Ballroom and the economy

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by pygmalion, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I'd have to agree with that. Most of the kids were wearing ska clothes with a 40s twist to them.
  2. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    If I were in a question asking mood :lol: :lol: I'd ask if the current pricing model is broken. (a la if it ain't broke, don't fix it *shrug*) And if it is broken, is it broken badly enough to inspire the US dance industry to make fundamental changes and do things differently?

    Yes. There must be other pricing models that work. Posts from non-US-based DF members allude to a totally different approach to ballroom in some other countries -- an approach that works for them. But are the past/current economic challenges enough incentive for dance industry professionals in the US to go looking for a different approach? :?

    And if the industry did (by some miracle IMO :lol: ) agree to a different approach, what's the probability that a new approach would be better for ballroom overall?

    The first question I'd have to ask would be, "what does better for ballroom really mean?" When I read through some DF threads, it's pretty clear to me that different people/different groups within the ballroom community in the US have very different beliefs about what's best for ballroom. So perhaps changing the pricing model for comps, if it happened, would be better for a subset of the ballroom dancers in the US. But what about everybody else? Hmm. :?
  3. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Boy that was a long-winded post! :oops: :lol:

    My bottom line question is whether the recent slump in ballroom comp participation is just a cyclical thing that's tied to a temporary recession in the economy. Or is it indicative of fundamental problems in the ballroom industry? I don't know. :?
  4. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Oh yeah, and I guess my other question is whether innovative individuals could possibly take a different approach within the current industry and succeed at it.

    For example, could a ballroom organizer sponsor and promote a comp that uses a different pricing structure but still breaks even financially? (without getting run out of town on a rail by competing comp organizers? :roll: :lol: )

    Yes. I know about the lower-priced comps that are out there already. My impression is that, right at the moment, it's a live and let live situation. The lower-priced comps peacefully coexist with the big money makers because they're low-key and aren't really competing for the same pool of business. (I could be wrong, though. That's just my impression. 8) )

    What I'm wondering is what would happen if a major, big-name comp (or two or three or ten ...) were to decide to cut fees and heavily promote themselves within the community, in order to appeal to more dancers and make money on volume. Could that work?
  5. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    But the funny thing is everyone here assumes that the competition organizers are the ones making money.... They are not. Not even when things are going good. Back when I started in this business i remember organizers talking about expenses. They were lucky to be breaking even.


    I am going to call an organizer and get their side of the story so at least they are represented equally here.
  6. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Good. I'd be glad to see another view that's closer to the action.

    That's exactly why I was careful to ask questions about whether a different approach would work, rather than to assume that it would. That's also why I asked, "what about everybody else?" Yes. People who attend comps want a lower price tag. But what about the organizers, and the pro-am teachers, and the venue providers, and the vendors, ... It cascades.

    I've never organized a ballroom comp. I have, though, organized several large events at big hotels and conference centers. Putting on one of those events is incredibly expensive. I've worked on a few conferences, for example, where the cost (not the price -- the cost) exceeded a million dollars for a week-long event. And the folks who signed up, complained because they were paying about $500 -- $700 registration fees apiece (plus airfare and hotel.) But the truth is, we weren't making money. If we had cut the price any, we would have lost even more money than we did. LOL.
  7. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    That is EXACTLY the complaintof most organizers. Payout to hotel gets near the 7 figure mark.

    Competitions could always skip the hotel and be located elsewhere....however... there is an incredible little competition just north of Boston that is held in an Auditorium. The organizer only provides the dancing venue, not food, not hotel,... nothing. And so you would assume that this would be succesful. It is fun, but very very small.

    And I hear just as much crabbing and nagging about how things are run. People hate having to walk outside in their costumes to get to the auditorium. And god-forbid it is raining, wet ballroom hair and make-up is a frightful site, shoes get ruined, tans run. People complain.

    Instead of offering food packages there is a little hot-dog window that sells sandwiches and sodas. People complain that the food isn't good quality sit down meals.

    So either the organizers don't provide anything and let everyone fend for themselves and get criticized for provideing a low quality event... or you try to offer a quality event with nice things, but have everyone screaming about having to pay for it.
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Exactly. It would be really funny if, as a prerequisite to entering one of these comps, you were required to put in ten volunteer hours working on one. That would kill two birds with one stone. It would bring down the price. :twisted: But it would also give people an idea of how things really work. I bet they'd complain a lot less. :twisted: :lol: :lol:
  9. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    One Boston-area college held a one day comp in a hotel ballroom, a friend got quotes for two days that would have made costs difficult but not impossible. Even if these were discounted non-profit rates, they are a lot better than that (low 5 figures) - and without being required to sell a bunch of rooms (at most, just a handfull for judges and early set up staff). Obviously these didn't include banquets and things like that which could drive up the cost.

