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TV Can’t Save Drum Corps

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We’ve invested countless words and infinite dreams in the prospect that broadcasting drum corps on television would rescue our marching bands from obscurity. We believed the anecdotal evidence of people like me – who discovered drum corps primarily on television – suggested promise for the prospect of new recruits via TV.

It occurs to me now that the reality is something different altogether. The reality is drum corps declined precipitously through most of the years when PBS broadcast it most. Through more than 20 years of live and recorded broadcasts of DCI championships, drum corps lost more corps than in any other era. We built it for fans, but they didn’t come. Neither PBS nor ESPN brought growth to drum corps.

Let me be clear. I am certain the loss of corps wasn’t caused by television. Those corps disappeared for a myriad of reasons – some internal, some external but most beyond our control.

I bring this up now after a discussion about television in another thread. There were the usual points about sponsors and audience and opportunity. Except the history seems to indicate the opposite. At least that’s what I’m seeing.

Tell me if I’m wrong. Or tell me what it means for drum corps.

HH

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Agreed. Drum corps is not particularly well suited to the small screen, unless it's in HD and pumping 5.1 or 7.1. You're never going to get more fans by broadcasting drum corps, partly because new fans will never really understand the experience of the performance via television.

Drum corps is an activity for people who marched drum corps. That's all it will ever be. And that's OK.

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How, then, do you get those who have aged out of drum corps to keep watching drum corps? Clearly, right now, they're not.

Mike

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Harold, you are correct. TV, in of itself, can't save drum corps. Only drum corps can save drum corps.

Drum corps is merely a product. It's just one option of many out there to purchase. If a product has enough appeal, TV can be its friend and make it a national success. Our current product has much TOO LITTLE to offer mass audiences. As it stands, TV coverage is unlikely to help much. We are too unique, too specific, too hard to understand. Sorry, but true.

Television STILL has value as a means to fully capitalize on those of us who already understand and appreciate what we offer. Having no live pay-per-view of Finals is a lost opportunity to capture most of who's already out there in support. For those not already out there in support, our performances need to change into something more entertaining before a typical TV effort would pay off.

Edited by Fred Windish

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We’ve invested countless words and infinite dreams in the prospect that broadcasting drum corps on television would rescue our marching bands from obscurity. We believed the anecdotal evidence of people like me – who discovered drum corps primarily on television – suggested promise for the prospect of new recruits via TV.

It occurs to me now that the reality is something different altogether. The reality is drum corps declined precipitously through most of the years when PBS broadcast it most. Through more than 20 years of live and recorded broadcasts of DCI championships, drum corps lost more corps than in any other era. We built it for fans, but they didn’t come. Neither PBS nor ESPN brought growth to drum corps.

Let me be clear. I am certain the loss of corps wasn’t caused by television. Those corps disappeared for a myriad of reasons – some internal, some external but most beyond our control.

I bring this up now after a discussion about television in another thread. There were the usual points about sponsors and audience and opportunity. Except the history seems to indicate the opposite. At least that’s what I’m seeing.

Tell me if I’m wrong. Or tell me what it means for drum corps.

HH

I think maybe the title to the thread should be "Tv ALONE Can't Save Drum Corps", because while TV may not be the savior by itself, I don't think it necessarily can HURT drum corps. That is, in the right situation. I have always kind of thought that the ESPN broadcast, while well-intentioned was always kind of a weird deal that they made. To me, I thought the pairing was a little strange. I thought PBS was a much better choice for all those years, which is how I and countless others got introduced to drum corps.

Perhaps TV won't save the activity, but I think in the right circumstance it can't hurt and can only help - no?

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I think maybe the title to the thread should be "Tv ALONE Can't Save Drum Corps", because while TV may not be the savior by itself, I don't think it necessarily can HURT drum corps...

I think DCI's response would have been PBS hurt us a lot. DCI had to carry the production costs (once Cook Group dropped its sponsorship). And that cost was too high. Ditto for ESPN.

You also have to think of this in terms of the technological shift. There were years when I missed the broadcast because I failed to note the time in the TV Guide. Today's viewers have no such concern. They can view drum corps whenever they want. Access to drum corps content is much easier today, albeit sometimes at a price to the viewer.

