KeithHall

Positive Brainstorming/DCA

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I'll start this!

Been reading a lot about the impending death of drum corps for a while so I thought I would start a POSITIVE brainstorming post on finding solutions that DCA can or might try to build up the brand.

Now the keyword is POSITIVE! 

 

GO

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Good topic, Keith!

I've concluded the first order of business should be to enhance the ability of each corps to find members. Full size corps make for a more impressive product to sell, to both sponsors and spectators. 

Seems to me, the DCA season should end about the same time as the DCI season, meaning no longer using Labor Day Weekend and the couple weeks leading up to that. Far too many other options available to compete with DCA at that time of year. It will be necessary to begin the performance season in good shape earlier. Perhaps, Memorial Day Weekend.

Won't be easy.

 

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Would this mean an earlier start to the competitive season (as was in the early days)? OR is the amount of competitions enough to take care of the DCA corps at this time?

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In the northeast, an earlier competitive season start may be difficult.  With the largest indoor circuit not ending until the first weekend of May. percussion sections and color guard often fill up later.  Not trying to find negative in a positive post, but I think the current start is fine.  

With that, one though might be that all shows prior to July 4 are similar to the current Wildwood format, commentary with no scores.  Encourage corps to attend shows without much stress.  I suspect that as long as there are still appearance fees, they'll be fine with this.  Truthfully, with the internet age, few people stay for scores anymore anyway, so no biggie if there aren't scores.

An earlier championship is something I think needs to be explored.  Perhaps the weekend after DCI.  I don't think you'd want to compete with DCI, and the week before that would be East in Allentown, which would be a tougher draw than DCI.  

 

 

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marketing, marketing marketing....towards the younger generations. In PA alone there's 5 marching band circuits....partner with them. recruit at their big shows. build relationships with them. 3 of those same circuits operate in NJ. One operates in NY along with NY Fed. You have to get kids interested to march, and face it, few corps are full. You then get their parents to come. Then, from that pie, eventually marching days may be done, but you have the ability to retain them as fans. As that base grows, then you can start to explore different venues for championships since that is a sticking point. 

Embrace Soundsport/mini corps as a way to grow corps into the competitive arena as DCI has been doing. I have enjoyed the DCA minicorps in the past, but that's been mostly geared towards grous from an exisiting corps, or older alumni. Face it, starting a drum corps isn't cheap, but Soundsport has shown that with time and patience, as well as a sound business strategy, you can get corps on the field during the summer.

Standardize the show host and fees process. The every corps for themselves model is old, and it discourages smaller corps from being able to get into shows.

And...get public information out about DCA's safety policies.With all of the craziness in the last 2 years, DCA has been VERY silent about this, despite an article last fall exposing a fomer finalist for issues in the past, as well as the former YEA director and how that affected and in several ways led to the inactivity of C2.

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I don't what would be involved, in terms of expenses, etc., but I wonder if more corps would consider, or have considered, bringing a busload of their fans to the championship... along the lines of what the Buccaneers have done. (Don't know if they're still running a bus... I know they had done so for several years.)

Those Bucs fans certainly make their presence felt... filling seats and cheering on their corps. They also have come out in big numbers for the DCA season opener in Wildwood.

A poster on one of these threads talked about the need to build attendance from within... meaning, each corps getting their supporters/parents/whoever to come out.  This might be a way to do that. Nice "drum corps vacation" weekend for the folks.

Just spitballin' here from the cheap seats. :laughing:

Edited by Fran Haring

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Maybe there's just some critical magic bullet that I'm missing, but recruiting at band shows and engaging with circuits and band directors doesn't seem like it's working to any significant degree, based on my experience burning shoe leather on recruitment for a couple years now.  Almost every NE corps has tables at a show every weekend in the fall, and the return on investment is minimal to nil -- after they've performed, kids avoid corps recruiters because they're too busy or too tired or just want to eat dinner before the concessions line gets too long, so the most we manage is cajoling a page of email addresses that never reply to any of our follow-up blasts.  Directors don't let us get a foot in the door and throw out the promotional materials we send them instead of sharing them with students, and a fair number actively discourage their students from even thinking about corps.

Word-of-mouth from existing members seems like the much better recruitment tool in my experience (though for a new corps, then you get into the catch-22 of how do you get new members without any existing members and how do you retain members if you don't have any coming in the door yet).  Staff can be pretty good at bringing a kernel of members in, too, though that varies depending on what other positions they have during the year and how far away they're coming from.

Edited by jimpjorps

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1 hour ago, jimpjorps said:

Maybe there's just some critical magic bullet that I'm missing, but recruiting at band shows and engaging with circuits and band directors doesn't seem like it's working to any significant degree, based on my experience burning shoe leather on recruitment for a couple years now.  Almost every NE corps has tables at a show every weekend in the fall, and the return on investment is minimal to nil -- after they've performed, kids avoid corps recruiters because they're too busy or too tired or just want to eat dinner before the concessions line gets too long, so the most we manage is cajoling a page of email addresses that never reply to any of our follow-up blasts.  Directors don't let us get a foot in the door and throw out the promotional materials we send them instead of sharing them with students, and a fair number actively discourage their students from even thinking about corps.

