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DCI 30 years ago, and the decline of Drum Corps.

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I marched in the late eighties to early nineties.

I will preface the following rant by saying that the quality of the product that today's drum corps FAR exceeds what we did back in "the day". The Academy 2012 would EASILY walk into finals in 1989. What these kids do is simply amazing.

Back then, we did have a lot more drum corps. Back then there was not so much OTHER activities competing for kids time. Hell, back then, we didn't have the internet! But most importantly, Things were significantly cheaper! Diesel for instance... Average price in 1992? Try $1.25 vs $3.76 today! That's just one example! I paid $450 for my tour fees with Freelancers my age-out year! What is the average going rate for tour fees these days? $2000? Corps fundraising was much simpler back then as well... Bingo was the most common method! These days, with changes in gambling laws thanks to Native American special interest groups, it would seem that corps main focus of financial stability is in fact tour fees! Don't believe me? Ask any former Teal Sound member.

To say that the activity is simply dying is a far too simplistic approach. The corps we have now are all run super well, with professional management structures. My problem is that modern drum corps seems to me to exclude the very kids it reached out to back in the day. Back when I marched, music majors were the exception rather than the rule. Hell, I remember Star of Indiana getting a bad rap because they had so many music majors in the corps. Back in the early days of DCI, we were just a bunch of kids off the street! And the key word there is KIDS. In Freelancers (a top 12 corps) we rarely aged out more than 15-20 TOTAL members in a given year. But the other thing that REALLY concerns me is that the activity has priced itself in such a way, that it is quickly becoming a hobby for the wealthy... both in tour fees AND the cost of going to shows. DCI Fan Network is great. But, how many kids from financially disadvantaged backgrounds (and there are a LOT of them these days... remember, it's the economy stupid!) can actually AFFORD $130-150 for a subscription? Not only that but contests are becoming increasingly expensive and you even have to pay EXTRA just to TRY OUT for a corps that statistically speaking, you are likely to get cut from simply because of the sheer numbers of people trying out for the few corps we have left! Back in the day, if you wanted to march you generally could.

So what is the answer? Why was DCI seemingly so much more successful 20-30 years ago if you judge success by numbers of corps? To me it is simple...

REGIONAL TOURING WORKS.

Bring back DCW, DCM, DCE, DCS etc etc... MOVE Finals about... Make it financially EASIER to start up NEW drum corps and to even resurrect dead ones. Get PBS back on board. The problem as I see it is that in an effort to embrace modern culture, in an effort to roll with the times... we re-invented the wheel.

And it don't roll as good as the last one.

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Please tell me how the number of Highschool Marching Bands have increased over the past 30 years. Please tell me how number of activities for highschool/college age students during the summer have also increased over the past 30 years. Where is the Context in any of this?

Ironically, there ARE more H.S marching bands, and more competitions than in the 80's for sure! That activity has actu allygrown because of the influence of drum corps. You are wrong on that point, my friend.

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I marched in the late eighties to early nineties.

I will preface the following rant by saying that the quality of the product that today's drum corps FAR exceeds what we did back in "the day". The Academy 2012 would EASILY walk into finals in 1989. What these kids do is simply amazing.

Back then, we did have a lot more drum corps. Back then there was not so much OTHER activities competing for kids time. Hell, back then, we didn't have the internet! But most importantly, Things were significantly cheaper! Diesel for instance... Average price in 1992? Try $1.25 vs $3.76 today! That's just one example! I paid $450 for my tour fees with Freelancers my age-out year! What is the average going rate for tour fees these days? $2000? Corps fundraising was much simpler back then as well... Bingo was the most common method! These days, with changes in gambling laws thanks to Native American special interest groups, it would seem that corps main focus of financial stability is in fact tour fees! Don't believe me? Ask any former Teal Sound member.

