Why Swing Dance Organizers Should Give Up DVDs
Since the beginning of the YouTube Era, as long as weekend recaps and contest DVDs have been available, dancers have complained for having to buy the DVDs. But is there anything behind the desire other than just the drive to see oneself immediately on the big screen, making fools of ourselves in front of tens of people? Is it better for organizers to make money off of these DVDs, or is it better to allow a free-for-all videotaping and subsequent YouTube fallout?
In the wake of this year’s ILHC videos and Yehoodi livecast (Full disclosure–I work for ILHC), the answer is obvious (In less than a week, Todd and Ramona’s routine had over 10,000 views). While making money off of a DVD often offsets the any losses of a moderately (or even well-attended) dance weekend, positives of allowing for personal video recording far outweigh the possible losses.
Allowing anyone to videotape at an event is a good thing?
Yes. Yes it is. For improving event turn-out, fostering community involvement, rewarding all competitors, increasing event loyalty, and of course, adding to the event’s bottom line.
Allowing Videotaping is a Good Investment
Possibly most important to events, I want to address the money problem. The single most consistent complaint I hear from organizers is: “but the DVD makes us a lot of money.”
Is a DVD a sound investment? Time to crunch some numbers.
Hang with me. If an event makes $70 off of every $100 DVD (with $30 in production overhead), then they are banking $7,000 if they sell 100 DVD sets. For organizers, this is no small chunk of change. It can close any gaps in moderate turn-outs, or help to pay for the thousands of hours they’ve put into the event. But, let’s think about the actual cost-benefit analysis.
DVDs are mainly a staple of Balboa events, so I am going to try and put them in perspective of what they could have if they followed the models of successful Lindy events like ILHC and ULHS.
If the biggest competitions who have the reputation of allowing video-taping (such as ILHC) get 15,000 views on their Balboa videos in a year then the best Balboa competitions (such as ABW) are missing out on this wonderful marketing option. By developing a culture of having videos up, ABW or EBC could at least get near 500 views or more per video, that’s five times the viewing potential of 100 DVDs. With an event price tag of $150, if only 10% of people who see the videos as a result to go to your event (ahem…EBC or ABW or [insert DVD dependant event here]), that’s the 50 new registrants who you need to achieve the $7,000 you were counting on from a DVD.
So: $70 x 100 DVDs = $7000
or: $150 x 50 new registrants= $7500
And imagine, if the same number of registrants as DVDs: 150 x 100 = $15,000
That’s half as many people registering as you’d need to buy the DVD! And, with 50-100 more people at your event, the floor is fuller, the classes are stronger, and you get a greater buzz, more competitors, and overall a better vibe, and possibly a spark of more loyal people for future events. Ultimately the “money” is better spent investing in registrants than producing a DVD, and by having videos online doing the work for you, then you can more easily achieve this goal.
And, this isn’t to say an organizer couldn’t also produce a DVD for class recaps, persay, but there are some other stumbling blocks there…
Out with the Old
From a technology standpoint, DVDs are becoming obsolete. Many computers don’t even build in DVD players anymore, and we are turning to outlets such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu Plus for movies and shows. Why invest in an increasingly outdated technology?
At least for the near future, YouTube (and other video sharing sites) is invested in maintaining its users and library of videos for the long term. It will continue to grow more efficient and useful, while DVDs have reached the limits of their capacities.
Reinforcement vs. The Waiting Period
In the past few years, it has taken almost five months or more to receive DVDs from some Balboa dance events, far past the honeymoon phase of afterglow. This is a problem for organizers. Let’s take a look at what having the immediacy of YouTube can do for events.
1) Loyalty–The sooner an event video is up, the more likely it is to be seen and shared by more people. This increases the possibility of virality, solidifying psychological connection between the participants and event.
2) Immediacy rewards those who were at your event, and encourages others to want to be there. People have had YouTube viewing parties for events like ILHC concurrently with the contests, which has Patrick and Natasha furiously uploading videos nearly instantaneously. Again, this is a group of people watching your videos who couldn’t be there, wishing they could be, solidifying their passion to see the contests live in the future. To really “be there.” Take a look at Camp Hollywood. Half-way across the world, the Koreans were blogging the crap out of videos (along with Jerry Almonte, of Wandering and Pondering, among others). They gave a whole new level of visibility to the event, and they weren’t even there!
