[Cynnabar] Generalist Events vs. Niche Events or Opening the Can of Worms

David Hoornstra dhoorn123 at comcast.net
Wed Sep 14 18:51:18 UTC 2011

What she said. Huzzay.


> From: Monique Rio <mrio at umich.edu>
> Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2011 11:56:40 -0400
> To: cynnabar <barony at cynnabar.org>
> Subject: [Cynnabar] Generalist Events vs. Niche Events or Opening the Can of
> Worms
> The question of whether or not to comp/give a discount to volunteers
> is actually part of a bigger issue: niche events vs. generalist
> events. The issue is complicated, so I think it deserves a thought out
> response. Below is the summary. Below that is is the justification.
> There are headings to make this very TLDR email more digestable.
> In general we like the idea of everyone chipping in to pay for the
> space to participate in their hobby. This doesn¹t work as well at
> niche events since not everyone is able to do their thing. However,
> there are many good reasons why we should do niche events even though
> not everyone can fully participate. There are also good reasons why
> teachers should get a discount and musicians should be comped at
> Terpsichore.
> I suggest we should comp/give discounts to volunteers at our niche
> events, but not at generalist events. Who we comp at niche events
> should be worked out ahead of time so that the everyone finds it fair.
> Also, niche events are awesome and I¹m so glad we do them.
> From what I gather the general SCA opinion on paying for events is
> that everyone should except royalty and possibly ³guests of honor.² We
> all chip in to pay for the space to partake in our hobby. We all
> volunteer so that the event is successful.
> This works very well for generalist events like Twelfth Night,
> Wassail, Val Day etc. At these events there¹s something for everyone.
> You¹d come to the event anyway even if your services weren¹t needed.
> Generally volunteer positions aren¹t too intense. It¹s an hour or two
> out of your day. There are still plenty more hours left to do what you
> want.
> For niche events this model doesn¹t work as well. One particular group
> benefits a lot more than the others. Everyone not in that group is in
> a support role. For many of the people in those support roles, the
> main reason they come to a niche event is that they want to support
> the barony and/or they have a job to do. If it weren¹t for those
> things they wouldn¹t go. In my opinion, it¹s asking a lot for
> non-dancers at Terpsichore to pay to volunteer at gate or to pay to
> work in the kitchen. At the very least they should get a discount and
> probably should be fully comped. There¹s a difference between helping
> to make an event you¹re enjoying successful and paying to volunteer. I
> don¹t think we should ask people to pay to volunteer. And honestly I
> think there should be a discount for any non-dancer who attends.
> I think a lot of us feel uncomfortable about niche events for a number
> of reasons.
> 1) The structure is inherently unfair. One group is catered to but
> everyone is called to help out.
> 2) They are the exception to the rule, especially at the Baronial
> level. Most Baronial events in our kingdom look the same: fighting all
> day, one track of classes on a wide variety of topics, court, and
> feast.  Maybe some shopping. Maybe a ball. Niche events like Grand
> Tourney and Terpsichore at the Baronial level are rare.
> 3) In the modern world, the generalist event fits the house party
> model. At a house party there¹s usually something for everyone there
> to do, hosts and guests alike. The host takes on all the
> administrative tasks and usually pays for food and drink. The
> expectation is that eventually someone else will host a party and take
> on the admin duties, but even if they don¹t that¹s OK, hosting is fun.
> It makes sense that at this kind of event everyone pays including the
> host. We like this model. It¹s warm and fuzzy feeling.
> If a niche event were a house party it¹d look like this. Let¹s say
> there are two housemates. One housemate loves sports the other
> housemate is ambivalent at best about sports. The housemates have
> separate checking accounts. Sports-Lover wants to host a Superbowl
> Party and expects Sports-Ambivalent to help out. Sports-Ambivalent
> wants to promote social harmony so agrees to help out with party
> management. But that isn¹t enough. Sports-Lover also expects
> Sports-Ambivalent to help out with party expenses from his personal
> account. Time and money are expected from Sports-Ambivalent. This is
> not a happy model. We do not like this.
> Granted I know this is how lots of family parties look. Not only do
> you not want to go, but you have to get a gift for the person(s) of
> honor. I don¹t think this is either good or healthy. I think it¹s a
> lot more respectful to everyone if we recognize who attends out of
> obligation and who¹s there because he wants to be. It¹d be a lot nicer
> if Sports-Lover said to Sports-Ambivalent, ³I know you don¹t really
> want to be here. I appreciate your help, that¹s payment enough.² That
> gives Sports-Ambivalent a chance to be generous and chip in if he
> feels so inclined.
> Also, most niche events look a lot like modern world workshops.
