I am the Friday band and caller scheduler for the Chattahoochee Contra Dancers (CCD) in
Atlanta. (CCD dances every Friday and 1st, 3rd, and 5th Tuesdays).
I schedule on a quarterly basis (Q1: Jan-Mar, Q2: Apr-Jun, Q3: Jul-Sep, Q4: Oct-Dec)
Our Steering Committee sets the ratio of touring (aka Out of Town – “OOT”) vs. local bands
for each 13 Friday quarter. My current marching orders are to fill 5-6 Fridays with OOT
bands and the remaining 8-9 with local-to-Atlanta bands. There is currently no cap on the
number of OOT callers I can book in a 13 Friday quarter.
When possible (which it isn’t always) I try to keep OOT bands/callers from ‘date clumping’
so that there is an even sprinkle of OOT talent across the calendar instead of 5 OOT bands
in a row followed by 9 local bands in a row
OOT callers and band contacts may pro-actively contact me about booking gigs as far in
advance as they want to. I frequently take bookings for more than a year out.
I make booking decisions on my own for OOT bands that have played for us before but if a
request comes from an OOT band that has never played our Friday stage before I notify the
Steering Committee members who serve on our Band Selection Committee. They do reference
checks, watch videos, listen to sound files, etc and then get back to me with a decision
about whether I should add the new band to our ‘vetted’ list or not. (i.e., they give me
permission – or not – to book the request)
I also loop in the organizers of our two other area dances (Gainesville GA and Sautee GA)
to see if we can turn the request into multiple gigs and help promote each other’s dances
If a band/caller can’t commit to a requested date when they first contact me (which they
frequently can’t until they hear back from other dance organizers on the proposed tour) I
pencil them in and leave it that way until they can either commit or someone else contacts
me about the same date – at which point the first band has to either commit or give the
I also proactively reach out to OOT bands that may be interested in setting up tours down
the East Coast or in the Southeast. Because touring band needs to string together
multiple dates, I initiate this contact several quarters out.
If, by the first month of the current quarter, I don’t have a full roster of OOT bands
scheduled for the next quarter I start proactively reaching out to regional bands who may
be able to play a one-off or set up a mini-tour. My goal for any next quarter is to have
all OOT band/caller gigs in place by the beginning of the second month of the current
At the beginning of the second month of the current quarter I send out an availability
email to my ‘Music and Mic Magicians’ listserv (aka the pool of local bands and callers
who have been vetted to play our Friday stage). When they return their information bands
and callers have annotated the dates I sent out with “preferred date,” “available,” “not
available,” and “can work but would prefer not.”
I wait until all responses have come in (this takes a few weeks), fill out an availability
table with everyone’s info (8 callers, 9 bands), and use that information to assemble the
band/caller jigsaw puzzle keeping in mind:
How many gigs a given local band /caller has gotten over the last 4 quarters (on a rolling
basis) -- our goal is equity of playing/calling time
Which callers and bands have worked with each other over the last 4 quarters – our goal is
to honor band/caller preferences while giving everyone in our local pool a chance to
call/play with everyone else in our local pool.
What bands and callers ‘match’ well with each other’s style
Date spread (e.g. I try to avoid scheduling a band/caller for a Friday close to the end of
one quarter and then again at the beginning of the next one)
Date preferences – I try my best to keep everyone blissfully happy but this is not always
Other idiosyncratic factors, as they arise
Once I have the puzzle put together I send the filled out availability table, with
everyone’s booked gigs highlighted in yellow, out to the listserv, post it to our website,
and deal with for requests for schedule changes as they pop up. (Letting everyone see who
is available to be booked for a given week, not just who ended up being booked for a given
week, promotes transparency and helps if something comes up at the last minute because
bands/callers can use the availability table to contact each other about switching dates
on their own, if I’m not available for some reason to do that for them.
See also specific answers to your questions below.
On 6/25/18, 4:49 PM, "Organizers on behalf of jim saxe via Organizers"
<organizers-bounces+jethi=icloud.com(a)lists.sharedweight.net on behalf of
I'd like to hear about different people's approaches to booking bands and
callers for a dance series. For example:
* Do you ask a bunch of bands and callers at once for their availability dates and
then try to fill in the schedule based on the combined responses, or do you contact folks
sequentially on an "if you're available for date X, you've got it"
* How far in advance to you seek to book your talent?
As far out as desired for OOT bands and callers, on a quarterly basis for local bands and
callers. See above
Does it vary for different people (callers vs. bands; locals vs. out-of-towners; top-tier
locals vs. others; musicians who don't want to commit too far in advance because they
might get offered a wedding gig; ...)?
* What if a band or caller asks you about some date and you were planning to ask
someone else that you'd prefer but might not be able to get? or if you ask about
availability of band X and your band contact comes back with something like "No can
do, but what about (lower cachet) band Y?" or "... what about most of band X
with substitute fiddler TBD?"?
No set policy for this. I case by case it based on past experience with the bands and
callers in question.
* Have you found ways to mix different approaches to booking so as to get "the
best of both worlds" instead of the worst?
The approach outlined above works fairly well for us because Atlanta is blessed with a
deep pool of musical and calling talent, as well as being within a relatively easy drive
of Asheville (which is a magnet for top tier touring and regional bands).
* Are there other questions you think I should have asked and, if so, what are your
aswers to them?
Q: How do you spread both the pleasure (everyone wants to call / play with them!) and pain
(no one wants to call / play with them!) -- A: VERY meticulous records of who has
called/played with whom each quarter all the way back to when the dinosaurs first invented
It would be easy to go on at length about the *potential* plusses and minuses of
various ways of doing bookings. What I'd prefer is to hear about *ideas that have
worked well in practice* for other organizers.
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