To the uninitiated, marching bands and drum and bugle corps are not the sideshow that they might have once been. The days of only being seen at football halftime shows and strolling down Main Street in a parade have vanished.
The marching arts isn't just a "varsity sport" - in some ways it's the NFL, the Olympics, and "American Idol" all rolled up into one very entertaining package.
And here's something that's likely to blow your mind...
The money it costs to put a marching ensemble on the field is SEVERAL TIMES what any sports team requires in terms of budget, let alone volunteer hours.
Your average high school band keeps an aggressive performance schedule - but that's only part of the equation. Consider for a moment the multitude of different line item expenses that most performing ensembles need to account for:
- Bus/motor coach rental - some bands will actually FLY to national-level competitions.
- Truck rental - for instruments, equipment, etc. Some band programs own at least one full-scale tractor trailer and hire CDL drivers every weekend.
- Props, scenery, staging - many groups "set dress" the football field just like a movie set.
- Uniforms, costuming - while some programs are still utilizing a "classic" band uniform for most performances, others are quickly migrating to show and theme-specific costuming that changes every season.
- Show design - at the highest levels, ensembles will commission musical arrangements that are customized to their own instrumentation and performance level, while drill/visual design must be written for the groups' numbers each year (because it changes).
- Educational staff - it's no longer enough to have a single dedicated band director. Specialists in every discipline of performance for brass, woodwinds, marching percussion battery and front ensemble, and color guard specialists to cover flag, weapons, movement, and everything in between. Some ensembles are now employing elaborate sound amplification systems with studio engineered sound programs, and a few are employing vocal coaches to help students SING and SPEAK portions of the show that might call for it. Staff fees represent one of the most surprising and significant outlays of funding for the modern marching ensemble, but it's also one of the most important aspects to becoming (and staying) competitive.
Keep in mind, we haven't even considered instruments or repair at all at this point. That marching band that has 10 tubas in their sousaphone section? That's an easy $70,000 right there. That flashy looking drumline? That's at least $40,000 for nice equipment.
When you compare the list above to outfitting a football team, or a cross country squad, or any other sport you can think of - there's no comparison.
The Rising Costs
As a high school student in the 1980s, I recall my own band trips costing just a few hundred dollars (for a nice overnight trip). My first DCI tour fees in 1990 were $650. That same drum corps now charges students $4,200 per season.
The costs to participate in the marching activity has far outdistanced the inflationary rate.
According to https://www.officialdata.org - that $650 that I paid in 1990 to go on tour with a World Class DCI corps should come in at just under $1,300 based on the rate of inflation.
So why is that DCI tour now costing kids over $4,000?
Many things are now exponentially more expensive, but some of the additional financial stress comes from things like fuel prices, supply and demand (fewer groups are competing in Drum Corps International than there were in the 1990s), and the additional costs of liability insurance. There are fewer manufacturers of high quality instruments than there were previously, and that allows supply/demand economics to influence the price of goods and services even more.
What Can Ensembles Do?
In short - marching ensembles need to get creative and work both HARDER and SMARTER in order to make ends meet.
Here at FansRaise we have assembled what might be the most comprehensive list of potential fundraisers - and you can download that list for free right here.
On our blog we've discussed at length how your group can turn rehearsal time you're already spending into a THON fundraiser that can raise thousands of dollars without hardly any additional work.
In fact, here's an account of a small marching percussion ensemble that raised over $11K in just a couple of weeks.
Do you direct, lead, or support a committed and top-echelon performing ensemble?
Are you looking for an easier and more efficient fundraising method than everything else you've tried?
Then you need to be taking a close look at FansRaise and our $10,000 Blueprint that ensembles are using to raise thousands of dollars each week.