Word-of-mouth from existing members seems like the much better recruitment tool in my experience (though for a new corps, then you get into the catch-22 of how do you get new members without any existing members and how do you retain members if you don't have any coming in the door yet).  Staff can be pretty good at bringing a kernel of members in, too, though that varies depending on what other positions they have during the year and how far away they're coming from.

odd, i see lots of kids at the tables at ACC's in Hershey.  However marketing does help, and a presence does help...especialy in building the fan base.

Edited by Jeff Ream

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14 hours ago, jimpjorps said:

Maybe there's just some critical magic bullet that I'm missing, but recruiting at band shows and engaging with circuits and band directors doesn't seem like it's working to any significant degree, based on my experience burning shoe leather on recruitment for a couple years now.  Almost every NE corps has tables at a show every weekend in the fall, and the return on investment is minimal to nil -- after they've performed, kids avoid corps recruiters because they're too busy or too tired or just want to eat dinner before the concessions line gets too long, so the most we manage is cajoling a page of email addresses that never reply to any of our follow-up blasts.  Directors don't let us get a foot in the door and throw out the promotional materials we send them instead of sharing them with students, and a fair number actively discourage their students from even thinking about corps.

Word-of-mouth from existing members seems like the much better recruitment tool in my experience (though for a new corps, then you get into the catch-22 of how do you get new members without any existing members and how do you retain members if you don't have any coming in the door yet).  Staff can be pretty good at bringing a kernel of members in, too, though that varies depending on what other positions they have during the year and how far away they're coming from.

DCA (and drum corps in general) needs a face lift. Marketing has to be there not only for the fans to know that DCA exists but also to let parents, directors of HS programs and the like, to know what DCA is about and how the potential MM's can help their programs. If the activity at the tables is good, then we have one piece of the puzzle...curiosity. Now how are the corps (let's face it...it's going to be their little red wagon since DCA doesn't market,) then reaching out to the school programs to say "Here is what we can give you." If there is no return on the potential investment, why would they support the activity? 

If the outreach is good, then slowly but surely, we should see more MM's and fans at the shows. It seems that in your case, the corps is pushing recruitment. However, are other DCA directors having their recruiting chairs go out to the local schools with a presentation from DCA and the corps itself? We had someone from Spirit come out to my HS back in 1984 or 1985 and talk to the band about DCI and Spirit. Several of us ended up marching with Spirit or Southwind and we had some SOA folks even do some instruction for us as well as discounts at some of the Spirit camps. There was a solid connection there (possibly because of Joel Denton, Perry Vandergriff or Jim Gladson,) to DCI and specifically, SOA. So are the corps now doing this type of thing? If not, why not? Maybe it's a perception thing that we have talked about before (Corps stealing members from HS programs etc.) 

DCA, to my knowledge, does not offer group discounts at shows. I would hope that most corps buy out a block of seats at their home shows for the band members of the hosting school and their parents to see the show. Expand that. You lose nothing by having extra people in the stands. Frans comment about the Bucs makes perfect sense. I'm not saying you have to bus them in, but at least buy them tickets. DCA should then be working on a deal with Box 5 to offer FREE streaming of Prelims or Finals to band directors. They did that at one of the local HS's here for DCI finals. A band director paid for a Flo subscription for Prelims. He got the school to agree to let him use the auditorium on Thursday and called some of the other band directors to have their bands come too for a watch party and they projected Prelims on Thursday night. How much buzz do you think that generated? I work with a lot of "band parents" and because of our job we put in a LOT of hours together. They know my DCI and DCA background because I wear some sort of corps alumni swag almost every day. I've gotten a whole lot of questions since DCI prelims. 

I truly believe in my heart of hearts that DCI and DCA should merge or have some sort of symbiotic relationship. DCI could easily look at what an All Age class would, look like. Unify the schedule and add a day to finals week. It would be no different than when we had A-60 and A-90. I don't know how the logistics would work but I would think that there are plenty of Open Class shows that corps can attend or World Class shows. The audience is ready built. DCI has the staff in place to help with the advertising, recruiting, housing if needed etc. DCA does not. 

Again, this is only my opinion. I'm just a former MM. I have never been on the staff end of a DCI or DCA corps so I will fully admit to my ignorance on that front. I do, however, have a background in mass marketing because of instructional design (ID consultants often get pulled into the media department to help with marketing campaigns.) 

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One hurdle in dealing with HS band members and DCA is the "drivability" of the DCA corps from the potential high schools. Being weekend-only, it is not just a couple of camps and then move-in for the summer. There would be a lot more schlepping between the home town of the potential members and the corps. More akin to the old days, actually.  The band I taught actually had one member play snare with C2 and now has been in C1 the past seasons on snare, but I know the first year entailed a lot of driving for him and his parents. 

Which adds another wrinkle...HS kids are a lot less mobile than college and older members. They need parents willing to drive in many cases. Even kids who are driving age are barely driving age, so parents may not be willing to let them drive X hours to rehearsals all year. 

It does shrink the available pool for individual corps, but at least in my area there are so many schools it still leaves a good number of potential members from just about any northeast DCA corps. Figuring out the best way to tap into that market is another matter.

 

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