Revealing the Royals – Desiree’s Dancers

Choreographer/teacher Desiree Johnson runs Desiree’s Dancers in David City, Nebraska, a subsidiary of Barb’s School of Dance in Columbus, Nebraska. Desiree contacted me about a year ago to craft a custom remix for her production called Revealing the Royals. Assistant choreographers for this routine were Melinda Allen, Becky Brandenburg, and Kayla Hollatz. Here is a video of this four-minute masterpiece. Congratulations to Desiree and all of her dancers on a spectacular creation!

Rafaela Montanaro – Pole Sports champion

I am extremely honored to have been chosen to create an original remix for international pole sports champion Rafaela Montanaro. This remix incorporates a classic performance of Le Cygne, combined with an original techno orchestration for part of the piece. Last night, Rafaela competed her original routine at the U.S. Pole Championships in New Orleans, and took second place. This award qualifies her entry into the World Championship in London in July. Congratulations Rafaela!

How to avoid taking a loss on music at your dance studio

piano keyboard money billsMusic is a part of every dance studio. Music is used in just about every dance routine. Therefore, it’s important to have a good understanding of the costs of music in your studio, and how to charge appropriately for it, so that you don’t take a loss on your studio’s music expenses.

There are two major expense areas associated with music in the dance studio, Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) licensing fees, and music editing and remixing costs. In addition to these two costs, there are potentially other expenses if you have a competitive studio and audio CDs must be created for competitions. Also, if students expect to receive rehearsal CDs, there is a cost associated with that as well. However, for this article, I will ignore CD-creation costs since today there are online options for sharing music privately with students, and many competitions accept music uploads or submission via iPod or flashdrive.

To find out dance studio’s Performing Rights Organization costs, I contacted the two primary PROs in North America, ASCAP and BMI, and found their published annual fees for different sized dance studios. (Size is determined by total number of students.) I ignored SESAC licensing fees since the number of music artists they represent is a very small fraction of the other two major music PROs, and many dance studios don’t use any music represented by SESAC.

This leaves us with the last major expense in music for a studio; editing or remixing music to optimize it for dance routines. No matter what avenue you use to get your dance studio’s music edited or remixed, whether it’s done yourself, left up to each dance teacher, or if you hire a professional, there is a value associated with music editing that should never be absorbed by the studio nor the choreographer. In my experience, $29 is an average value for editing a song optimally for dance routines. In addition to editing a song, many popular songs today need to be cleaned of inappropriate lyrics, which requires skill and time to do. Also, competitive studios may benefit from having unique remixes created for group routines, especially high-calibre or “elite” teams. These unique remixes can be created at an average price of $99.

I have prepared a spreadsheet, below, showing the total music costs using average studio sizes shared by members of the Facebook group, Dance Teachers’ Network. I have divided the spreadsheet up into three typical studio sizes; a smaller studio with 130 recreational students and no company students; a medium studio with 352 students of which 77 are competitive; and a large studio with 690 students of which 115 compete.

Dance studio music financials 2015

The important thing to note is that in order not to have a loss on the studio’s music costs, these example studios charge a modest annual music fee per student. For many studios, $19 per student will cover all music expenses, and create positive cash flow for the studio, an extra $800 for the small studio example. However, each studio is unique, and will have a slightly different cost structure. After analysis, you may discover that you have a high number of routines per student (such as the Medium-sized studio in this example), and if that’s the case, the annual music fee you charge might have to be $24 or $29 per year in order not to take a loss.

Bear in mind that every studio is different in its approach, in terms of number of students and number of routines performed, and therefore the annual music fee needed to result in a profit and not a loss for each studio is different as well. The important thing is to run the numbers for YOUR studio, so that you come out ahead, or at the very least, break even. (It’s best to build in a small profit cushion to guard against unexpected expenses that always seem to crop up.)

