In responding to Rickey's question about dance finances, I'm copying an email that
I sent to a Maine dance organizer who asked the following question: "In the
meantime, how much is a reasonable fee for a caller for an
evening? Is there any standard pay in the Maine
Re finances: There's no standard!!! (Nowhere, not in Maine, not anywhere.) This
very subject is one of those to be addressed at the Puttin' On the Dance conference!
Whatever the arrangement, I believe it should be communicated clearly and early (when the
band/caller is booked.) I also think it's up to the series to decide what's
financially viable for them.
As an organizer, I advocate guaranteeing a minimum which the dance
is reasonably likely to cover (say $50, $75, or other) then adding on a
bonus if there's more $ in the till after paying Expenses. In Belfast we give
80% of any remaining money to the performers and keep 20% for the
series kitty. I believe this is the most fair arrangement, and no one
bears the risk (series, performers) and everyone shares the surplus.
The series kitty pays for months when we can't meet the guarantee, and
additional expenses like insurance, etc. In both Belfast and Dover NH
(a series I ran when there) we started w one guarantee amt, then over
time we raised the per person guarantee. I like to pay per person. But
some groups pay one amt for caller and another for band regardless of
As a caller (for whom this is a large part of my livelihood), I will
work with many arrangements as long as it's communicated clearly, but
if someone asks me what I want, I'd ask for $100 guarantee. It's
up to the series to decide if that's viable. If the series can't offer
a given amt, it's my prerogative to either agree to call for a lower
guarantee or regretfully decline the opportunity to call, with no hard
feelings either way. Only time I've noticed hard feelings on anyone's part
is when the series agreed to overreach its budget, or when parameters
weren't clear in advance.
And finally, in our initial stages of both dances I've been part of organizing
(Belfast, Dover) we
overreached our budget on the first couple dances, just to be able to
attract musicians who would be a draw. But once we built momentum, we
were able to re-pay any small early shortfalls.
In a related topic, I have always championed the concept of charging
as much as I think the market will bear. We did that in Belfast, and
it just was an overall boost in terms of the books. Many dances are now
$9 or $10, which is a big difference from $5 or $6 in terms of covering
expenses. Organizers have enough to do without having to worry about
paying expenses out of their personal pocket!
Hope this 2cents is useful!
And hope that these sorts of meaty exchanges continue on SW Organizers list. So juicy, so
fruitful, so relevant, so useful for all!
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As a caller (for whom this is a large part of my
livelihood), I will
work with many arrangements as long as it's communicated clearly
I assume that most of your gigs are 'local' then. At 51c/mile allowed
by the IRS you don't have to travel very far to be making a loss!