
loose. We have a saturday night every week from September untill May; that
is a lot of dances. We have been doing this for 60 years. We also run a
weekly english dance.
I have been involved for about 15 years. a long time. I think only three
of the board members have been around longer than me. One problem - and
this often involves payment of musicians is policies get lost over time.
There is a manual available that covers a lot of stuff but when there is a
question the people in charge of the dance do not realize there is a
description of that policy someplace in this large binder we have that has
Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 3:59 PM, Dana Dwinell-Yardley <danadwya(a)gmail.com
Good heavens: that kind of miscommunication
sounds like no fun at all to
deal with. I'm grateful (especially now that I'm taking on booking
responsibilities!) that we now have a very clear payment system figured
After we take out our overhead, and pay the sound guy, we split what's
evenly between the folks on stage, with a limit
on band size. So:
2-person band (3 people on stage) = 1/3 to caller, 2/3 to band
3-person band (4 on stage) = 1/4 to caller, 3/4 to band
4-or-more-person band (5+ on stage) = 1/5 to caller, 4/5 to band
We also have a minimum guarantee if we have a lower turnout, which isn't
all that often. We subsidized 7 of our 28 dances last year, but we had 4
dances with a huge turnout and well more than that with an above-average
turnout, so it all comes out in the wash.
We make special exceptions to this VERY rarely: for example, last time
dance was on New Year's Eve, we paid the band
and caller a little extra
stay past midnight.
It took us a while to iron all this out as a committee, but it was well
worth it for the lack of confusion we have now!
Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 12:00 PM, <organizers-request(a)sharedweight.net
> > >Jerome Grisanti wrote:
> > Make sure you let the treasurer know who is getting paid, and how much
> > I've been in the uncomfortable situation of handing someone money and
> > having them say, "this is not the agreed amount." I've also been
> > caller when the person with the bank asked, "how much do we pay
> > ... Of course, it's not about the money, but smooth relations.
> > AMEN !
> > In my
experience, lack of clarity on money happens all-too-often.
> It's usually not a big deal, but
occasionally makes a mess.
> I still have uncomfortable feelings about a glitch like this -- from
> over a decade ago. At the break, the treasurer came up to me and
> began, "We should have talked about this in advance ..." It turned
> out that instead of the standard payment (which I had been led to
> expect), they wanted to apply a different formula (reducing my pay)
> because of an unusual band situation. I didn't know what to say, but
> observed that I had traveled hundreds of miles, which might also be
> considered unusual ... We concluded the discussion (which occupied
> the break, and
would have been more happily spent socializing, and
the 2nd half) with me saying "Just do whatever seems best to
> The organizer felt ruffled and grumpy, I felt ruffled and grumpy. I
> suspect that whatever compromise was achieved was explained to the
> band, so they felt that way, too. Ugh ! A lot of unnecessary
> annoyance over $50 or so.
> As Jerome observes, "it's not about the money, but smooth relations."
> It's really worth the extra communication to avoid putting performers
> and volunteer organizers in awkward situations.
> (postscript: there was a blizzard on Sunday, and I totaled my car on
the way home. Definitely not my favorite dance weekend of all time ...)
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