Following a previous column, a lot of comments were made about the brashness of the language, more specifically towards event organizers.
Look folks, here’s a life tip: you shouldn’t trust the ability to nuance of a website theorizing that Satan would make abusive cellphone users wash a deceased dictator’s dripping dunghole in Hell, and y’all should take everything in these here parts with several truckloads of salt. Having said that, comedy and hyperbole should never be used as a blatant excuse to ram it up someone’s buttcheeks (I have several other blatant excuses for that). So I was surprised. The purpose of the article, after all, wasn’t to take a virtual dump on anyone, especially not organizers: they do a Herculean, fucking impossible and thankless job.
Much like the aforementioned anal leakage cleansers.
And because I’m nothing if not fair, here’s a little something to stick in your thought-toasters: event organizers are some of the most under-appreciated people in the world of dancing, and we should be downright ashamed of that. Here are 6 realizations that, hopefully, will change our perspective on them:
6- An increasing percentage of their audience will never be pleased
Back in “the Days” (“the Days” being anytime from 50 years ago to last month depending on your scene), the dance world was smaller, but also more cohesive. That meant a few select events happened, and they received widespread support because they were the only ones in existence. Hell, people were just happy that some kind of dancing was going on.
Nowadays, the interests-grenade has blasted shards in so many directions that it’s really hard for an event to cater to every attendee’s needs. Everyone has their little idea of how they like things, from how the levels should be separated in workshops, to which bands should play what music, to how competitions should be held, to what crazy fucking unholy mix of Dwango-Westie-Salsa-Bal-Trot should become the thing of the day. And those couch coaches won’t be shy to tell everyone all about it.
The natural effect of this diversity is that tons of satellite, specialized events pop up, taking small but mercilessly consistent piranha bites out of larger events until there’s nothing left. Ironically, some of these events enjoy enough success to grow into monsters as well, before being in turn cannibalized themselves. This is the saddest example of the circle of life ever seen.
In other words, organizers often give their sweat and blood so that sooner or later another event takes their place. They’re the Pacific Giant Octopus of the dance world.
But hey! At least organizers are making money off it, right? Well…
5- It’s NOT the economy, stupid
When and if I see an organizer zipping by in his shiny Lamborghini, I simply assume they have a really nice job on the side. Or they’re Batman circa 1992. Which would mean… Yeah. They have a really, really nice job on the side.
Truth is, most events don’t make that kind of cash. And by “that kind of cash”, I mean the kind of cash you can buy Kraft Dinner with.
Here’s a little math for the dim-witted: let’s say some organizer makes $3000 off the Annual Houston Chicken Hopping Festival. Everything is paid and accounted for: the bands, the judges, the barn rental, the mountains of hay… It might seem like a huge amount. You might even tell yourself: “holy zebra shit in a drying machine, that dude made $3000 off a three-day event! I’d love to make $1000 a day!”
But that’s not making a thousand dollars a day, dumbass – it’s making $3000 a year. In all likelihood you know a hobo or two who rack in more than that.
For any given event, the amount of work put in it is mind-blowingly nonsensical: organizing schedules, getting together volunteers, hiring MCs and catering to their needs, visiting and booking venues, balancing budgets, making sure technologically-challenged people can sign up on the website, registering students at the door, buying event bracelets, printing booklets, hiring live bands…
And all of this, thanks to #6 above, is surprisingly fucking useless if you don’t also allow a Roseannesque chunk of your time and budget to pure marketing, endlessly going to other events, often out of your own pocket, so you can spend half your weekend putting up event flyers and banners and other bullshit and endlessly repeating the same spiel about how everyone should attend. It’s grunt, unenticing work.
After this, where will most of that leftover money end up? An ectsasy-fueled weekend of party with the Olsen twins featuring the Backstreet Boys? Nope: most probably in the budget for next year’s event.
Put all that together, spread it over the 6 to 10 months it takes to plan a proper event, and you’ll find that organizers rarely get paid more than $5 an hour, which is a little more than half the US legal minimum wage. And unlike your cushy job, there is no guarantee that all this hard work will result in any real-life money at all, quite the contrary: most first-, second- and even third-year events are operating in the red.
