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 Confirmed Dance Name Date of Dance How
2010‑07‑01 One-off fundraiser 2010‑08‑13 Asked; knew organizer
2010‑07‑27 Northboro MA 2010‑10‑16 Asked us; knew organizer
2010‑07‑30 Medway MA 2010‑12‑04 Asked; introduced via musician friend
2010‑08‑01 MIT 2010‑10‑12 Asked; knew organizer
2010‑08‑20 Medway 2011‑05‑07 Asked; played before
2010‑09‑01 Brandeis College 2010‑10‑09 Organized ourselves
2010‑09‑03 Brandeis College 2010‑12‑11 Organized ourselves
2010‑10‑04 Brandeis College 2010‑11‑20 Organized ourselves
2010‑11‑03 Swarthmore College 2011‑03‑26 Asked us; knew organizer
2010‑12‑14 Arisia Con 2011‑01‑14 Asked; knew organizer
2010‑12‑17 NEFFA Festival 2011‑04‑16 Applied; knew organizers
2011‑03‑09 MIT 2011‑08‑09 Asked; played before
2011‑03‑13 Kingston NH 2011‑08‑27 Asked; emailed cold
2011‑03‑28 Cotuit MA 2011‑08‑13 Asked; introduced via caller friend
2011‑03‑28 Worcester MA 2011‑11‑12 Asked; emailed cold
2011‑04‑13 Concord NH 2011‑06‑18 Asked; emailed cold
2011‑05‑13 Mystic CT 2011‑09‑24 Asked; emailed cold
2011‑06‑07 Concord MA 2011‑11‑04 Asked us; knew organizer
2011‑06‑14 BIDA 2011‑12‑18 Asked; knew organizers
2011‑07‑07 Medway MA 2011‑10‑01 Asked back
2011‑07‑07 Medway MA 2012‑04‑14 Asked back
2011‑07‑25 MIT 2011‑10‑11 Asked back
2011‑09‑15 Concord MA 2011‑10‑10 Asked; knew organizer
2011‑09‑28 Swarthmore College 2011‑11‑05 Asked back
2011‑08‑29 Amherst MA 2012‑02‑01 Asked us; introduced via dancer friend
2011‑11‑09 Concord MA 2012‑02‑09 Asked; knew organizer
2011‑12‑09 Glen Echo 2011‑12‑11 Filled in for friends who had to cancel
2011‑12‑16 NEFFA Festival 2012‑04‑21 Applied; knew organizers
2011‑12‑24 Charlestown MA 2012‑02‑04 Asked us; knew organizer
2012‑01‑10 Concord NH 2012‑02‑18 Asked back
2012‑02‑01 DEFFA Festival 2012‑03‑31 Applied
2012‑02‑10 Cotuit MA 2012‑03‑10 Asked back
2012‑02‑10 MIT 2012‑04‑10 Asked back
2012‑02‑14 New York NY 2012‑05‑12 Asked us; introduced via musician friend
2012‑03‑16 Glen Echo 2012‑07‑27 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑02‑07 Glen Echo 2012‑07‑29 Asked back
2012‑02‑14 Winston‑Salem NC 2012‑07‑31 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑02‑21 Ithaca NY 2012‑08‑03 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑02‑22 Syracuse NY 2012‑08‑04 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑03‑03 Knoxville TN 2012‑07‑30 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑03‑05 Rochester NY 2012‑08‑02 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑03‑13 Baltimore MD 2012‑08‑01 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑05‑10 Jamaica Plain MA 2012‑09‑08 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑05‑16 Mystic CT 2012‑10‑27 Asked back
2012‑05‑30 Worcester MA 2013‑04‑13 Asked; played before
2012‑06‑02 East Sandwich MA 2012‑08‑18 Asked us; knew organizer
2012‑06‑04 Kingston NH 2013‑01‑26 Asked; played before
2012‑06‑06 MIT 2012‑08‑14 Asked; played before
2012‑06‑08 Greenfield MA 2012‑11‑11 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑06‑10 Amherst MA 2012‑08‑29 Asked; played before
2012‑07‑01 Northboro MA 2012‑10‑20 Asked back
2012‑07‑30 Medway MA 2013‑04‑06 Asked back
2012‑08‑04 Great Bear Groove Weekend 2013‑06‑01 Asked us; heard us at Syracuse
2012‑08‑12 Medway MA 2013‑01‑05 Asked back
2012‑08‑14 New York NY 2013‑03‑23 Asked back
2012‑08‑14 Deerfield NH 2013‑05‑04 Asked us; knew organizer
2012‑08‑17 BIDA 2012‑09‑16 Asked back
2012‑09‑04 East Sandwich MA 2012‑09‑15 Asked back
2012‑09‑04 Cotuit MA 2012‑12‑08 Asked back
2012‑09‑09 Wesleyan College 2012‑10‑26 Asked us; introduced via musician and dancer friend
2012‑09‑14 Concord MA 2012‑11‑15 Asked back
2012‑09‑16 Enfield CT 2013‑03‑24 Asked us; knew organizer
2012‑10‑24 Arisia Con 2013‑01‑18 Asked back
