One of the popular events at every annual DCI seminar is Dan Acheson's State of DCI Address. Held Friday evening after dinner, Acheson started the speech in a most unusual manner, putting all the tour event partners into four columns of seats configured as a bus. Those who had never been to the seminar before were deemed rookies, and those who had been here five or more times were informed they were age-outs. Each was instructed to talk to their seatmate and find out something about each other. Then everyone was instructed to get off the bus because someone forgot to load the luggage. The riders were instructed to get different seatmates and learn about them, then share with others what they found out about each other. Most of the tour event partners had marched in a marching band, with a few having marched in a corps. Acheson then said, "The best way for me to give the state of DCI address is to have you tell me what the state of DCI is. How do you, the tour event partners, perceive the activity? What do you think we're trying to do?" Participants then shared their perceptions of the activity. Acheson added, "We're trying to focus on the experience, rather than just trying to get butts in the seat." One of the bus riders praised the DCI television broadcast, which was seen by all but only three or four of the attendees, stating that the new format did a great job of reaching out to kids who are not yet involved in drum corps, making the activity sound like the most exciting thing around. Acheson explained the difficulty in getting some PBS stations to run the broadcast, adding, "The bottom line is, we actually have taken a step to make sure this asset we've put together gets to more eyeballs at PBS." Acheson enlightened attendees about DCI's new commitment to excellence program, which involves getting school band programs involved in learning about DCI through the distribution of copies of the PBS broadcast and other materials promoting DCI. In response to the question, "Why not ESPN," Acheson mentioned that ESPN wants to own the program. Some other Acheson comments from the first part of his talk: "The more Drum Corps International goes after the kids in bands, the easier it is for you (the tour event partners) to sell tickets to your shows." "The corps are getting better. I feel we had 16 finalists last year." "We broke a record for events where 10,000 or more people showed up. We had 4,700 people show up for a first-time event in Louisville, Kentucky. We did a direct mail to schools and anyone on our mailing list. That's all we did." "Drum Corps International has come a long way in terms of events. When people leave, they click on DCI.org to learn about the next event." Acheson brought all up-to-date about the financial status of DCI, which has made remarkable progress since the day a few years ago when the organization almost folded. For the first time in 15 years, DCI had a surplus and was able to pay a dividend to its member corps. Most of DCI's income -- 67 percent -- comes from ticket sales. Second place at 20percesnt is merchandise sales. Sponsorships account for less than 5 percent. DCI's biggest expense is corps fees and housing, at 29 percent, followed by merchadise at 11 percent. Staff is next in line, followed by event operations. DCI's gross revenue in 2003 was about $7.5 million; including $1.5 million in merchandise sales. The gross revenue was up from just $3.5 million seven years ago. We have 91 events Division I events and about 30 more Division II & III events. There will be 14 major events, counting World Championships as just one event. The average operating budget of a Division I corps is about $600,000. This does not include capital expenses such as new horns. Acheson asked, "What's the number one challenge facing Drum Corps International?" He offered one answer by talking about the difficulties in obtaining housing for corps. "Over the past two years, we have renewed the excitement. People are screaming. They're coming to the stands. They're digging this stuff. Now we have to send them out in to the world as raving fans. 'Bring a friend' is the most successful marketing tool we have. How do we get them to bring a friend? If the raving fans are screaming, they'll bring in more fans."
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