I know we all cringe when we hear the word ‘marketing’, particularly ’email marketing’ in lindy hop talk. But if we think of things like ‘audience segmentation’ and ‘tags’ for organising our huge list of contacts, then it’s less horrible. A lot of us work with about 2-3000 email contacts after a couple of years, if we run a smallish school. Less if we’re doing something more boutique, like an event (there we might work with 200-300 for a small local event). More if we’re lucky (diligent).
But not all those contacts want to hear about the 10% discount for returning students signing up for level 1 classes. And not all of them need to know that workshop registrants for Special Exchange should enter by the side door at the venue. This is why we use special email management tools like Mailchimp. They allow us to divide our email contacts into specific segments (or markets, or audiences).
It’s funny that there’s still this reluctance to think or talk about bringing people into lindy hop classes as ‘marketing’. We may have 100% good vibes, offering free classes to the local community youth. But we still need to get those yoofs into the class room somehow. And we need to keep in contact with them somehow. So good marketing is part of that, even for nonprofits and charities. And it’s even more important when you develop a list of contacts or benefactors for your charity, start doing tag-on services like health checks for adults who drop of kids.
I do want to note that we all know that the best way to keep a network of people or customers, is to use face to face, in person contact. An email is powerful in some situations. But it’s never as good as stopping to see if Mrs X has the time and date for the next potluck, and asking her, then and there, to commit to bringing her special meatballs.
As a dance organisation or business, we need to combine all these ways of communicating. A website. An email list. Speaking to people in person. A paper flyer. The tools we choose will shape our community: if we’re all digital, we’ll lose Uncle Z who doesn’t own a computer. If use all face to face, Mz G from out of town won’t know that the next party is on Saturday. So we need to make sensible choices about how we’ll speak to our audiences.
I also think that it’s ok to charge money and make a profit from your dance business. Most of the unpaid work (and paid!) in lindy hop is done by women. And I’m always a bit suspicious when I hear people argue (even implicitly) that those workers shouldn’t be paid/businesses shouldn’t make a profit/earn money. Because you’re essentially arguing that women shouldn’t be paid for their work in lindy hop. Only DJs or judges or teachers should be paid. All roles dominated by white men…
We can’t do equitable stuff if we don’t have cash flow. That’s the sad fact of patriarchal capitalism.
What of issues of race, ethnicity, and cultural appropriation? Is it ok for people who aren’t Black to make money from Black art?
That’s a tricky one. My first response would be ‘Be sure of your values. If you don’t feel it’s ok to make money this way, don’t start a business that makes money from it.’
I wouldn’t say ‘do the work for free’, because doing the work for free could undercut Black businesses and workers who _do_ charge for their labour. As an example, you may not charge for your DJing, white bro, because you don’t want to benefit from Black art. But if that means you’re then hired before a Black woman who _does_ charge, because you’re free, then you’re fucking over Black artists and workers. A better option might be to accept pay, but then to donate that pay to a Black arts or community organisation (this is an option I like, as a white DJ and worker – I often donate any pay to a good cause, or ask the person I’m working for to donate to a cause like a women’s refuge or Child Literacy fund).
Be mindful of how you enter into economic and cultural relationships. Understand where your power and privilege lies. As a middle class white woman, I don’t need that $20 DJ pay. But a Black teenager might. So instead of encouraging unpaid labour, I might opt out of the labour system (ie not DJ), or I might take that money and then send it on to someone who _does_ need it. That might be via charities, but it could also be via spending the money on CDs for a swing club’s library, or donating the money to a contest prize.