To say that the activity is simply dying is a far too simplistic approach. The corps we have now are all run super well, with professional management structures. My problem is that modern drum corps seems to me to exclude the very kids it reached out to back in the day. Back when I marched, music majors were the exception rather than the rule. Hell, I remember Star of Indiana getting a bad rap because they had so many music majors in the corps. Back in the early days of DCI, we were just a bunch of kids off the street! And the key word there is KIDS. In Freelancers (a top 12 corps) we rarely aged out more than 15-20 TOTAL members in a given year. But the other thing that REALLY concerns me is that the activity has priced itself in such a way, that it is quickly becoming a hobby for the wealthy... both in tour fees AND the cost of going to shows. DCI Fan Network is great. But, how many kids from financially disadvantaged backgrounds (and there are a LOT of them these days... remember, it's the economy stupid!) can actually AFFORD $130-150 for a subscription? Not only that but contests are becoming increasingly expensive and you even have to pay EXTRA just to TRY OUT for a corps that statistically speaking, you are likely to get cut from simply because of the sheer numbers of people trying out for the few corps we have left! Back in the day, if you wanted to march you generally could.

So what is the answer? Why was DCI seemingly so much more successful 20-30 years ago if you judge success by numbers of corps? To me it is simple...

REGIONAL TOURING WORKS.

Bring back DCW, DCM, DCE, DCS etc etc... MOVE Finals about... Make it financially EASIER to start up NEW drum corps and to even resurrect dead ones. Get PBS back on board. The problem as I see it is that in an effort to embrace modern culture, in an effort to roll with the times... we re-invented the wheel.

And it don't roll as good as the last one.

im not opposed to regional touring at ALL BUT, is it going to change the kids it serves? will communitities all of a sudden jump up and support the activity, will cost for facilities lower , busses or gas issues change, will the kid off the street like BITD even be interested?...IMO as someone who went through both, I say no...could it help in someway, sure , but there's more to it and sociological issues are a huge part of todays drum corps issues also.

Try running just a small winter program, its a financial and logistical nightmare at times. But hey, anything is worth a try.

Edited by GUARDLING

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Exactly! I too know who this is and it just makes me sad to see the sarcasm and disrespect in this thread...how many "I hate BD" threads are allowed to grow and flourish here? This activity is dying at an accelerated rate, attendance is NOT up, growth has ceased.....yet rudeness and sarcasm are growing. The lack of respect in this forum is alarming, it used to be a nice, tight, positive, intelligent community.

Geoffrey

Guys, I don't want this to be a "drum corps was better back in my day" thing, because many would argue that drum corps "quality" is at it's highest 'art form" now. But know one can argue that there are fewer opportunities, and it's very real. The "meat and potatoe" corps who kept the tours going and filled out the shows are no longer around. A sad fact.

Also, thanks for the recognition, and I just tend to ignore ignorance and disrespect. If we were face to face, it would be different ;)

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Ironically, there ARE more H.S marching bands, and more competitions than in the 80's for sure! That activity has actu allygrown because of the influence of drum corps. You are wrong on that point, my friend.

this is true for sure and some are real competitions...as well as there are those that are very bando and sort of call it a contest ( everyone wins a trinket )

Edited by GUARDLING

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And if it were up to certain people, there would only be 10 corps in the whole country, and doing it on their own "tour". Call me old fashioned, but I love the old days.

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The G8 killed Drum Corps!

Oh wait...

It's the G7, not 10 or 8. 8 corps are involved with the TOC, thus the confusion on that.

The Cadets, Blue Devils, Carolina Crown, Bluecoats, The Cavaiiers, Phantom Regiment and Santa Clara Vanguard. They are the 7 corps that started the G7 and continue to plan.

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Perhaps a good thread better left to debate after DCI Finals is in the books. Nonetheless, the OP is right, but it's the WHY we have ended up in this situation that is most important. If it was possible to have more corps and more shows and more donation and more volunteers, then I think ALL OF US would want that.

The drum and bugle corps that died in the 70s and 80s did not do so because other corps directors got greedy. Admittedly I have always hated the model used for gate fees, but this form of revenue is not enough to keep a corps on the road, nor should it's uneven sharing cause a care to die. Even in the 70s and 80s it wasn't perfect. Many of the newest rules for which we debate did not exist back then, and still a LOT of corps died.

