Tag Archives: money

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.

The Secret to Being Rich by The Disclosures

The Secret to Being RichWell, the day has finally arrived: The Disclosures‘ latest project has just been released in mp3 and CD formats worldwide.

In the interest of Full Disclosure on this write-up of The Disclosures, I am the person who mixed and mastered this album. And in my role as the mix engineer, I heartily endorse this fun and creative song collection. This has been a true labor of love for me to mix and master, and I am quite thrilled with the results.

The Disclosures are the singing and songwriting duo of Christopher Morris and Chad Helminak, based in Madison, Wisconsin. During the process of mixing this CD, I was continually amazed at Chad and Chris’ conceptual, lyrical, and musical creativity. Each song is completely original, and no two songs on the CD sound alike.

There is quite a cast of characters contained inside– there’s Uncle Hank who is a very smart man with a plan, Kidd Silver, a young pirate just beginning to embark on his chosen career path, but winds up in a sorrowful situation with Loan Sharks, Dr. Greedypants who invents a high-tech ray-gun device that turns pigs into bacon, and to the rescue rides Captain Smartmoney, who shows Dr. Greedypants the error of his ways…..

This album of 10 songs is aimed at kids in the age range of kindergarten through fifth grade, and hidden inside these catchy and inventive tunes are some ideas for smart money management — but just as importantly, a whole lot of silliness that is sure to cause youngsters fits of giggles. In fact, Chad and Chris have kept their eye squarely on kids throughout this musical journey – every artistic decision made was done with the youngsters in mind first and foremost – and how to deliver songs that would be instantly appealing to them. It’s an added benefit that parents will enjoy the songs as well…. give it a few listens, and you’ll be humming “won’t you be my money buddy, yeah”, muttering ‘ARRRRRRR’ at random people walking down the street, and a whole lot more.

The release is just in time for the holiday season, so if you know someone with kids in this age range, this CD makes an outstanding gift. Currently, the mp3 format is available on iTunes and Amazon, and the physical CD is be available via CD Baby, Amazon, or bulk purchases for organizations may order via The Disclosures’ own web site.

Here is a track listing; click any song to go to a preview of it on iTunes:

  1. Money Moola Dinero Dough
  2. I Want, I Need
  3. Save!
  4. Won’t You Be My Money Buddy?
  5. The Tale of Kidd Silver, the Savviest Pirate to Ever Sail the Seas
  6. Thank My Piggy Bank (link is to YouTube video of song)
  7. Captain Smartmoney vs. Dr. Greedypants
  8. Spend, Save, Give
  9. Too Good To Be True
  10. The Secret to Being Rich

Grab this CD– you’ll be glad you did! No fuddy-duddies allowed!

The Disclosure’s CD will be released tomorrow!

Thank My Piggy Bank photoIt’s always nice when a glowing testimonial starts your day….. it has been a true pleasure to work with Chad Helminak & Christopher Morris (aka The Disclosures) on their fantastic new album, and I think I’m as excited as they are for the CD release tomorrow!

Here’s what The Disclosures said:

“We can’t thank Morriss Partee enough from Squirrel Trench Audio for his mixing and mastering prowess on our new album, which comes out tomorrow. If you or your organization ever needs some audio mixing and mastering assistance, he’s your guy!”

– The Disclosures,
Dec 9, 2013

Thanks guys!

The Disclosures – The Secret to Being Rich

The Secret to Being Rich CDs arrive

The Secret to Being Rich CDs arrive

Mixing and mastering has been completed by yours truly for the forthcoming The Disclosures CD, titled The Secret to Being Rich. This fantastic set of songs from the singing and guitar-playing duo of Chad Helminak and Christopher Morris will be hitting the stores on December 10, one week from today.

It’s been truly a pleasure to mix these incredible inventive songs, which are aimed at kids, and designed to help them grow up thinking about their finances in a smart way (all the while being quite silly and entertaining). I think this album has a lot of legs, and is highly recommended for any parents who have kids in the range of 4 to 10 years old. It could be a great asset to teachers of kindergarteners through fourth graders as well.

Adults will appreciate the catchy tunes, and kids will appreciate the entertainment, silliness, and humor of the CD.

Here’s the complete track listing:

  1. Money Moola Dinero Dough
  2. I Want, I Need
  3. Save!
  4. Won’t You Be My Money Buddy?
  5. The Tale of Kidd Silver, the Savviest Pirate to Ever Sail the Seas
  6. Thank My Piggy Bank
  7. Captain Smartmoney vs. Dr. Greedypants
  8. Spend, Save, Give
  9. Too Good To Be True
  10. The Secret to Being Rich

Follow The Disclosures on Facebook to stay informed about the latest from this fun duo.

Now that I’ve put the mixing and mastering on this album to bed, I’m looking for my next mixing project, so hit me up!

Top shelf dance deserves top shelf music

Music in the dance studio. Such an important component, yet too often neglected and undervalued.

Who handles the music editing at your dance studio? In an earlier blog post, I make the case that music editing should not be left to the dance teacher. Just as a musician has no clue about grand jétés and pirouette fouettés, dance teachers have little or no knowledge of zero-crossings and peak limiting. Yet the result of a dance teacher doing his own music editing often turns out as amateurish as if a piano player attempted to perform a changement.

So let’s take a look at the economics of putting a group number on stage, and determine whether or not it’s worth it to spend $250 on a first-class original remix, such as Pixie Hollow.

Let’s say that the routine will be performed for one year, at 4 regionals, and has 20 students in the routine.  We’ll use these rough figures as an example.

Costumes: $125 x 20 students = $2,500
Entry fees: $35 x 20 students x 4 competitions = $2,800

Not taking into consideration all of the money spent on weekly lessons, that’s $5,300 being spent on costumes and entry fees alone for this routine.

Now let’s look at how this outlay compares to spending $250 for an original remix for the routine. An investment of $250 in the music represents less than 5% of the total budget being spent on putting this piece on stage. Another way to look at it is $12.50 per dance student.

And the numbers become even more compelling when you consider that many studios will repeat songs and use them for two years. This equation makes the investment equal to $6.25 per student per year, and just 2.4% of the total costume & entry fee cost over those two years.

For straightforward editing of a song to dance routine length, the numbers are even more compelling. $50 represents less than 1% of the costume and entry fees, and $2.50 per student. If the song is used for two years, that becomes half of a percent of the competition outlay and $1.25 per student. When you look at the numbers this way, there’s hardly an excuse to have dance teachers editing songs and creating flaws in the music. Especially because dance teachers don’t even know they’ve created mistakes in the music.

Music is the foundation of dance. Does the studio want to have the parents shell out $5300 on a routine with a shaky foundation? Is that a good way to go when with a modest investment you can get a fantastic and unique remix to build your choreography on?

Perhaps more dance studios don’t invest in quality music editing because dance is a very visual medium, and you can’t see music. But because the music for every dance routine will be played at high volume on a big-stage sound system, a glitch in the audio is akin to wearing stained and torn costumes. If you wouldn’t dream of putting a dancer on stage in a tattered costume, why would you put them on stage with hiccups or scars in their music?

I think this type of investment in the music is well worth it for a unique piece that will wow audiences, judges, and parents, especially compared to having a self-edited song that has hiccups, glitches, jumps, or any of the other top five music mistakes most commonly heard at dance competitions. But then again, I might be biased. What’s your take on it?