But your major point is right: Viewership is good.

HH

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How, then, do you get those who have aged out of drum corps to keep watching drum corps? Clearly, right now, they're not.

Mike

Ummmm........give 'em what they want?

And stop pretending you (corps, dci) don't know what that is.

In short, when you argue with your customer over what they want, you lose.

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My guess is that PBS broadcast DCI as a public interest piece, not to save drum corps. For one thing, in 1975 no one thought DCI was dying. It also served as a fundraiser but a person I know associated with the early broadcasts once said all thye wanted to do was recoup costs, at least in the early days.

TV did expose more people to drum corps and there are alums who mention first being exposed to drum corps on PBS. As far as fans are concerned, I know some who watched it each year, namely one of my aunts, but I do not recall her ever going to a show, but she was always in front of the TV for DCI. However, many people watch operas and symphony concerts on PBS and don't attend the events live. Personally I watch Celtic Thunder, Celtic Women, Andre Rieu, and the rest and have never purchased tickets to see them live, so I don't think we can assume people will run to shows after seeing drum corps on television and I'm not sure I ever did.

I do think the PBS broadcasts in the early years were great as far as publicity is concerned, and they did connect drum corps fans because we were all watching, but in the 1980's when the broadcasts were not always live, when some stations only broadcast the top six, and when the broadcasts would sometimes be as late as Thanksgiving weekend, they may have lost their effectiveness which is too bad because the broadcasts did improve in quality during those years and some of the shows were all time greats. Interestingly, I now wait until Thanksgiving weekend to watch the previous year's show.

Looking to television to save drum corps may be out of date. Do young people, those who will march in the future, actually watch TV? I thought I saw a statement that claims more young people watch "Glee" via podcast than traditional television. I would argue that a student rate for the Fan Network, tweeting when a corps is practicing in the area so they can have an up close and personal experience with the corps and social networking would be more effective in "saving" drum corps, but for those of us who still watch TV, a few drum corps special would be nice to watch, but it won't save drum corps.

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Through more than 20 years of live and recorded broadcasts of DCI championships, drum corps lost more corps than in any other era.

I believe that the Drum Corps activity lost more numbers of Drum Corps BEFORE the advent of Drum Corps on TV, not during the era of Drum Corps on TV.

That said, its probably not a good thing that DCI's Championship Finals live watching is retricted now to perhaps 15,000-18,000 people. Thats unprecedented in the numbers that get to watch the Championship Finals live ( or even on tape delay ). It would be a good thing for the activity to find a way for the public to see its Championship Finals by more people either live or on tape delay in some fashion.

Edited by BRASSO

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I do think the PBS broadcasts in the early years were great as far as publicity is concerned, and they did connect drum corps fans because we were all watching, but in the 1980's when the broadcasts were not always live, when some stations only broadcast the top six, and when the broadcasts would sometimes be as late as Thanksgiving weekend, they may have lost their effectiveness...

Agreed 100%. Two things really attracted me to the early broadcasts. 1.) It was live which made it like you were there, gave it an excitement it didn't have in later years. 2.) No one knew who would win. Every year the championship was up in the air. It was even exciting seeing just who made finals.

Drum corps does not translate well to TV. The cameras can't possibly see it all or feel the wind of a good fortissimo parting your hair or moving you in the chest. TV is good at presenting DRAMA. Once the drama of the event was lost, so was the interest for anyone who wasn't already a corps fan and was watching it just to see the shows one more time.

With a few exceptions, most years these days it's pretty well known who is expected to win. There might be a dogfight for that number 12 spot, but in general there is little drama. Championships is more of a culminating event to end the season. Take away the live aspect of feeling like you are there as well as any drama over who will win and what have you got that works on TV?

My first exposure to drum corps was not TV, but it was my first exposure to DCI and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to be part of that. Because I could imagine what it was like to be there in real time, with real anticipation of an unknown outcome. It was original reality TV. Real life drama that was unfolding and if I played my cards right I might get to be there too.

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