If your studio has never charged an annual music fee before, you may have some dance parents question this new charge (even if it’s pretty small). Keep your explanation simple and straightforward; that this small annual fee covers all of their student’s dance music expenses for the year, including obtaining the license to use the music in their routines from the relevant Performing Rights Organizations, as well as all editing and remixing costs.

In the spreadsheet above, I have shown two different options (out of many) that a studio could choose in order to create positive revenue associated with the studio’s music. In Plan A of the spreadsheet, the same annual music fee is charged to both Recreational and Company students. However, it’s reasonable to charge Company students a slightly higher music fee since they often perform in more routines, especially solos, or in elite groups which have more expensive custom remixes. Therefore, in Plan B of the spreadsheet, I show the studio’s net music profit if Company students are charged an additional $10 over what Recreational students are charged.

In all cases, this spreadsheet shows how smart dance studios cover their music costs (and even have a few dollars left over). Conversely, studios that don’t charge an annual music fee wind up having to absorb their music expenses from other studio revenue.

If you are a dance studio owner, and have any questions about properly handling music income and expenses for your studio, please feel free to send me an email at morriss@squirreltrenchaudio.com. I’d be happy to provide you with a modification to this spreadsheet using your studio’s exact number of students and routines.

As always, if you have music editing or remixing that you’d like to have done flawlessly and professionally, please email me, visit my Legitmix library, or use this online Request Form.

Happy dancing!

DIY’ers: You should be charging for editing music

It’s a fact, dance teachers and choreographers need to use edited music in their routines. Some choreographers edit their music themselves, others ask a friend or family member to do it, and others send it out to a professional. No matter how you do it, whether it’s yourself, or hiring out a professional to get it done, you should be charging your students (or your studio) when you edit or remix music for the routines that you choreograph.

music-moneyMusic editing and remixing is not free. It takes time, effort and skill. Your dance studio wouldn’t dream of giving away choreography or costumes for free, why would the time and energy to work music into shape for a routine be any different?

Your time as a dance teacher/choreographer is valuable. You charge students (or your studio) for your time in developing choreography and then teaching it to your students. You are paid for that service. When you devote time to creating or editing your music, that’s valuable time you are taking away from other activities, no matter whether that’s family time, time at another job, or time you could be spending creating even more choreography.

If you hire a professional to have your music edited, normally you would not absorb that cost; you should be passing it on to your customers, which in the case of a dance studio, are your students. Therefore, when you do the music yourself, you should still be charging appropriately for the service. If you don’t, you are short-changing yourself.

A good starting point for determining how much you should charge is to take note of the average time it takes you to edit a song. Say it takes half an hour to edit a song, and you charge your studio $50 an hour for teaching dance or creating choreography. In that case, you should charge the studio $25 for the song editing service. If you spend, say, two hours creating a complex song medley for a competitive group routine, then it would be appropriate to charge $100 for the music for that group.

If you are also the studio owner, you should be charging a music fee to cover not only the costs of getting the music into shape for the routines, but also to cover your ASCAP/BMI/SESAC fees. Smart business owners charge a mark-up on services purchased on behalf of their customers to cover the employee time and expense involved in procuring the goods. Studios do this as normal business practice for procuring costumes.  The same should be true for procuring quality music. Say your studio has 100 students, and you pay $600/year in ASCAP, BMI and SESAC fees. This means that the base cost of providing the music licenses to your studio is $6 per student per year. If the studio then charges $9 per student per year as a music usage rights fee, then the studio is covering the cost, plus making a few extra dollars as well.

The same concept applies no matter if you edit your own music or send out a remix to a professional. If you spend $199 to create an exciting and original remix for a group routine with 15 students in it, that works out to $13.33 per student. If the studio charges $15 per student as a music remix fee for the routine, then not only does the studio cover the cost of the exciting remix, the studio is also making a small profit.

The bottom line is: Don’t sell yourself short.