Simply put there were forces beyond DCI that ultimately won the battle. I think most people realize this. Bussing without insurance would no longer be allowed, and the repair of bad busses could eat through a budget fast. Public schools no longer allowed the free-bee stays. Public schools in America were also beginning to explore more opportunities with marching bands, like competitions (even in the summer with MBA), spring trips that required lots of fund raising on the part of student and parent(s), and the average high-school student was becoming very busy.

This leads me to the second part of this: The "Soccer Mom" effect. In the mid-80s we saw a cultural shift where it was implied by schools and educational pundits that students should get involved in lots of activities. The schools began to offer everything (some of this brought on by Title 9). Now kids were taking part in band, soccer, cross country, church camps, speech, and ski club. It was supposed to be resume-building for college and career. What it really did was solidify America's public schools as the do-all, offer-all, and be-everything for our youth, and outside organizations would now have to struggle to get kids away from everything school.

College students were less attached to everything. By the time they hit college they were finally away from their parents a bit, more independent, and they could do the things that interested them the most. Today's best drum corps have lots of college-age kids. Not a bad thing, and the quality is certainly high, but the local high-school kid that often made-up membership back in the day is mostly gone. The high-school kids are just too busy doing everything under the sun that their schools offer, and that their do-it-all parents want them involved with. I exaggerate here a bit, but I think the point is clear.

The cost of living has certainly played a role. As America engaged in the cold war, and especially during the 80s, the cost of living rose dramatically. The old bugle manufacturers were struggling and the typical drum corps did not replace equipment as often (like they do today through leasing and sponsorship). If corps could not afford to purchase bugles, then the manufacturers had to find alternatives to making a living. Cost of living also reared its ugly head in show cost. The cost of stadium rentals rose, the cost of instruction (especially if you wanted to be competitive). If your competitive status began to die, so did your corps. You needed to have solid competitive status to attract the college kids, especially with fewer and fewer high-school students marching.

There are many more reasons, but I think the important thing to know is that DCI did not cause this decline. It had nothing to do with entertainment or style or type of show. There was nothing that could be done. Some forces in nature will cause damage no matter what.

Since 1995 I would argue that Drum Corps International and its member corps have been relatively healthy (big picture). Yes, we have seen departure, we have seen rules changes, financial changes, lots of debate; but we have also seen some new corps sprout up, and while we are not always wild about the National Tour model, there are not a lot of alternatives. The total number of corps in existence from 1990 to 2012 (22 years) has remained more constant than the period between 1970 - 1989 (20 years). The attendance at shows during the period between 1990 and present is reflective of the activities size and scope more than it's due to less popular shows and old alumni walking away, etc., etc.

Back in the day DCI was a niche market, and today it is a niche market. Not much there has changed, and I don't expect it to. The "old days" had plenty of problems to deal with (why do you think so many corps died), and today's drum corps has plenty of problems to deal with. That will not change either. The shows have changed, the style, the demand and the music, BUT...that should be expected. This generation of youth has different taste than we do. I don't expect every drum corps to please me, nor do I ask for it. I complain like anyone when I see stuff I don't understand, or things that I feel uneccesary, but that's just OPINION.

Happy DCI FINALS WEEK!

Edited by jwillis35
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Exactly! I too know who this is and it just makes me sad to see the sarcasm and disrespect in this thread...how many "I hate BD" threads are allowed to grow and flourish here? This activity is dying at an accelerated rate, attendance is NOT up, growth has ceased.....yet rudeness and sarcasm are growing. The lack of respect in this forum is alarming, it used to be a nice, tight, positive, intelligent community.

Geoffrey

In fairness G, his comments have nothing to do with his identity....if they did, he would have proudly stated his name (which judging from your statement is one of proven respect and quality). But I do agree with your comment about the cynical nature of us these days.

