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Sliding Scale

July 13th, 2019
contra  [html]

One thing I like about BIDA's $5-$15 sliding scale is that there are a wide range of reasons someone might not be able to afford our break-even rate: students, but also retirees, unemployed people, people with low paying jobs, people covering expenses for a lot of dependents, etc. While many organizations pick specific categories for discounts, a sliding scale means the organizers aren't in the business of judging people's financial situations.

This is enough of a reason to have a sliding scale that I think it's the right choice for Beantown Stomp and other capacity-constrained events. But most contra dance evenings don't sell out, and there I see another strong reason for a sliding scale: I'd rather have people come than stay home. Some people will always be on the fence about whether to come, and there are people who can afford $15 but at $15 would rather stay home. If they come and pay $5 then everyone is better off than if they had stayed home or went to a movie.

Sometimes I describe this to people and get a reaction like, "if they can afford $15 but don't think this amazing live music, great calling, and all the work the organizers put in are worth $15, then I don't want them here". Many people feel like a discount for "can't afford much" is fine, but "don't want to pay much" is not. I see where they're coming from, but fundamentally contra dance is something that gets better the more people there are dancing. Someone who comes and dances helps make the dance more fun just by their presence: more potential partners, more people to shout and stamp, more neighbors along the line.

10100101914698962 People typically get into contra dancing for a while, and then drift away after a few years. Sometimes people move, start a new job that conflicts, or have a bad experience, but it's also common for people to just slowly feel less and less like wanting to go out dancing. There are tons of reasons that affect whether people come, but cost is a factor even for people that can afford it. While the option to just pay $5 isn't going to mean that people never drift away, I do expect it to slow down the rate a bit, and in churn-limited environment that means a larger, healthier community.

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