How to Handle Troupe Funds

The information below was compiled from a discussion in 2005. Since is difficult to access these days, rather than link to the discussion itself, I have brought together some of the significant replies. you can still click here to reach the original article. Please feel free to write me anytime.

Tribal Wealth

Ellie: Here's a question for all the Troupes out there: how do you do the money? When you have a paying gig, what's the split? Where do musicians factor in? When your Troupe is invited to teach somewhere, is it just one teacher, does she invite troupe members, etc? Do you have troupe funds? Do troupe members pay for classes? Does the troupe have "dues"?

Shay: For my pro troupe, all money from contracts goes into a troupe fund. It helps offset costs for large costume purchases, travel for shows, troupe retreats, etc.

Tips are divided equally among the troupe members which performed that night.

If we had a band, there would be an extra charge involved and we would give them their portion to do with it as they saw fit.

As director and primary instructor, I teach any and all workshops. I sometimes invite another member as an assistant and I either pay her a portion of the workshop payment or we trade for classes or costumes.

Our only dues is that we split the costs of our two hour rehearsal each week, so we each pay a flat rate each month (regardless of how many rehearsals we actually have--it fluctuates from month to month just based on the number of Tuesdays in a given month). Any overage goes into the troupe fund. Any under-payment, we offset with troupe funds.

Everyone is also required to attend a certain number classes every week for continuing education. We are responsible for our own costumes.

DeLani: Wow, that seems like a lot of money.
Our troupe is POOR. Luckily, we have access to a free studio (only once a week, though). We have to make or buy our own costumes.

We just don't have the "infrastructure" to have troupe funds. We share, trade, and lend money/labor/costume items/time to each other, but we don't put our money into someone else's bank account. I don't think any of us would be comfortable with that.

Of course as time goes on, if we got bigger we might rethink that.

For our paying gigs, we charge per dancer, so we split it between the 3 of us equally. If someone wants to hire a teacher, they would specify who they wanted, and that person would keep the money. That's not the troupe, that's that individual dancer's deal.

So there's a different perspective for you.

Shay: It isn't really that much money. We have one regular monthly gig, and then a smattering of other paid gigs each month (1-3, usually closer to 1 ;). As I said, it OFFSETS the cost of things, not pays for them. If we paid for everything listed there, we would be broke. We save it for key times when the money would do the most good for the entire troupe. We have found that the small amount we might make by splitting ends up being better spent when someone is "saving it" for all of us to use at a key time than if we just got it that night and, say, spent it on drinks and a meal after the show. A measly $30 can turn into $200 for troupe tee shirts if we save it. So that is how our system evolved.

We have a troupe bank account, not a single dancer's personal account. On member is the treasurer and keeps an accounting of all our income and payments, and the books are open to anyone anytime they want to see what the balance is and how the money is being spent.

I am always curious how other troupes handle the money thing, too, El, so thanks for asking!

Kouri: We have monthly dues and at this time, all money earned by the troupe as a whole goes into troupe coffers to pay for travel expenses, cotuming, etc.

Is your troupe incorporated?

I tried to set up a checking account but was told I had to have incorporation papers for a business otherwise it had to be in my name. I already have a personal account and a business account. The more open checking accounts in your name, the more hits to your credit rating and I don't want another one to manage.

I am actually working on incorporating the troupe now, but it costs cash and time (taxes to be paid annually). But it would cover us getting insurance too, so am thinking about it for other reasons as well. But I am paranoid about that kind of stuff. I sometimes wonder if other troupes are concerned with paying music rights, having insuarance, paying taxes, etc. Anyone have any experience with this?

Jaime: That's exactly what we do. All money made by the troupe as a troupe, goes into the troupe bank account. We put on a large festival every year and it takes lots of grant money plus our hard earned dollarinos to put it on.

While we don't pay ourselves (excluding the troupe member who is the event coordinator and myself who writes the grants) we only pay the band. If we have enough, we do pay ourselves a little, which we then turn around and buy costumes with. Everything thing else we pull in goes towards port-a-potties, hand washing stations, business licenses, park rentals and outside Artistic Fees (like we pay our "guests.") Running a troupe is 'spensive.

Sabrina Fox: A paid Gig gets split evenly among all my dancers after costs for that gig are covered, such as Gas, food, Costume items etc etc etc.... Most of the time breaking even is where it ends up but when it doesn't I make sure it is fair. I need them as much as they need me is how I see it and new dancers work just as hard if not harder so I feel they deserve an even cut. That's how I run it and it has worked so far, we are going on a long time without loosing core members and we are growig beautifully :). If we have musicians we charge more of course and everyone still gets out equal.

