by Ken Mason, DCW staff
January 21-23, 2005 — Orlando, FL . . . Ordinarily, the most significant development at DCI’s annual all-purpose weekend of meetings and seminars takes place in the Rules Congress. Not in 2005.
Amid the bustle of activity in Orlando this weekend, which also included the Instructors Summit, Tour Event Partners Seminar and the winter meeting of the division II/III directors, the real news was presented and ratified in the annual meeting of the division I directors.
For those who thought the buzzword “parity” would leave DCI as quickly as it came at the fall meeting, hold onto your hats. DCI has followed through with an overhaul to their fund distribution process that takes a major step toward “leveling the playing field” for all division I corps.
The distribution of funds from DCI operations to the corps will now be determined by a new model, where 35% of the funds will be apportioned through a new revenue allocation formula and 65% will be paid as appearance fees, and those appearance fees have been leveled out for all division I units.
This new cash flow eliminates several potholes in the previous appearance fee structure, where fee levels were tiered for the top eight, the 9th- through 16th-place corps, and the remaining member corps. No longer will the battle for 8th, 16th or 21st place have a $10,000 impact to the corps involved.
DCI was formed largely as an agency to support the efforts of the era’s top corps by establishing tours on an annual basis. In the years prior to DCI’s inception in 1972, corps participated in a wide variety of contests.
Several major championships of “national” or “world” level were held annually and the more ambitious corps attended one or more of them each year. How these corps traveled to those major championships, and what events they found on the way to/from those title shows, was a cause for concern.
Many of the independent contests of the day only offered prize money to the top three finishers, making a long tour a risky proposition for anyone other than the top handful of corps. Some of the major contests took most of the gate for themselves, sharing little with the corps.
DCI addressed these issues quickly by establishing their own tours, with events that provided appearance money to every competing corps. This policy greatly facilitated the touring practice, making an annual championship meeting practical for corps all across North America.
The system was not perfect, however. Most DCI membership benefits were determined based on competitive placement in the prior season, and as any financial professional will tell you, “past performance is no guarantee of future success.”
Even as DCI made changes to provide more benefits to a greater number of corps, the level of benefits remained tied to the previous season’s contest results. In the case of appearance fees, a tiered system was developed where the previous year’s top eight corps received a set amount of money for each appearance, while the corps that placed 9th through 16th received a fee several hundred dollars lower, and the remainder of the member corps several hundred dollars below that — per show.
Thus, the difference between 16th and 17th place could have as much as a five-figure impact on a corps the following year. And imagine the plight of a non-member corps trying to remain on the division I tour.
The new formula was developed over a four-month process, initiated at the September DCI meeting. DCI Board Chairman Jeff Fiedler, also The Cavaliers’ corps director, formed a committee charged with the task of developing a new revenue distribution model to provide better balance for all division I corps.
Dave Gibbs, director of the Blue Devils, led this committee through the ensuing months of research and development.
The result of that work was a two-pronged approach to paying the corps. Appearance fees will now be uniform for all division I corps, including the regional division I units. About 65% of the total revenue to be distributed to corps will be delivered as appearance fees. The remaining 35% will be directed by a “revenue allocation formula,” which takes into account several factors such as longevity, excellence and marketability.
This allocation formula can be tweaked to reward whatever criteria the DCI membership feels are desired attributes for their corps to strive toward.
All DCI division I corps will be getting a pay raise in this new system, especially the ones ranking outside the top eight. The appearance fee alone is higher for those corps, not counting any additional funds they would receive from the revenue allocation formula.
The new system’s appearance fee is actually a bit lower than the previous top-eight tiered fee, but when the revenue allocation formula’s funds are added in, top corps will also fare better than in past years.
Much of the roughly $500,000 increase in corps payouts anticipated in 2005 will come from DCI’s own major events, with a portion resulting from an increase in the cost to tour event partners for running a DCI show. The increase was long overdue, though.
As Dan Acheson stated, “While many tour event partners have expressed their concern for the raise in contract prices, they appreciate that corps revenue allocations have not changed since 1992. Many were satisfied to know that 100% of the increase will go directly back to the corps.”
Also as a result of this process, corps payouts for shows in the Atlantic, Pacific and Central Divisions will be standardized for division I.
This article was originally published in the March 2005 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 33, Number 18).