And when you need a professional to get your music right, Squirrel Trench Audio is at your service. We are thrilled to have helped hundreds of dancers around the US and all over the world, have spectacular music for their routines. And since we understand that cost is often an issue, and costs need to be kept to a minimum in most situations, we have a catalog of music that has already been edited or remixed, and is available for immediate purchase at a price far less than custom editing or remixing.

Savannah Ballet’s Little Mermaid

IMG_1624I am extremely honored to have helped the Savannah Ballet with the music and sound design for their production of The Little Mermaid. The premier performances were this past weekend (April 24 & 25, 2015), and received rave reviews from those that attended. Managing Director Abby McCuen asked for my assistance in assembling a collection of about a dozen songs into a cohesive 45-minute set for Act I of the ballet. It was an exciting and challenging project, and Abby received several compliments on it. Here are a couple of photos from this beautiful performance. Click on either one to enlarge it.

For more photos, view Savannah Ballet’s photo album on Facebook.IMG_1780

 

Uptown Funk – Super squeaky clean version

uptown white carResponse to Squirrel Trench Audio’s clean versions of Uptown Funk has been overwhelming. It’s wonderful to know that dance teachers, fitness teachers, school recitals, hip hop classes, and more, will all be enjoying a clean, school-age appropriate version of this instant classic hit. Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars have come up with an amazingly fun, funky, and catchy tune.

In addition to the full-length clean version, we now also offer a super-squeaky clean version of Uptown Funk, with the words “sexy” also removed in addition to all of the other objectionable lyric content removed. This version also has the exciting intro as played in the band’s Saturday Night Live performance from the fall of 2014. Take a listen to the super-squeaky clean version:

This version now complements the many other clean versions Squirrel Trench Audio has created for you. Here are links to all the other versions and lengths:

4:28 (Full length, regular clean)2:582:46 • 2:322:151:59

If you know you need a shortened version, but aren’t sure which one to get, you can get every version in this clean Uptown Funk collection here:

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

In addition to having just about every clean version of Uptown Funk you might need, we have also done customized versions as well. If you need a clean Uptown Funk, but with something modified, we can get that done for you. Just use this Request Form, and we’ll make it happen.

Congratulations to Ausia Jones!

Ausia Jones is an incredible 17-year-old dancer, and our congratulations go out to her, and her choreographer Ebony Williams, for her winning routine, Reflection. Reflection won the First Overall Senior Contemporary at the Dallas regional competition of Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). Ausia was accompanied by music edited by Squirrel Trench Audio, from a piece titled Rostro by the artist Murcof.

Congrats again Ausia! Enjoy her amazing performance:

The economics of a competitive group dance routine

1902765_10152284887868103_160835853_n.jpgIt’s pretty amazing how much time, sweat, rehearsal, effort, and money goes into putting a competitive group dance routine on stage. I think it’s terrific and amazing that so many dance parents are able to give their kids the experience, discipline, camaraderie, and excitement of performing an intricate routine, complete with music, choreography, and costumes. While the kids on stage and the choreographers are the ones who get the medals and awards, really it should be the parents getting the awards for making it happen!

One thing I am always surprised about is how often these amazing routines go on stage, and are performed at competitions, with less-than-perfect music. Often times the music for these routines have jarring clicks, jumps, awkward timings, and mis-matched phrasing. While competitive dance is not judged on the quality of the soundtrack, bad music edits can make counting and choreography more difficult for the dancers since musical phrases can wind up with nonsensical timings like 9.7 beats instead of 8!

It surprises me that so much music with significant issues winds up on the competitive stage when you consider how much time, energy, and money goes into each dance. After all, the music is the foundation of the dance, and great music serves as the inspiration both for the dance teacher/choreographer as well as the dancers themselves. There are some studios, such as Mather Dance Company in the L.A. area, that go so far as to have original music commissioned for them by professional recording artists. While understandably, that kind of budget is out of reach for many studios, working with a skilled music editor is quite reasonable, especially when you think about the finances that go into each competitive routine that is put on stage. After all, we wouldn’t dream of putting a dancer on stage with a wrecked costume, so why would be put them on stage with wrecked music?

