Salsa, a flawed business model?

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by andreiro, Jan 15, 2010.

  1. andreiro

    andreiro Son Montuno

    Here are some thoughts based on my experience with Salsa in my country.

    - Salsa is not very open to the public. We're a closed community.
    I'm not referring to the obvious fact that "regular" people can't dance salsa, it's that most of them don't even know that salsa exists, and that it's so much fun.
    Salsa is not part of pop culture. Unless you're a fan, you'd never notice it when it's mentioned on TV.

    - Salsa congresses are, largely, a waste of money.
    Congresses are rare, and when they do happen, they're too loaded. They bring lots of international instructors, and there are usually two workshops running side by side. What happens is that you actually pay double, both for the workshop you actually take, AND for the alternative.
    After loaded day of workshops comes the party. By this time you're usually to tired. If there's a party the night before the workshops, you're too tired to learn properly.

    Most workhsops I've attended only teach people some combos.
    While some combos might be fun to use at parties, I don't think learning a combo is worth 50$, even if it's taught by an international instructor. I don't know about you, but in my country 50$ is a lot of money.

    Combos were extremely useful when I was an an absolute beginner and I realized there was way more to Salsa than basic step and I learned about closed position in Bachata.
    But after a while, if you're interested in combos you can always "buy the DVD".

    Other useful workshops are theoretical workshops, like musicality workshops, when they actually tell you when to freestyle and when to do partnerwork, and which moves best match a certain part of the song.
    But sadly there is not enough of that.

    I don't know about privates. I've only recently noticed that an international instructor would give private lessons the day after the congress, and I guess they're worth it, but they're way too expensive.

    So I think the only reason this business model holds is that there are enough people obsessed by salsa to keep it running. But that doesn't make it a viable one. :)

    How would you change it? How would you make salsa more popular?

    For once, I'd make congresses cheaper - I'd hold them more often and I wouldn't bring so many international instructors.
    One instructor (or a couple - guy & girl) is enough. This way, it will be cheaper and there is some continuity in the learning process.
  2. SalseraRita

    SalseraRita Son Montuno

    I don't understand what you mean by salsa congresses are rare, because there's a salsa congress every weekend in some part of the world. I live in Europe and could go to a different congress every two weeks if I wanted to. I don't agree with salsa congresses being a waste of money either. I used to buy full passes when I was a beginner, and learning from international instructors and dancing with them at parties gave me a very strong base in following. Now when I go to a congress, I usually just buy the party pass and sometimes take a few workshops I'm really interested in. Even when only attending the parties, the variety of dancers I dance with and the practise I get every night equals with 6 months of salsa classes. So no, I don't think it's a waste of money.
  3. andreiro

    andreiro Son Montuno

    We obviously come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences with salsa congresses :)
  4. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    Why should salsa be part of pop culture ? They tried that in the 90's, the music was crap, the dancers went off and did their own thing and that thing eventually grew larger and became what we now call salsa congresses.

    Salsa congresses today are indeed an old and possibly dated format. The format has been around for about 11 or 12 years now. There comes a point where all workshops have been taught, all performances have been seen and all bands/djs have been heard. Then something new comes along and displaces the old.

    Or it doesn't.

    The Ballroom events are an interesting comparison. Ballroom has been focused on competitions from the beginning. The Ballroom world has grown, declined and grown again and I imagine the cycle will continue forever.
  5. SnowDancer

    SnowDancer Clave Commander

    I was going to argue with you, but then I noted the first sentence. I don't have any experience with salsa in Europe, but maybe it's not as popular in Romania as in other parts.

    Here in the NW US, I wouldn't say salsa is part of popular culture, but most people I've talked to have heard of it. Every week, there are 20-30 new people in the first-timer class at the club I go to.

    Congresses are also very reasonable (if you don't count the hotel and transportation), generally $100-$150 if bought in advance. That includes 3-4 nights of dancing, often with one or two world-class bands, plus easily 15 hours of classes.

    As far as keeping things fresh, Congresses are starting to offer workshops in a greater variety of dances like bachata and tango.
  6. Offbeat

    Offbeat ¬°WEPA!

    I don't see congress model as out dated. If you are into dancing there is no better short vacation that going to congress with friends. I think the reason people go to congresses/festivals is more than just dancing. You get to meet your friends, get to travel with people you like, share same activity, have vacation together, etc.

    Even if regular attendees stop taking classes, the evening party fees allow organizers to make anywhere between $30-$75 per attendee (assuming average of two nights dancing). May not be for those who dance in big metros like NY, LA, London, Tokyo, etc but for people from the other smaller scenes a congress/festival is definitely a plus. There was no Bachata congress till last till last year in USA and none till 2008 in the world. This year there are probably half a dozen being organized in USA that I am aware of. Tango and Swing too have similar festivals people travel to. Salsa seems to be growing worldwide and there is always fresh blood among attendees to make up for burn outs.

    I just came back from Reno (really a place in the middle of nowhere). I was there last year. The crowd this year exceeded organizer's expectations. It was three times. They are expecting it to triple next year. This from the organizers who are probably only one-tenth as good at marketing their event compared to Albert Torres. I don't consider Albert or his Seven Productions to be good marketeers either. Locally in SF we just have another congress/festival added to the calendar in March since last year. I am not even counting the Reuda congress in Feb.