2012‑10‑25 MIT 2013‑01‑29 Asked back
2012‑11‑07 Belfast ME 2013‑01‑04 Asked us
2012‑11‑11 Concord NH 2013‑06‑15 Asked back
2012‑11‑13 Wellesley College 2012‑12‑14 Asked us
2012‑11‑17 Glen Echo 2013‑07‑14 Asked; played before
2012‑11‑19 Asheville NC 2013‑07‑15 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑11‑19 Clemmons NC 2013‑07‑16 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑11‑24 New Haven CT 2013‑07‑20 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑11‑25 Montpelier VT 2013‑05‑18 Asked; emailed cold
2012‑12‑06 NEFFA Festival 2013‑04‑20 Applied
2012‑12‑10 CD Release Dance 2013‑02‑24 Organized ourselves
2012‑12‑14 University of NH 2013‑02‑21 Asked us
2013‑01‑21 Brooklyn NY 2013‑03‑22 Asked us; knew organizer
2013‑01‑03 Catapult Weekend 2013‑05‑25 Applied, second try
2013‑01‑13 Charlotte NC 2013‑07‑17 Asked; phoned cold
2013‑01‑27 Kingston NH 2013‑11‑23 Asked back
2013‑02‑04 East Sandwich MA 2013‑03‑16 Asked back
2013‑02‑05 Cornell University 2013‑09‑07 Asked us
2013‑02‑12 Cotuit MA 2013‑06‑08 Asked back
2013‑03‑23 Charlottesville NC 2013‑07‑19 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑04‑15 Rutland MA 2013‑09‑20 Asked us
2013‑04‑22 Concord MA 2013‑09‑19 Asked back
2013‑05‑02 Peterborough NH 2013‑11‑02 Asked us; knew organizer
2013‑05‑13 Worcester MA 2013‑10‑12 Asked back
2013‑05‑28 Northboro MA 2013‑11‑16 Asked back
2013‑05‑28 Montpelier VT 2014‑03‑29 Asked back
2013‑06‑03 Concord MA 2013‑11‑01 Asked back
2013‑06‑07 Jamaica Plain MA 2014‑02‑08 Asked back
2013‑06‑11 Rochester NY 2014‑07‑17 Asked back
2013‑06‑11 Buffalo NY 2014‑07‑19 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑06‑11 Toronto ON 2014‑07‑20 Asked us; heard us at Great Bear Groove
2013‑06‑12 Glenside PA 2014‑07‑24 Asked; knew organizer
2013‑06‑14 Albany NY 2014‑01‑31 Asked us
2013‑06‑14 Bates College 2013‑10‑11 Asked us; heard us at the Great Bear Groove
2013‑06‑17 Glen Echo 2014‑07‑25 Asked; played before
2013‑06‑18 Pittsburgh PA 2014‑07‑18 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑07‑08 Amherst MA 2014‑07‑16 Asked; played before
2013‑07‑16 Hartford CT 2014‑01‑11 Asked us
2013‑07‑16 Amherst MA 2014‑01‑15 Asked back
2013‑07‑17 Hampshire College 2013‑09‑11 Asked us
2013‑07‑17 Cincinnati OH 2014‑07‑21 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑07‑18 Indianapolis IN 2014‑07‑22 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑07‑24 Bloomington IN 2014‑07‑23 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑08‑07 Ottowa ON 2014‑03‑01 Asked us; heard us at Great Bear Groove
2013‑08‑07 Montreal QC 2014‑03‑02 Asked us; heard us at Great Bear Groove
2013‑08‑13 Burlington VT 2014‑02‑28 Asked; knew organizers
2013‑08‑13 Brooklyn NY 2014‑07‑26 Asked; played before
2013‑08‑20 Enfield CT 2014‑05‑18 Asked back
2013‑08‑22 New York NY 2014‑05‑17 Asked; played before
2013‑08‑27 June Bug Bash Weekend 2014‑06‑14 Asked us; heard us at Catapult
2013‑09‑04 MIT 2013‑10‑08 Asked back
2013‑09‑23 Fire Ant Frolic Weekend 2014‑11‑01 Asked us; heard us at catapult
2013‑10‑25 Concord NH 2014‑06‑21 Asked back
2013‑10‑27 Flamingo Fling Weekend 2015‑06‑13 Asked us; heard us at catapult
2013‑11‑04 Spring Fling Weekend 2014‑05‑03 Asked us; recommended by a caller friend
2013‑11‑09 NEFFA Festival 2014‑04‑26 Applied
2013‑11‑26 Chatham NY 2014‑02‑01 Asked; emailed cold
2013‑12‑10 Dance Flurry Festival 2014‑02‑15 Applied
2013‑12‑10 Youth Dance Weekend 2014‑09‑27 Asked us; knew organizers
2013‑12‑13 Concord MA 2014‑01‑06 Asked back
2013‑12‑13 Concord MA 2014‑06‑19 Asked back
2013‑12‑17 New York NY 2014‑05‑16 Asked us; saw we were playing CDNY the next night
2013‑12‑19 Adirondack Dance Weekend 2014‑09‑20 Asked us; recommended by a caller friend

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