Doesn’t sound so gangsta now, does it? Especially since…
4- They deal with crazies all the time
We never emphasize it enough: the world is full of batshit-insane, feces-flinging, desperately-grasping-for-straws-of-lucidity apemen out there, running in the crazy jungle like lunatics, jumping from demented vine to demented vine like Jane suddenly ran out of tampons and wanted to use her beau’s hair as makeshift Tampax.
Some folks are a few fries short of a Happy Meal. We’ve all experienced it.
Until you’ve ran your own event though, you haven’t appreciated the mind-numbing insanity that’s lurking out there. That’s why you can approach an experienced organizer and say “By the way, I sharted all over the ladies’ bathroom and, while I was at it, recreated Picasso’s Guernica with excrements and bloody bits! As my mom used to say, ain’t no shit should go wasted, if you know what I mean, hehe!”
They’ll probably not bat the one unimpressed eye that’s still open and go, indeed, check that out. It’s just another cafeine-propelled, surreal day in the life of an organizer.
They’ve seen it all: the crazed only seem to strengthen their resolve. They’re the Bizarro to our Superman, where green kryptonite is crazy people and…
I wish to the Great Otter in the sky that I was only talking about students or clients here. Imagine the collection of people necessary, in all departments, to make an event run smoothly: waiters, band members, janitors, club owners, drivers, webmasters, designers, suppliers… Add to the mix the teachers, who sometimes have, um, very specific provisions, to say the least.
Which brings to mind, teachers: fucking… Really?
There’s nothing wrong with letting the organizer know what your undoubtingly demanding job requires. I mean, holy strawberry-flavored Gandhi on a popsicle stick, who really wants to dance and travel all around the world and meet all sorts of beautiful people for a living, right? This job fucking sucks dirty donkey balls. So obviously you need the perks. But the most decent thing to do is to let the organizers know in advance, right off the bat. So you don’t stick the organizer with petty bullshit to deal with during the event: “yeah, well we’re Thursday, American Eastern Time and I can’t have potato on Thursday, American Eastern Time.”
Fuck your potato (or lack thereof). It’s your goddamn job to know those things in advance and advise the organizers. So, you know, they can decide to hire your neurotic ass or not.
Now understand that behind all these faces that organizers have to deal with, there’s probably at least one Joker waiting to surface. And not a tongue-in-cheek Jack Nicholson Joker with squeaky clean make-up. Not even a somehow charmingly psychopathic Heath Ledger Joker. No. A fucked-up, New 52 Joker: the kind of person who doesn’t even hesitate to rip their own face off and tack it back on again. Why? Because fuck everything, that’s why.
The infinite load of cray-cray can make everything crumble in an instant, which is why…
3- They have to wear a thousand hats and learn from their mistakes
Organizers have to be aware of everything. They don’t have to master the details, but they have to know either someone who does, or at least enough to duct-tape together a semblance of quick fix. If a key to a venue gets lost, they have to call the right person; if the printer is emanating malodorous smoke signals, they have to know where to get either a backup or an exorcist; if one teacher doesn’t show up because they illegally crossed the border to Tijuana and are snorting coke off a hooker’s semi-flaccid boner at two in the afternoon, they have to… um… know where to turn whenever that particular situation arises.
And volunteers, bless their sweet innocent hearts, are just that: volunteers. They generally change from year to year, and are usually specialized in some area or another. Most are extraordinarily gifted, competent unique little snowflakes, completely deserving of a few solid sessions of sensual earlobe tickling, but when the shit train drunkenly crashes into the party station, no one really gives the sheer nuclear-powered amount of fucks necessary to pick it up.
No one except the organizer, that is.
When they can’t find a solution, they have to muster the incredible humility to learn from their mistakes, and that’s totally par for the course for any marginally succesful entrepreneur. Most organizers are endowed with at least half a brain and know that they can’t just endlessly shift blame whenever a problem arises, which you’ll recognize as the knee-jerk reaction of all of us at work or in life. They assess the situation, and see how they could have made it better – by calling the person who had to bring the sound system half an hour before classes start, or double-checking to see if the fire exits really worked in case of widespread unsollicited spontaneous orgy.