3) Social Media! If a video of a comp is uploaded within a week, people can share the videos on their personal blogs, Facebook, twitter feeds, Google Plus, and the next new-fangled whatchamacallit. DVDs do not allow for viral sharing. Obviously the more sharing that happens on the interwebs is positive for your view count and marketing to future participants. Social media of multiple videos keeps the event alive and fresh in the minds of an event’s potential registrants.
4) Ease: If you find a reliable source to record your event (such as PatrickAndNatasha), then ultimately it is low-involvement on your part to edit a video, and you can set expectations for when you want videos up by.
5) We love sharing videos of ourselves online. You can count on your participants to promote your event for you if you put up videos. More people who see and hear and watch things about your event=more people will come to your event, period. Events can harness this excitement through allowing videotaping during the weekend. That way people can continue sharing videos of the event throughout the year to keep it fresh in the minds of friends and possible participants.
YouTube Diagnostics: The Power of Statistics
By seeing which videos generate the most views, you can see how the general population is receiving your event. Do you need to post the video on Facebook again to get more views? Do you need to encourage friends to share with their friends? Jerry Almonte keeps a nice record of the trending videos each year, which includes a variety of events.
The Ultimate Lindy Hop Championships was the true trailblazer of the YouTube phenom. In 2006, with this video, ULHS videos changed the world, making ULHS the place where Lindy Hoppers had to be. I remember it. The pull was incredibly strong to go—all because of a YouTube video. When I saw the fast dancing competition, I shared it with every student and friend I could. It now has over a million views and inspired a movie reproduction in Toy Story 3.
ILHC and ESDC are newer events who have adopted this policy to tremendous viewing results. In less than a year (as of 7/31/12), the Champions Strictly Lindy Alone has had 117,000 views for ILHC. ILHC started small, but now sells out with over 800 dancers. This exponential growth is founded with a great team with a vision, but also from the library of hundreds of videos from the event, continuously shared and traded by dancers and enthusiasts.
Strong Community=More Participants
As a community of dancers, we don’t want to see just the 1st place dance, we want to see what was beat. We want the chance to make our own decisions about the aesthetics and techniques used. Some events, like All Bal Weekend, choose to only show the first placement. Ultimately, that practice holds the dance back. How?
1) Seeing more dancing begets more dancing. More innovation, more unique couples allow for a broader spectrum of dancing. More people might be inspired to start dancing Balboa if there were more videos of a range of couples.
2) Seeing only one facet or one placement (first at ABW for example) hastens the homogenization of our dance (as does only hiring the same set of instructors ever event…cough cough). Seeing only one output of dancing (such as the 1st place winners) limits the world to seeing only one facet of the beautiful dancing that happened over your weekend. And, without context, the dancing is less impressive.
3) Sharing videos is social. It’s an act of community. Commenting on videos and engaging with the art that someone has produced generates an important bonding part of our community. The video to Snowball from Lindy Focus is a prime example:
4) People feel rewarded for competing when they can watch themselves dance. By uploading videos of them competing (even in prelims), you as an organizer are encouraging them for their participation and courage to compete.
5) More videos of dancing allows for more means of inspiration, which then often turns into people wanting to be more invested in the dance, which means they are more likely to invest in coming to your event!
6) International folks have to pick and choose which events in the US they go to. In the world-wide recession, many of us are also in the same boat. Would you rather go to an event in a foreign country for which you’d seen videos, or one you’d seen nothing about?
Out with the Old, in with a New Hope
Dancers are incessantly connected. For better or worse, Facebook connects us all. YouTube is a staple of our community. YouTube builds visibility for the dance that we love, and though I’m not arguing that videos haven’t changed the way we think about the dance, hopefully allowing more videotaping will help build stronger, more rewarding events (and blog posts) for organizers and participants alike.
This is an open letter suggesting that all events allow for open-source videotaping.
Questions, comments? Please type away. There are so many things I didn’t get to say in this post, but I would welcome addenda.