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Getting Booked For Dances

December 28th, 2013
contra, free_raisins, music

When the Free Raisins first started trying to get booked for dances I didn't really understand how this worked. Should we ask people to play their dance? Wait to be asked? How far out do dances book? What times of year do they do their booking? We've now been booked for 126 dances and I feel like I understand things better now so I went back over emails and collected data on how booking worked.

For each dance I recorded what date they confirmed the booking with us, the name of the dance, the date of the dance, and who asked who. Then I made a chart, with each line running from the booking date to the dance date, colored by how we got the gig:

(The code for all of these plots is on github.)

Alternatively, you could look at this as a histogram:

These are bookings over time, comparing ones we asked for (blue) with ones that where we were asked (red). The numbers here lag a bit because these are confirmations and not requests, though we're pretty fast at responding to email and generally get things confirmed within a few days. It looks like organizers do a lot of asking in the spring, so if you're trying to get booked for dances it sounds like you want to make sure you're on their radar when they're doing that booking. Probably also good to plan tours before then, so the dates aren't already filled up.

In our first few months we were very active sending out emails and talking to organizers, trying to get booked for the various small dances around Boston: Medway, MIT, Northboro, Kingston, Cotuit, Mystic. Some dances said "yes" right away, others said "play some other dances, get some experience, and then we can talk." After about a year we started getting asked back to play these dances again and also asked to play other dances.

In early 2012, after playing dances for a year and a half, we put together our first tour. We had gotten asked back to play Glen Echo's Sunday night dance and found seven other dances we'd like to play. This meant lots of emailing, and lots of finding alternate dances when the ones we'd originally hoped to play turned out to already be booked. No one said 'no' or asked for references: I think the assumption was "they're touring, they must know what they're doing."

In June 2012 we did our last round of asking nearby dances to book us. After this point the only dances we were asking were ones where we were looking to put together tours. We were on the lists of enough organizers that we were getting to play about as many dances as we were interested in playing. You can see this in the histogram if we break out dates we requested for a tour (green) from times when we just say "hey, could we play your dance?":

In the past few months we've started to get asked to play dance weekends. I hadn't tried asking to play these, based on informal conversations with other musicians who had recommended against asking. I think a big contribution here was playing Catapult; three of the weekends explicitly mentioned that's where they heard us.

Overall the main thing I see in this data is about what times organizers are looking to book bands. Before going through this I would have said late summer, but it actually looks more like spring. It's also interesting to see how as you play for more and more dances people start asking you back and it takes less work keep a full schedule of upcoming dances.

Update 2017-09-22: I ran the numbers again, with twice as many years of data to work from.