So let’s take a quick look at the cost to put one competitive dance on the stage. Oftentimes a unique music remix can be created for $199 or less, so I will wrap up our analysis by looking at that music cost as a percentage of the total cost of putting a routine on stage.

To make this calculation, I’m going to use conservative estimates. For many studios, the costs might be much less, while at others, they might be far more. For this example, let’s use a group routine with 15 dancers. If each of those company dancers is paying an average of $180 per month in studio tuition, and is in a total of 8 competitive routines, then their combined total studio fee, on a per routine basis is: 15 kids x $180 x 10 months / 8 total routines = $3,375 combined cost per dance. No matter if a guest choreographer is brought in, or the studio’s own teacher creates the choreography, that takes considerable effort, so we’ll budget $500 for the choreography. Next, costumes can easily run $125 per, for competitive routines, so that is another $125 x 15 = $1,875. But we haven’t even gotten to entry fees, let alone hotel and food costs that dance parents incur. If a competitive routine is entered into three regionals and one nationals, the entry fees can easily be $40 per regional and $50 per national. That is 15 x ((40 x 3) + 50) = $2,550. We are up to $8,300 for the combined routine cost, and we haven’t figured hotel or travel expenses yet.

Let’s assume that one of the regionals is near enough to the studio to not require a hotel, and let’s use a conservative estimate that the other two regionals will require one hotel night, and that the nationals will require four hotel nights. That’s a total of six hotel nights, so our calculation is 15 families x 6 nights x $110 / 8 routines = $1237. Let’s just round up to $1300 when you figure in food on the road. We’re also going to assume that families don’t have to purchase air fare to get to Nationals.

So our total cost, to put one group competitive routine on stage in all competitions is $3375 studio time + $500 choreography + $1875 costumes + $2550 entry fees + $1300 hotel costs = $9,600. Now imagine spending even as much as $200 for a spectacular custom music remix. That $200 represents 2% of the total cost in putting the routine on stage. Some would say that that is money well worth it. But I might be slightly biased as a music professional. Even if it’s not worthwhile to spend $200 on the music for a competitive group routine, it’s still very much worthwhile to spend $40 on having smooth and seamless music edits handled by a professional.

Congratulations to Joleen’s Starz of the South (again)

Joleen's Starz Pirate Life

A Pirate’s Life performers with their Group of the Day trophy

Winning is getting to be a habit for Joleen’s Starz of the South dance studio. Congratulations go to their small group routine, A Pirate’s Life. A Pirate’s Life features a soundtrack created by Squirrel Trench Audio, and was not only the winner of the 12 & over Small Group category, but also achieved the high score/Group of the Day in the 12 & over category at the 2015 NYLA Dance Competition Biloxi Regional. Way to go, ladies! That is an impressive VICTORY!

In addition, the Starz of the South routine Land of the Free was the winning 11 & under team/production routine for the same NYLA regional competition. Land of the Free also features a Squirrel Trench Audio-created soundtrack.

Joleen's Starz of the South - Land of the Free performers with their top production award

Land of the Free performers with their top production award

We look forward to seeing videos from these terrific routines as well as other Starz of the South routines for which we’ve done the music editing and remixing! Thanks as always to Joleen for choosing Squirrel Trench Audio to create so much of the music used for Starz of the South competition routines! We can’t wait to make more for you next season!

Maleficent has her Vengeance

In December of last year, I received a request to create an original music soundtrack for a Maleficent pointe routine; combining several elements of the Maleficent motion picture soundtrack. The pointe routine was entirely the creation of Brennan Kolbo who choreographed the concept from scratch, and she performed it last weekend at Rainbow Dance Competition in Omaha, Nebraska.

Enjoy this unique interpretation of Maleficent, featuring costuming from JEM Creations, and soundtrack by Squirrel Trench Audio. Congratulations to choreographer and performer, Brennan Kolbo, for creating this unique and wonderful Maleficent interpretation!