    Another big cost center is probably judges, head table staff, and even running staff.

    But a lot of the pricing is also guided by the style of event. If it's a pro-am comp, the actual entry fees are no longer the dominant cost of competing. And in a group of people what will pay those costs, a lot can be very demanding about service - hence you get complaints when it's not possible to pay an exhorbitant rate for a room in the comp venue and not have to walk outside in the rain.

    People on the budget comp circuit would be deciding if the rain was bad enough to justify a taxi from the bus station to the venue...
  10. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Good points, Chris. We're talking about two different circuits. In many cases, that means two different demographic groups and two different sets of expectations. So you can't necessarily map one set of operating procedures onto the other, in my view. Maybe each circuit could share some best practices with the other. *shrug*
  11. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    To be argumentative....

    Yes.

    A little of both IMNSHO.
  12. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    And, to be argumentative right back. :wink: :lol: :lol: Yes. I agree. I think there are some fundamental problems in the ballroom industry. I also think that the whole comp-circuit discussion is just a microcosm of the larger industry. Even if you solve the comp-related issues to everyone's satisfaction (yeah. right. :? ) there are some HUGE issues in the non-competitive world that haven't even begun to be addressed. I actually think your informed consumerism model applies as well, if not better, in the social dance world, DM. 8)

    We still haven't gotten around to talking about spatten's theory (I think he was the first one to mention it ... :? ) that the current slow-down in comp attendance, etc, will be good for competitive ballroom in the long run.

    And what about the social ballroom world? Where do they fit into all this economic slowdown stuff?
  13. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I think we'd be better off with more competitions that were better attended.

    Which needs to come first is an interesting question though.
  14. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I actually agree with that, Chris. Who woulda thought? :wink: :lol:

    [Segue to Jenn-speak :lol: :lol: ] As much as I'd like it to be true, I don't think that just lowering the prices is the whole picture. Lower prices might help lower the threshold for some. But there are a lot of other things that also need to be addressed, IMO.
  15. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    The prices that need lowering are those of introductory training, until they match the cost/benefit of advanced training. If that happens, we could start to have some serious growth.
  16. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    When you realize that for the most part, pricing is controlled by the STUDIOS who take students (remember what I said about closed field?), you can't really blame the ORGANIZERS. I'm willing to bet you dollars to donuts that even if the organizers dropped prices to below wholesale, there are SOME studios still out there that wouold charge an arm, leg and an appendix for a comp trip because they CAN.

    The only to kill that is to have all prices made public by the organizers. Get your entries/etc from them, NOT through a studio middleman. This seems to be the case for all AM-AM comps and collegiate comps.

    If the NDCA circuit operated that way, it would revolutionise the industry (IMNSHO).

    Of course, you are still going to have the AMI Superama stuff that costs through the wazoo but that's their deal and they aren't accountable to anyone but themselves, ya know?

    What should happen (perfect world) is the organisation of an overseeing body made up of reps from all competition organisers that agrees to self-regulate pricing/venues/etc. Have a set minimum and maximum that each item can cost for member comps and go from there. Membership should be voluntary but give the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" (as it were) so that savvy consumers KNOW they aren't going to get jacked when they attend.
  17. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Darn! I wish I had time to read through your whole post and reply at length right now. I'm on my way out of DF til at least this evening.

    But amen. That's why I said I think your model applies as much, if not more, at the social level. I should have added studio- internal comps.

    IMO, if you're already at a public-access comp, you already have a huge source of information about how things work, how much they cost, how much everybody else is paying, what resources are available, what other teachers and their students look like, whether your own performance is comparatively good or bad. You have a HUGE amount of information that's there for the asking/observing/networking.

    If you're in a self-contained studio, you may or may not ever get any of that information. So it's the luck of the draw. If you're affiliated with a reputable, good-quality studio, you're in luck. If not, you may very well get bilked and never know it.

    Yep. You're definitely on point about the value of consumer information. I just think the people who really need the information the most, though, are not necessarily the ones you meet at NDCA comps (or even unaffiliated pro-am comps.) Those folks already have information, or at least access to it, IMO.
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I knew I wouldn't be able to resist checking back in. :lol: :lol:

    Uh... Yes. There are some studios out there charging mutiples in mark-up of what other studios are charging. I think it's pretty disgraceful, myself.

    I'm not sure that making NDCA or some other governing body into the comp-price police is a feasible approach. At least, that's my knee-jerk reaction, which may or may not bear any resemblance to reason. :oops: :lol: Hmm. I'll think about this and come post later.

    I'm out for now. Honest. :wink: 8) :car:
  19. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    To be frank, I'm not talking about NDCA. I'd rather see a group of organisers get together and say "For the good of the dance, WE aren't going to let this happen to OUR consumers", put a label on it and sell it. :)
  20. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    That's like putting price controls on restaurants!

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