Raw Data:
Date ConfirmedDance NameDate of Dance How
2010‑07‑01One-off fundraiser2010‑08‑13 Asked; knew organizer
2010‑07‑27Northboro MA2010‑10‑16 Asked us; knew organizer
2010‑07‑30Medway MA2010‑12‑04 Asked; introduced via musician friend
2010‑08‑01MIT2010‑10‑12 Asked; knew organizer
2010‑08‑20Medway2011‑05‑07 Asked; played before
2010‑09‑01Brandeis College2010‑10‑09 Organized ourselves
2010‑09‑03Brandeis College2010‑12‑11 Organized ourselves
2010‑10‑04Brandeis College2010‑11‑20 Organized ourselves
2010‑11‑03Swarthmore College2011‑03‑26 Asked us; knew organizer
2010‑12‑14Arisia Con2011‑01‑14 Asked; knew organizer
2010‑12‑17NEFFA Festival2011‑04‑16 Applied; knew organizers
2011‑03‑09MIT2011‑08‑09 Asked; played before
2011‑03‑13Kingston NH2011‑08‑27 Asked; emailed cold
2011‑03‑28Cotuit MA2011‑08‑13 Asked; introduced via caller friend
2011‑03‑28Worcester MA2011‑11‑12 Asked; emailed cold
2011‑04‑13Concord NH2011‑06‑18 Asked; emailed cold
2011‑05‑13Mystic CT2011‑09‑24 Asked; emailed cold
2011‑06‑07Concord MA2011‑11‑04 Asked us; knew organizer
2011‑06‑14BIDA2011‑12‑18 Asked; knew organizers
2011‑07‑07Medway MA2011‑10‑01 Asked back
2011‑07‑07Medway MA2012‑04‑14 Asked back
2011‑07‑25MIT2011‑10‑11 Asked back
2011‑09‑15Concord MA2011‑10‑10 Asked; knew organizer
2011‑09‑28Swarthmore College2011‑11‑05 Asked back
2011‑08‑29Amherst MA2012‑02‑01 Asked us; introduced via dancer friend
2011‑11‑09Concord MA2012‑02‑09 Asked; knew organizer
2011‑12‑09Glen Echo2011‑12‑11 Filled in for friends who had to cancel
2011‑12‑16NEFFA Festival2012‑04‑21 Applied; knew organizers
2011‑12‑24Charlestown MA2012‑02‑04 Asked us; knew organizer
2012‑01‑10Concord NH2012‑02‑18 Asked back
2012‑02‑01DEFFA Festival2012‑03‑31 Applied
2012‑02‑10Cotuit MA2012‑03‑10 Asked back
2012‑02‑10MIT2012‑04‑10 Asked back
2012‑02‑14New York NY2012‑05‑12 Asked us; introduced via musician friend
2012‑03‑16Glen Echo2012‑07‑27 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑02‑07Glen Echo2012‑07‑29 Asked back
2012‑02‑14Winston‑Salem NC2012‑07‑31 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑02‑21Ithaca NY2012‑08‑03 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑02‑22Syracuse NY2012‑08‑04 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑03‑03Knoxville TN2012‑07‑30 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑03‑05Rochester NY2012‑08‑02 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑03‑13Baltimore MD2012‑08‑01 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑05‑10Jamaica Plain MA2012‑09‑08 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑05‑16Mystic CT2012‑10‑27 Asked back
2012‑05‑30Worcester MA2013‑04‑13 Asked; played before
2012‑06‑02East Sandwich MA2012‑08‑18 Asked us; knew organizer
2012‑06‑04Kingston NH2013‑01‑26 Asked; played before
2012‑06‑06MIT2012‑08‑14 Asked; played before
2012‑06‑08Greenfield MA2012‑11‑11 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑06‑10Amherst MA2012‑08‑29 Asked; played before
2012‑07‑01Northboro MA2012‑10‑20 Asked back
2012‑07‑30Medway MA2013‑04‑06 Asked back
2012‑08‑04Great Bear Groove Weekend2013‑06‑01 Asked us; heard us at Syracuse
2012‑08‑12Medway MA2013‑01‑05 Asked back
2012‑08‑14New York NY2013‑03‑23 Asked back
2012‑08‑14Deerfield NH2013‑05‑04 Asked us; knew organizer
2012‑08‑17BIDA2012‑09‑16 Asked back
2012‑09‑04East Sandwich MA2012‑09‑15 Asked back
2012‑09‑04Cotuit MA2012‑12‑08 Asked back
2012‑09‑09Wesleyan College2012‑10‑26 Asked us; introduced via musician and dancer friend
2012‑09‑14Concord MA2012‑11‑15 Asked back
2012‑09‑16Enfield CT2013‑03‑24 Asked us; knew organizer
2012‑10‑24Arisia Con2013‑01‑18 Asked back
2012‑10‑25MIT2013‑01‑29 Asked back