Troupe funds? That is a blurry subject If we are going to do a show together that requires us to put some money down for it we all go in evenly with time or money and decisions making. I have seen the so called "troupe funds" being used to make One troupe members "troupe Ideal" or personal view work, and in my opinion that does not work. Unless you make it worth the Troupe members while somehow, you are just waisting their energy time and money in the end. Why? well, in the end other than fillin up the troupe members closets with unwanted, ugly, or unworn, costumes and random garb that they never wanted in the first place, to bring one persons view to fruition, along with planting bitter seeds because Visionary leader is the only one making a dime, or at worst does not give a dime about anyone elses feelings/visions in general.

In that case when we are presented with one group members passionate Idea that will cost a pretty penny they have a few things to consider upon presenting it to the whole group 1. They must consider footing the costume or taking responsibility for most of the bill and not expecting other members to pay. 2. if they cannot affored to cover the expense then it is up to the members that are chosen for the gig to decide how much to put down for it. Especially if the gig makes barely enough to cover expences, it will not lead to more Gigs, and the costumes will only be used once. In a situation like that each member is responsible for the idea completely and whomever they choose to do it with them is under the understnding of a shared expense if they want to do the gig aswell. So in all everything is a collaborative expense and is treated as a collaborative decision and responsibility. Troup funds are drawn from our gigs or replenished by our gigs for the most part.

Troupe members paying for classes? No, but splitting the overall rental of the room yes. I'd rather have the room paid for and have members show up to practice/drills than have to meet up later with them (on my own time) to catch them up just because they could not affored the class that day. It is more important to have the space and the members up to par with the new combos and choriography, but if they are not there, then it only makes them look bad in the end. And we all really know and have learned what slacking on practice can do to your performance. Having member show up is much more important to all of us than to make a few extra bucks. Especially since it is already understood that all expenses decisions and money made is equally split between members that are involved in the projects. It works itself out because each member is chosen to do gigs depending on their consistancy availability and ability. We have 8 members total, 4 core/soloists, 4sub members until their soloing ability builds up, and are able to manage gigs on their own.

Ultimately it is a group effort and project everyones vision is considered and shared and so are the expenses equally. There is a mothering by the more exp dancers/performers but not a governing within the group, so no one feels intimidated or restricted creatively. Most importantly everyone is encouraged to scout for Gigs to bring their vision out and the one who finds the gigs chooses who goes with, what to wear, Music, no questions, it is understood as just that and seems to be working really well.

I think as long as it is always honest and fair and the communication about money and troupe issues is always open it works very nicely and the fun and friendships are not comprimised. It does not work for everyone I am sure but It is doing well for us :)))

Wendy of Chicago: There are many ways to handle this, so I think what you're going to find is that each group does something a bit differently, or they try multiple ways until they find what works for them.

Here are a few we have used in the past:

1. Split all monies evenly among performers for the gig
2. Take a percentage of the fee paid and put it aside for Troupe Funds, then split the rest up evenly among performers
3. All fees go to the Troupe with tips being split up to performers.

Some of these work better than others depending on Troupe goals and member participation (ie - troupe of 10 people, but only the same 4 people keep up with performing on a regular basis).

Also, we don't have dues, but most rehearsals come out of our personal funds.

Satya: We put all our money into a troupe fund, which like Sharon said, goes to paying for expensive costume items and/or workshop, festival, travel expenses. When we get tips, they go in as well, as we are trying to get a nice base in the account, and it is best to save save save sometimes! Since there are only three of us, and we trust each other very much, there is no issue with the account. Our director keeps tabs, and divys out when need be.

We do have a monthly class fee, but we also teach the beginner's class (the two of us who don't teach the performing troupe class) so that cost is offset by the teaching pay. There are no troupe dues, but we are expected to cover any hotel, workshop, transportation fees outside of what our troupe fund can cover.

Sundara Varna: sundara varna did it like this:

less than $100- divided amoungst the dancers in that particular show.
more than $100- 50/50 troupe fund/ dancers in show.

principle dancers don't pay for classes, but gypsy camp does.

--required 3 out of 4 of classes offered every once weekly rehersal in a troupe run studio/ garage...

-teachers- we kinda had a pecking order, i'd say most the most experienced one has first dibs...