What if they don’t even know they’re doing something wrong, though? Well, that’s where the next point comes into play…
2- If you talk, they’ll listen
That’s where you can make a difference, guys and girls, because a lot of people talk the talk, but don’t crawl the crawl.
We hear a lot of grievances about events, an extremely small percentage of which actually making their way to the organizers. It’s bizarre, right, because they’re the one person who can make an actual difference. Why is that?
Well, people just love to complain, for one. We really enjoy getting on our high horses and galloping along smuggly, minstrelling about how we totally could win that spear jousting tournament. Also, negativity is apparently the one attitude that influences us the most. That means changing an opinion from bad to good is difficult, while worsening an inherently bad one is much easier. You’re more likely than anything to be swayed from “yeah, the orchestra was borderline okay” to “OMG THIS BAND DOESN’T KNOW A GOOD SONG FROM THEIR WORM-INFESTED COLON THEY SHOULD ALL DIE IN A BLAZING CHICKEN FARM INFERNO WHILE THEIR FAVORITE PETS GNAW FURIOUSLY AT THEIR ANKLES. FUCK ‘EM HARD WITH A RUSTED FIRE HYDRANT”.
In addition, we tend to assume that authority figures consider knowing better than us lowly peasants. After all, they’ve been organizing stuff and we haven’t: we suppose that the outcome of any conversation is bound to end with them telling us to, in scientific terms, shove it without lube.
Our natural response to that assumption is to seethe in our corner and tell them to go fuck themselves before we even interact with them. Don’t lie, you’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We’re that ballsless pretence of an employee never asking for a raise because “they won’t get it anyway”.
Don’t forget a fact: YOU are the expert at being a student or an attendee of this particular event, not the organizers. They absolutely need your perspective, and are usually pretty welcoming of it, if it’s not accompanied by racial slurs or claims about their mother’s impressively varied array of questionable sexual endeavours.
Most organizers are aware that the greatest key to success is to listen to what attendees have to say about the experience – an experience they’ll never be able to undergo themselves at their own event. Sure, the odd organizer might be butt-hurt about your comments but, in the grand scheme of existence, you’re going to feel better for doing the right thing. Everybody wins because, in general, organizers have one goal…
1- They bring joy to the world
Remember when Meschiya Lake was really cooking it at that late night and you were dancing song after song with awesome partners, while scantily-clad Swedish models in Princess Leia slave outfits distributed impossibly refreshing blueberry iced drinks and the place was filled with glowing pixie dust that made everything seem so wonderful and alive and bright?
Someone made that shit happen. None of it would have been possible if someone didn’t have the fundamentally irrational idea to organize it in the first place. Despite everything a sane person knows about organizing, organizers still churn out events, week after week, year after year, all in the goal of creating something hopefully unique and magical. Just for us.
And some of us still balk at the idea of forking out $10 to attend a dance; somehow, we feel entitled to that shit, just because hey, if we weren’t there, there wouldn’t even be no event. Which is entirely maniacal: that’s like going to a hardware store and demanding a free box of nails because if you didn’t need them, they wouldn’t make them in the first place. And let’s not forget the ever popular: “I don’t have any money right now, can I come in for free?”
Stop being such a fucking leech, and put your goddamned shoulder to the wheel for once. Offer to man the door for half an hour; talk it up with your friends; get involved in the intro class and get even more new people to start supporting the event; help in whatever way you can, because we all know too well in our ephemeral world that as soon as we enjoy something, it might crumble into dust before our helpless eyes.
Only with your support and feedback can events become better, stronger…
So please keep going, you crazy organizers you. We need you.
When not sending his sweet and unrequited, but still very brotherly love to event organizers, Zack can be found organizing things of his own at Swing ConneXion.
Next segment in the “Realizations” series is probably going to be about either students or musicians: drop a note in the comments if you just can’t wait to read one or the other!
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