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Booking Arms Race

April 27th, 2015
contra, music, booking

Most contra dance bands say yes to the first dance that asks them for a given date. Which means from the perspective of a dance organizer it makes sense to book bands as far ahead as possible. By asking first you're most likely to get the band you want: wait until a few months out and bands are mostly booked up. If everyone is trying to book mostly the same bands you're stuck in a bit of an arms race.

How many days in advance a booking was confirmed

For Free Raisins bookings confirmed in 2013, extracted from getting booked for dances.

(I think we're generally getting booked even farther out now, though I haven't checked.)

This is a mixed bag for bands. On the one hand, especially for people who are in this professionally, a long booking cycle does give you some job security. On the other hand, it can be hard to know how much time you'll have a year from now, or whether you'll still even be living in that area anymore.

Bringing in money makes this all more complicated. I play dances in my off time, but for many dance musicians this is the main way they earn their living. To make a reasonable wage this means mostly playing bigger events, so when a smaller dance you love wants to book a year in advance you're running a very real risk that a larger event will later ask about the same date. If the smaller dance were willing to book with a shorter lead time that risk would be much lower, and more people could say yes.

I'm not sure how to make this better. Ideas? I don't want to get into a situation where we're booking two years out.

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