From the Lenox Contra Dance, Lenox, MA
We went through a fairly dramatic period several years ago. After years of strong
attendance, 100+ generally, we started dipping well below break even and watched our built
up cash begin to evaporate, pretty fast. At the same time the beautiful hall we rent
(Lenox Community Center) told us our rent was going to go from $175 to $275 in one jump.
We offered them $240, which they accepted for a six-month period, but it hasn’t changed
now in three years. Whew!
But we did several things to protect the dance. First off, we told our community through
several means, of our dire situation. And then we offered “Sustaining Memberships,” which,
at the time, was a very apt name. No discount to speak of, just a year’s dances all up
front. The response was great, with about 28 people signing on. It gave us enough cash to
feel like we could continue to book in the future. And several people who did pay for a
membership contributed substantially more, to the tune of nearly $1,000 on top of the
One other change we made, at the advice of one of our more experienced callers, was that
we have stopped sharing any excess gate with the performers. We’ve provided a guarantee
for years, but when there was really strong attendance we had a formula to share some of
that with the performers. But this caller said that bands are quite satisfied with the
guarantee, and if they have the perception that the dance is struggling, they generally
don’t want to add to the strain. A very successful evening for a struggling dance serious
should accrue to the dance to help it survive.
And we raised the entry to $12/$6.
Those two actions, and more active marketing, and the attendance rose again. We’ve kept
admission to the $12/$6 because we’ve been told that the community center board is looking
seriously at raising the rentals. Easier to hold at a level that people aren’t complaining
about than to drop it back down to $10 and find ourselves needing to raise it again. We do
feel like we are still under the gun on rent, but we have rebuilt our reserves such that
we’d have a good deal of time to decide what to do.
We have kept a "second dance free" offer, which are redeemed occasionally.
And we’ve kept the Sustaining Memberships, but now discounted by paying for 10 dances for
the 12 we have every year. Mostly we’ve kept it because folks just find it convenient to
not have to pay, and they do want to provide the regular support. We hold that fund in a
separate line account, and move 1/12th of it to the monthly dance as it occurs, so that by
the end of the December dance the fund is zeroed out.
We are in a fairly local market… we don’t have many dancers who travel long distances, so
we really have to rely on our local dancers who have only a few other options each month.
Lenox (MA) Contra Dance
On Dec 14, 2018, at 11:09 AM, Emily Addison via
Organizers <organizers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
Hi fellow Shared Weight members,
I'm back wearing my CDSS hat this morning with a question that overlaps somewhat with
the ideas that were shared last week. (I expect that I will be VERY quiet after this
question given that there are so many ideas to pull together.)
ANYWAY: HERE IS THE QUESTION.... ....
What door pricing model do you use for your events (i.e., what do you charge
participants)? Does your group do something innovative/creative that works well for your
There has been a lot of recent discussion on the use sliding scale. I'm hoping to
capture how this can be effectively implement. However, there are also many other
innovative ideas such as group/family pricing, pay-it-forward, free dance after so many
If you have a model you'd like to share, please include a few ideas on why you think
the model works well. For instance:
--->Do you have effective signage explaining the pricing model? If so… what does it
--->What do the door volunteers say to make your pricing successful? (If you have door
---> How have you explained the pricing (e.g., on-mic announcements; email; website)
to your community? Do you connect it to your broader financial goals? If you are
committed to being transparent about your organization’s finances, how do you do that?
---?What/how do you communicate to first time attendees? (There's a lot to taken in
when you're brand new walking in the door!)
If you have ideas you think would benefit other dance, music, and/or song communities,
please either share them back onto the list or you can email me directly (Emily(a)cdss.org
<mailto:Emily@cdss.org>). (If you share on the list, they have the potential to
help others immediately.) It may take me a few days but I'll definitely follow up
with you. Then, once I have a completed draft of the resource, I will circulate it among
all contributors before it is finalized and made public.
PS -> I will also be posting this question on the ECD and Pourparler lists to gather
ideas from organizers involved in other traditions. Apologies if you see the message more
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