For Love or Money

Adapted from several posts and letters to caller friends over the years

Bill Martin wrote:

> If a dance looks like it will be a real party -
> "great music and huge crowds of enthusiastic dancers" - I would pay to play!

Other musicians and callers have touched in recent postings on their reasons for playing or calling. Some in the dance community are trying to earn a livelihood from their work; for most of us, it is something we do on the side.

The longer I've been calling, the less eager I am to repeat this scenario:

– drive two hours
– unpack and set up the PA system
– discover that the piano has not been tuned
– wait for the dancers to arrive because the usual caller starts half an hour late
– take down PA
– drive home
– receive $50 for the evening's work

Some years ago, I realized that I needed a simple guideline and I found it: I'll take a job "for love or for money." This means that I'm less likely to accept a job to call for a generic evening of dancing at a generic dance.

The "for love" category includes a myriad of reasons— working with musicians I respect, traveling to a locale which is of interest, doing a benefit for a Good Cause or to help out some friends, being with a group of dancers whose company I enjoy, calling a special program that interests me, helping get a series started... When I hear of a potential gig and decide that it is in the "for love" category, I don't worry about getting paid. I often don't discuss money at all; I know that I'll enjoy myself. If I get paid, too, fine; it comes as a pleasant surprise.

If, on the other hand, it's a wedding, folks whom I don't know who got my name from someone else, who are having a catered affair at a posh place for 200 guests, then I don't have as much vested in the job. I know that I'll be working extra hard, doing more cajoling than usual and (possibly) dealing with folks who have had too much to drink. That's not fun, and these events often involve extra travel as well.  If I'm going to give up a beautiful summer afternoon into evening and spend a lot waiting around—weddings almost always run late—then it feels like work. If I take the gig, I'd like to be well compensated and I'd also like to offer a good payment to each of the musicians.

Callers: Don't sell yourself short. Keep track of the CDs you buy, and dance books and admission to dances where you're picking up new material. Those expenses add up—ain't no one getting rich as a caller. If someone offers you a good price, it's okay to take it. Later on, you may feel better about donating your services for your local school group that wants a dance.

David Millstone, Dance Caller

Lebanon, NH


Email David