> Terpsichore in particular looks like a dance workshop AACTMAD would
> host. (AACTMAD = Ann Arbor Community for Traditional Music and Dance).
> These workshops are financed by the participants. Volunteers either
> get a discount or get their entry fee comped depending on how much
> they volunteer. (Same model as Science Fiction Conventions.) Teachers
> and Callers are paid. Musicians are paid. The main difference is
> AACTMAD is a dance/music organization. You¹re not going to have people
> who neither dance nor play music volunteering. But that to me means
> it¹s even more silly to expect our volunteers who neither dance nor
> play music to have to pay the full entrance fee at Terpsichore. Still,
> we don¹t like this model because it¹s not the happy house party model.
> So, if niche events are inherently unfair and don¹t fit the good happy
> house party model, should we even have them at all? I think we
> absolutely should, and here¹s why:
> 1) They bring prestige to the Barony. People will travel to a niche
> event. They won¹t travel to an event that looks like every other event
> in their region.
> 2) They are where mastery is developed. It¹s actually really hard to
> develop mastery in a systematic way through the SCA. At any event with
> a lot of classes, the vast vast majority of them will be entry level.
> They have to be because you don¹t know how many people in your field
> will be at a given generalist event and everyone assumes they can drop
> in on whatever class they want to. Kasha for instance taught a great
> class at Wassail and Twelfth night last year on the music of the Notre
> Dame School. At Wassail several people came to her class, most of
> which were from the choir, some of which had very little music
> experience. At Twelfth Night only Aaron and I showed up. This class
> would have been well attended at Cecilia Day, but I think it didn¹t
> work at Twelfth Night because it was too deep.
> The only generalist event I can think of where beyond entry level
> classes work is Pennsic, and that¹s because Pennsic is huge. And even
> at Pennsic, you can¹t go as in-depth as you could at a niche event.
> Aside from Pennsic (and maybe RUM... I¹ve never been there), if you
> really want to learn your craft you need to go to a Known World
> Symposium and/or find someone to apprentice to. Or if you want to
> learn about dance you can go to Terpsichore. Niche events are where
> it¹s at.
> 3) They promote greater cohesiveness in the Barony. Generalist events
> are more cliquish. Fighters hang out with fighters, dancers with
> dancers, class goers with class goers. There¹s no reason for these
> groups to mingle. At Terpsichore people who don¹t ordinarily dance
> either try it out or help to make the dancing great. At Grand Tourney
> non-fighters get a chance to actually see what this fighting thing is
> all about since nothing else is competing for their attention. Also I
> think niche events are where groups really get a chance to see how
> much their Barony supports them.
> We should give Terp teachers a discount because that¹s how every other
> dance organization in the country does it. If you teach at workshop
> you get paid to do so. Outside of the SCA I¹ve never heard of dance
> teachers paying for the privilege of teaching. And the classes taught
> at Terpsichore are not ³lowest-common denominator classes². Some are,
> but many of the classes are based on new research. Also, as Alina
> mentioned, the majority of our teachers aren¹t from the Barony. Giving
> them a discount is a way of saying ³Thank you² for helping to make our
> event great. This discount is appreciated. And one more thing,
> teaching at Terpsichore is actually a bit of a sacrifice on the part
> of the teacher. At Terpsichore the maximum number of classes someone
> can attend is 5 (not counting Midair¹s 9AM track). Every class you
> teach is one you aren¹t taking. Some of our teachers teach more than
> one class.
> For the musicians, again, this is how it works in every dance
> organization in the country. Dancers chip in to pay for the band. The
> band gets paid. Also, it¹s my impression that Cynnabar has hired bands
> to play for Terpsichore in the past. The main difference between
> Ritornello and Ye Hired Band is that Ritornello is local and we
> haven¹t made any CDs yet. We practice ahead of time. We aren¹t an open
> pit. Etc. Etc. If we were an open pit, it¹d be different. Also, the
> Pittsfield Open Band, a local community band that plays for contra
> dances and is very comparable to Ritornello gets /paid/ to play for
> said contra dances. We¹re not suggesting that Ritornello get paid, but
> simply that if someone in the band is only coming to play for the
> evening, that they shouldn¹t have to pay to do that. If they go to
> classes during the day then they should pay since they¹re now a
> participant.
> To sum up, I think we should comp volunteers at our niche events. I
> don¹t think we should comp volunteers at generalist events. I think
> who we comp at niche events should be worked out ahead of time so that
> the everyone finds it fair. Also, niche events are awesome and I¹m so
> glad we do them.
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