2012‑11‑07Belfast ME2013‑01‑04 Asked us
2012‑11‑11Concord NH2013‑06‑15 Asked back
2012‑11‑13Wellesley College2012‑12‑14 Asked us
2012‑11‑17Glen Echo2013‑07‑14 Asked; played before
2012‑11‑19Asheville NC2013‑07‑15 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑11‑19Clemmons NC2013‑07‑16 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑11‑24New Haven CT2013‑07‑20 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑11‑25Montpelier VT2013‑05‑18 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑12‑06NEFFA Festival2013‑04‑20 Applied
2012‑12‑10CD Release Dance2013‑02‑24 Organized ourselves
2012‑12‑14University of NH2013‑02‑21 Asked us
2013‑01‑21Brooklyn NY2013‑03‑22 Asked us; knew organizer
2013‑01‑03Catapult Weekend2013‑05‑25 Applied, second try
2013‑01‑13Charlotte NC2013‑07‑17 Asked; phoned cold
2013‑01‑27Kingston NH2013‑11‑23 Asked back
2013‑02‑04East Sandwich MA2013‑03‑16 Asked back
2013‑02‑05Cornell University2013‑09‑07 Asked us
2013‑02‑12Cotuit MA2013‑06‑08 Asked back
2013‑03‑23Charlottesville NC2013‑07‑19 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑04‑15Rutland MA2013‑09‑20 Asked us
2013‑04‑22Concord MA2013‑09‑19 Asked back
2013‑05‑02Peterborough NH2013‑11‑02 Asked us; knew organizer
2013‑05‑13Worcester MA2013‑10‑12 Asked back
2013‑05‑28Northboro MA2013‑11‑16 Asked back
2013‑05‑28Montpelier VT2014‑03‑29 Asked back
2013‑06‑03Concord MA2013‑11‑01 Asked back
2013‑06‑07Jamaica Plain MA2014‑02‑08 Asked back
2013‑06‑11Rochester NY2014‑07‑17 Asked back
2013‑06‑11Buffalo NY2014‑07‑19 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑06‑11Toronto ON2014‑07‑20 Asked us; heard us at Great Bear Groove
2013‑06‑12Glenside PA2014‑07‑24 Asked; knew organizer
2013‑06‑14Albany NY2014‑01‑31 Asked us
2013‑06‑14Bates College2013‑10‑11 Asked us; heard us at the Great Bear Groove
2013‑06‑17Glen Echo2014‑07‑25 Asked; played before
2013‑06‑18Pittsburgh PA2014‑07‑18 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑07‑08Amherst MA2014‑07‑16 Asked; played before
2013‑07‑16Hartford CT2014‑01‑11 Asked us
2013‑07‑16Amherst MA2014‑01‑15 Asked back
2013‑07‑17Hampshire College2013‑09‑11 Asked us
2013‑07‑17Cincinnati OH2014‑07‑21 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑07‑18Indianapolis IN2014‑07‑22 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑07‑24Bloomington IN2014‑07‑23 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑08‑07Ottowa ON2014‑03‑01 Asked us; heard us at Great Bear Groove
2013‑08‑07Montreal QC2014‑03‑02 Asked us; heard us at Great Bear Groove
2013‑08‑13Burlington VT2014‑02‑28 Asked; knew organizers
2013‑08‑13Brooklyn NY2014‑07‑26 Asked; played before
2013‑08‑20Enfield CT2014‑05‑18 Asked back
2013‑08‑22New York NY2014‑05‑17 Asked; played before
2013‑08‑27June Bug Bash Weekend2014‑06‑14 Asked us; heard us at Catapult
2013‑09‑04MIT2013‑10‑08 Asked back
2013‑09‑23Fire Ant Frolic Weekend2014‑11‑01 Asked us; heard us at catapult
2013‑10‑25Concord NH2014‑06‑21 Asked back
2013‑10‑27Flamingo Fling Weekend2015‑06‑13 Asked us; heard us at catapult
2013‑11‑04Spring Fling Weekend2014‑05‑03 Asked us; recommended by a caller friend
2013‑11‑09NEFFA Festival2014‑04‑26 Applied
2013‑11‑26Chatham NY2014‑02‑01 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑12‑10Dance Flurry Festival2014‑02‑15 Applied
2013‑12‑10Youth Dance Weekend2014‑09‑27 Asked us; knew organizers
2013‑12‑13Concord MA2014‑01‑06 Asked back
2013‑12‑13Concord MA2014‑06‑19 Asked back
2013‑12‑17New York NY2014‑05‑16 Asked us; saw we were playing CDNY the next night
2013‑12‑19Adirondack Dance Weekend2014‑09‑20 Asked us; recommended by a caller friend

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