Directors, organizational representatives and student leaders from more than 50 member and participating ensembles convened the weekend of January 27th as Drum Corps International conducted its annual business meeting at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta.

Attendees received positive news on several fronts, including strong season-end financial and attendance results, increased participation at all levels, and a strategic look ahead as DCI prepares to celebrate its 45th anniversary season.

Financial highlights reflect positive trends across DCI business spectrum

“The last three years have been three of the best in DCI’s history, and we continue to build on that momentum. The results speak for themselves,” said Fred Morrison, chairperson of the DCI Board of Directors and executive director of the Crossmen.

In 2016, top-line revenue grew by 12.1 percent year-over-year to $13 million. This result marks the fourth consecutive year of revenue growth for Drum Corps International.

“Several key factors help bring about trends such as this,” said Wayne Leide, DCI’s chief financial officer. “First, the corps are performing at a very high level and somehow keep topping themselves every year. Second, there is no question that the economy is in a better place than it was five or so years ago. Third, in DCI’s formal business plan, there has been an intentional and focused strategy to engage more people in a variety of ways.”

Revenue growth in 2016 was primarily driven by ticket sales, with strong results at all DCI operated events. For the three nights of the DCI World Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium, combined paid attendance was nearly 40,000—the highest three-day total since DCI began hosting events in Indianapolis in 2009.

With record paid attendance at the DCI Southwestern Championship presented by Fred J. Miller, Inc. in San Antonio, combined with near record attendance at the DCI Southeastern Championship presented by Lone Star Percussion in Atlanta, as well as the reintroduction of events into the Florida market and solid revenue performances from events throughout the entire DCI Tour, overall ticket revenue grew by an impressive 13.2 percent.

“In the last few years, both the DCI Live! video streaming business and the DCI merchandise business have gone through a period of business turbulence, reflecting changes in technology and the manner in which our customers want to consume digital content,” said Leide. “The effect of these challenges, combined with evolving requirements for music licensing compliance, has caused DCI to alter the methods and timing of some product offerings.”

Despite these headwinds, the revenue for these business units exceeded all expectations by growing a combined 25 percent in 2016.

Other important sources of revenue for Drum Corps International include corporate partnerships and the “Friends of DCI” program. Combined, these projects generated an 11.2 percent increase over the prior year.

On the cost and spending side of the equation, 2016 revenue results enabled the business to handle the upward pressure on some key expense categories. These included venue costs (stadium rental and related services including increased security), corps housing (up a whopping 26.9 percent in 2016), the overall cost of the DCI adjudication system (professional adjudicator fees and travel) plus costs relating to timely, thorough and accurate compliance with music licensing requirements.

Beyond the revenue numbers, a key metric of relevance to the strategic business plan objective of “engaging more people in the Drum Corps International experience” focuses on participation within the ranks of performing groups. In 2016, DCI experienced growth in each of the following areas:

Open Class – more individual members participating through a greater number of corps and larger corps

Group ticket sales – the number of groups attending and the average size of those groups both continue to rise

SoundSport® – the number of groups participating and the international exposure of this program

INpact Indiana’s Future Band – the number of participants (increased to 480 middle school students in 2016) and initial efforts to roll out the BANDtastic! Honor Band program to locations beyond Indianapolis

Membership thriving as relevance increases

The number of touring World Class corps will increase to 23 on the 2017 Drum Corps International Tour as Austin, Texas’ Genesis has been approved to make the transition after seven years as an Open Class corps.

The decision to welcome the corps into DCI’s World Class is the culmination of an evaluation process involving an intensive review of corps operations and an ongoing dialogue between corps administration and the DCI Board of Directors. As a World Class corps, Genesis will have access to an expanded schedule of DCI Tour events including regional championship shows.

“Having the opportunity to tour as a World Class corps is really a culmination and celebration of all the work that we’ve done over the last seven years,” Genesis executive director Chris Magonigal said. “We’re all really excited to be in this position.”

Even with the move for Genesis, Drum Corps International Open Class coordinator David Eddleman reported that Open Class corps are experiencing continued growth and more participation than ever before.