The real issue at hand, IMO, is about "right sizing" any organization. Come Friday & Saturday nights in September, across our nation, thousands of High School, Middle School and even Private School marching bands will be taking the field at half times, filling the night with great music and marching...bumping into each other in ill-fitting uniforms...and amazing their proud parents and friends who will give them a standing O. So, I think the seeds or DC are intact, perhaps not as healthy as they once were, but intact.

BUT....what is the right size of DCI/DCA? I'm not certain any of us know (including Groove). To answer that... you need to know how many successful organizers there are, how talented, passionate and committed they are, and most importantly...how much business sense do they have?

There are successful formulas out there and I know personally how some Corps Directors have offered to assist other corps in building business models and programs that are balanced and successful. But not all listen. And because there isn't a DC Directors training cirriculum offered, it's left to chance and sometimes....egos. In prosperous times, even bad business models survive, but economics is a cruel mistress and the culling begins. So what is the right size? IMO..to know that answer you need to know the nature of the fan base and what means they use to stay in touch with the activity. For me, the mere fact that DCI struggles with the live-streaming of finals, tells me how unsure DCI management is with it's audience (both nationally and internationally).

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I marched in the late eighties to early nineties.

I will preface the following rant by saying that the quality of the product that today's drum corps FAR exceeds what we did back in "the day". The Academy 2012 would EASILY walk into finals in 1989. What these kids do is simply amazing.

Back then, we did have a lot more drum corps. Back then there was not so much OTHER activities competing for kids time. Hell, back then, we didn't have the internet! But most importantly, Things were significantly cheaper! Diesel for instance... Average price in 1992? Try $1.25 vs $3.76 today! That's just one example! I paid $450 for my tour fees with Freelancers my age-out year! What is the average going rate for tour fees these days? $2000? Corps fundraising was much simpler back then as well... Bingo was the most common method! These days, with changes in gambling laws thanks to Native American special interest groups, it would seem that corps main focus of financial stability is in fact tour fees! Don't believe me? Ask any former Teal Sound member.

To say that the activity is simply dying is a far too simplistic approach. The corps we have now are all run super well, with professional management structures. My problem is that modern drum corps seems to me to exclude the very kids it reached out to back in the day. Back when I marched, music majors were the exception rather than the rule. Hell, I remember Star of Indiana getting a bad rap because they had so many music majors in the corps. Back in the early days of DCI, we were just a bunch of kids off the street! And the key word there is KIDS. In Freelancers (a top 12 corps) we rarely aged out more than 15-20 TOTAL members in a given year. But the other thing that REALLY concerns me is that the activity has priced itself in such a way, that it is quickly becoming a hobby for the wealthy... both in tour fees AND the cost of going to shows. DCI Fan Network is great. But, how many kids from financially disadvantaged backgrounds (and there are a LOT of them these days... remember, it's the economy stupid!) can actually AFFORD $130-150 for a subscription? Not only that but contests are becoming increasingly expensive and you even have to pay EXTRA just to TRY OUT for a corps that statistically speaking, you are likely to get cut from simply because of the sheer numbers of people trying out for the few corps we have left! Back in the day, if you wanted to march you generally could.

So what is the answer? Why was DCI seemingly so much more successful 20-30 years ago if you judge success by numbers of corps? To me it is simple...

REGIONAL TOURING WORKS.

Bring back DCW, DCM, DCE, DCS etc etc... MOVE Finals about... Make it financially EASIER to start up NEW drum corps and to even resurrect dead ones. Get PBS back on board. The problem as I see it is that in an effort to embrace modern culture, in an effort to roll with the times... we re-invented the wheel.

And it don't roll as good as the last one.

I could skip your entire post and read just one sentence and say you were spot on, Cainan "Regional touring works" How those in charge can not see this, and their feeble attempts at justification are laughable....now, of course, even if they wanted to go back, they shot themselves in the foot as there not enough content in ANY region to sustain regional touring.....

Geoffrey

ps: Absolutely love Academy, but theres no way they would beat Crossmen, Dutchboy, Skyryders, or Spirit of Atlanta in 1989 !! :tongue:

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