-everyone was responsible for their own costumes, but they don't change very often and we shared alot...with people who have been doing tribal for 10 years you've got a good selection of costumes after a while!

Brad D: Another factor to consider when deciding on a policy for paying out to dancers is where will the dollars have the biggest impact, I've seen troupes give 8 dancers $15 after a show (and more often than not the moeny ends up back in the bar's cash register at the club). Those same dollars that have minimal impact for the dancer could just as easily be combined to be $120, which adds up to 5,000 postcards for classes, upcoming events, bookings (or a professional photo session or a better website or a more effective media kit, etc). That $120 invested in an effective promotion today means tomorrow's event may generate a $50 pay-out to the dancers or $100, $200, $300 in the near future.

I think too often troupe directors are short-sighted and don't see the big picture when they decide to share the wealth in the beginning. If the dancers understand the gameplan and see the quality of their investment, they will generally support this sort of structure and have a greater appreciation for the benefits it yields.

Unsubscribed: When we have a paying gig, 1/3 of the money goes to the troupe fund and 2/3 gets split among the dancers who were at the gig. If we know we have a big expense coming up that we need to save for as a troupe though, we dump all money into troupe funds.

When we work with musicans (since we don't have regular ones), they charge their rate and are paied seperately.

When we do workshops, we normally send 2 teachers (we have 4). The teachers split half of the workshops earnings and the other half goes to troupe funds. If we are doing a full-day seminar all four of us teach and half the earnings are split between the 4 of us , half going to the troupe. If the workshop is at the location of one teacher's regular classes, she does the workshop alone and reaps all the benefits.

Our troupe does not pay dues, nor do we have to take classes from the troupe, as we are a collective with practically equal experience and no clear superior dancer or teacher. We are all expected to remain enrolled in Egyptian style dance classes though and take advantage of workshop opportunities as they come.

Onca: In the 6 years that I have led Baraka Mundi we have grown from a cute-but-bad garage band of dancers to a serious business. We have tried every variation of model, I think, from collective to director, and many ways of handling money.

Be aware that it can be hard hard emotionally and fiscally to change a group's approach to these things mid-stride, so for those just starting a troupe, even as a creative collective, i suggest laying out a business plan first and THEN inviting folks to join you. That way you wont lose time, money or friendships by discovering your differing points of view the hard way.

The main models that seem current:

collective: where all business matters are open to all, and everyone is paid the same, or all the money goes into a kitty for the troupe's promotional and training needs.

director: where one person provides the thread of continuity in a group together over time, and treats it as their business. they may or may not disclose the business details to everyone in the group.

there is also the 'nonprofit status dance company' but i dont understand how that works yet.

each model can allow everyone lots of creative leeway in costuming, music etc. it is just a question of what you all want in a group, and for how long.

in a true collective, every time you get new members your whole culture can change, and the focus of the group can shift considerably. you may or may not be OK with that, if you have been pouring yourself into the group for years. a promising new person can settle in and then say - i am an equal partner in this project, and i say we all need to tapdance naked in jello from now on- and shake it all up just like that. careful screening of new members can certainly help. sometimes liking someone may not be enough to merit sharing your hard work with them. or it may, it just depends on what you want from a group experience.

for us, we have adopted the business model and it has helped us grow and improve tremendously, as well as be more organized and get more respect in our local 'real' dance community of modern, flamenco, ballet etc. We break $ down like this:
As director, i make a 15% booking fee. Booking gigs is work, especially for gigs that takes you out of town, with more planning/hotels etc., and the consequences of snafus greater. the person who takes on that responsibility deserves to see a return on it, and this is true even if the booking work is done in turns by everyone in the group. whoevers gets the work should be honored for it.

I am on the phone and computer making work for the whole company instead of being at another job, with my child, or in the dance studio. after four years of working to get gigs for the group for free, my time had real value. When we work with a producer, they get the booking fee instead since I am then free to focus on the actual dancing aspect of our dancing and not shuffle papers.

in the past we have either paid everyone the same or paid the apprentice dancers and musicians less (to acknowledge that the seasoned members will be carrying most of the show).

the group fund gets a % too, 5-15% depending on the gig and how well-funded the kitty is. when we know we have an event or bill coming up, we meet to agree on a higher % for the fund.

i suppose an alternative would be for the business owner/troupe director to keep a higher % and pay all those costs out of their pocket.

like anyone, i am always learning something new about how to do this crazy dance thing, what a great forum for honest talk! Onca

Created and maintained by Shay Moore
Performer, instructor, director with Deep Roots Dance