Total Open Class corps membership has grown 58 percent over the last six years, which Eddleman attributes to “a focus on entertaining programming, really good instruction, quality management and administration of the organizations.”

Eddleman also reported that more than half of all Open Class corps are projected to field more than 100 members in 2017, marking a continued significant growth trend in recent years.

SoundSport® blooming domestically and abroad

For the first time at the DCI annual winter business meetings, SoundSport team directors were in attendance for their own exclusive development sessions and networking opportunities.

“Attending these meetings gives us the opportunity to find out more about what’s going on not just with SoundSport, but with all of DCI,” said Bill Gullatt of the Rocketeers, a Huntsville, Alabama-based SoundSport team. “We learned we have the same struggles other groups have, including building a fan base, dealing with financial concerns, and recruiting new members.”

Featuring an expanded schedule of competitive and non-competitive U.S.-based performance showcases during the summer of 2017, SoundSport teams will have the opportunity to perform in conjunction with DCI Tour events in Orlando, San Antonio, the Atlanta area, and the SoundSport International Music and Food Festival in downtown Indianapolis during the DCI World Championship Finals in August, among others.

The SoundSport division of Drum Corps International is also planting firm roots overseas, with the continued development of events in Europe, and a new partnership with Drum Corps United Kingdom (DCUK) that was announced in December.

Representatives from DCUK were in attendance during the DCI Annual Meeting and spoke to the success the organization is already seeing with SoundSport.

“We know there are people out there in the UK who used to be involved in the activity but who just don’t have the wherewithal to actually get a full-blown marching unit out,” said Alan Thompson, chairperson of the Marching & Performing Arts UK organization. “SoundSport makes that opportunity available to them.”

Additional SoundSport events and partnerships are also in development with organizations in Indonesia, Japan, Lithuania, Guatemala, Brazil, Canada, Thailand, China and Taiwan.

Election brings fresh and renewed energy to board of directors

DCI’s voting membership ended their weekend sessions with elections for open board of directors positions. Re-elected to the board to serve three-years terms are Chris Komnick of the Madison Scouts and Fran Kick, an at-large representative who works as a professional speaker, author and consultant.

A new appointment to the board is Jim Tabuchi who will also serve a three-year term. The volunteer executive director of the Mandarins, Tabuchi is a semi-retired executive from Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies. Throughout his career he has held numerous positions in the areas of technical marketing, sales, consulting services, customer support, corporate development, strategic planning and international business.

Also as part of the board election process, Blue Stars executive director Brad Furlano was officially installed as the chairman of the membership. Furlano served in the position last year in a trial format. He will once again oversee operations of the governance committee while taking on additional responsibilities as ombudsman, facilitating engagement from member organizations on a variety of operational issues and increasing communications between the board of directors and the member organizations.

Strategic planning setting course for future

Since 2005, Drum Corps International has established a disciplined approach to an annual business planning cycle that has served as a measurable tool and can be attributed to the organizations’ recent growth. While DCI is currently experiencing considerable positive momentum, the DCI Board of Directors wanted to engage in the development of a more far-reaching and inclusive long-term strategic plan.

In September of 2016, the DCI Board of Directors retained Association Management & Marketing Resources (AMMR), a highly regarded governance and management consulting firm with significant experience working with associations and nonprofits. DCI has been utilizing AMMR’s wide range of expertise and experience to guide the organization through a formalized strategic planning process.

As part of the process, AMMR has facilitated a number of face-to-face interviews with corps directors and focus groups with the individuals who run DCI-sanctioned tour events, judges, and recent corps members. Additionally, a series of surveys has solicited feedback from internal and external constituents—including drum corps fans.

As part of the DCI Annual Meeting in Atlanta, AMMR representatives delivered an interim report that included 28 areas of possible consideration gleaned from all the information gathered thus far. The details will be further discussed and refined by the DCI Strategic Planning Team and Board of Directors before sharing a finalized plan for open comment from DCI's member and participating organizations.

“DCI is experiencing unprecedented forward progress as an association of participating organizations, as an activity, and as a business," said DCI executive director Dan Acheson. "Now is the time to establish a bold and inclusive strategic plan which sets up the success of the DCI collective for generations to come.”