    At the end of the day - the business model depends on the cost incurred and revenues made.

    Learning one dance is hard enough. Diversion into two or three others in two day period is not for everyone. Yes, it can give you a flavour and expose you to something that you might want to pursue later.
  7. andreiro

    andreiro Son Montuno

    It is a common tradition here that all Salsa schools teach Bachata alongside Salsa, so workshops featuring both Salsa and Bachata are not unusual.

    At parties we have mostly Salsa, but it's nice to have a break from time to time with a series of 2 or 3 different songs, either Bachata or Zouk-love.

    I guess most of my issues are local and can be traced either to money and Salsa being a new phenomenon (10 years).
    In the US a full-pass is $150 without travelling expenses? That used to be the minimum wage here, until recently. I'd say that if it costs more than $30, it's expensive.

    Also, only the biggest Salsa congresses feature live bands, and that happens only in one city, once a year.
  8. antigone

    antigone Pattern Police

    re: publicity for salsa - coincidentally, I had a non-dancing coworker remark today that she was watching "millionaire matchmaker" and someone on that show mentioned the palm springs salsa congress (which I had told her about) - so there you go, popular exposure
    re: high fees - you are absolutely right for that amount of money being way to high for Romanians...I don't understand why your organizers didn't have the common sense to make the prices more affordable, in accordance with your country's cost of living - they probably lost a lot of business by hiking up the cost.
    re: combos in workshops - I have also come to believe that these are a nearly total waste of time. What should be taught is technique, styling, movement - things you can use to put together your own combos, and which don't require you to learn by partnering with other clueless people for an hour (which, I can't stress enough, is so useless!)
    re: international instructors - sorry, but the point of a congress is to be exposed to other styles of dancing besides your local style, and imho one of the best things about a congress is the coming together of people from so many different places (see our new york salsa congress forums meetup thread :) )
    re: salsa as a business model in general - search the forum for previous thread on the topic of making money in salsa - people who have much more experience in this have commented on it before. In summary, it is a very difficult money-making enterprise, no matter which country you're in, or how popular salsa is in the area.
  9. andreiro

    andreiro Son Montuno

    It isn't always expensive. I even saw an ad for a congress with international instructors that was only $20 ! That's cheap, even by our standards.

    Couldn't agree more!

    Combos are cool when you're a beginner or intermediate, and you still haven't learned the full alphabet. You see a cool move and go "omg, I didn't know girls can be turned that way".

    The sad part is that I've only attended a couple of congresses where they taught stuff other than combos.
    In one of them they gave tips for guys on how to lead, and tips for girls on how to keep their hands so they would "feel" the lead.
    In another, they taught leads how to prep the spins for the girl in order to help her spin a [desired] number of times.

    But everything else was mostly combos and, rarely, musicality. I always appreciate when people talk about music and musicality, so I'm ok with that :)

    Also, I frown upon workshops where they introduce us to some exotic/rare dance (that we'll never dance), by teaching us a combo (that we we'll never dance). IMO, that's just to fill the alloted time slot, as are all combos, in general.
    But that's just my pragmatic opinion :)
    Ok, if the dance is something I've been interested in for a while I'll take it just for fun, but usually it's not the case.

    In my experience salsa classes also mostly feature combos. This is one reason why I got bored and quit, and now I only attend parties and do "salsa-research" on YouTube to see what's new & cool on the international scene, find great music, etc.

    IMO, people should be taught "the alphabet" of possible moves. Combos are useful as demonstration, they shouldn't be the main focus of classes / workshops.
    A couple of days ago an "intermediate" dancer told me it was difficult for him to remember "what to do next", at parties. This guy didn't know that he can combine the moves any way he likes! He didn't enjoy the dance because he was worried about getting the combo right.

    I dislike combos with moves that are hard or impossible to do to someone who doesn't know them beforehand. Ideally, at an out-of-town party, a good lead should be able to dance just like he dances with the familiar dancers at home. Vice-versa for the follower.

    Fun story:
    When I was 4-month beginner, I didn't really know where "the one" was. I just looked for any "quick quick slow" pattern and started there. :).
    Most beginners or intermediates, and even some "advanced" dancers completely miss the 1 (or even the 5), regardless of the instructor, at least that's how it goes in my city.

    Are these things common in your salsa community?

    Yes, I agree with this.
  10. vata07

    vata07 Descarga

    in places where salsa is small, "diversion" into something else adds to the size of the congress (and revenue) by bringing in the dancers of that style.
  11. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    The WHOLE point of an extended Congress ?.. Variety and options ( this is EXACTLY what we are doing in the Southport congress I,m doing in Feb ).... someone mentioned the ballroom world.. they have infinite variety in their congresses.. from b/room and salsa to tap dancing, and they always sell out. Many are technique oriented , something that seems to be lacking ( from all accounts ) in the salsa world... I have my own thoughts on why that is..

    I have personally organised many small ( and some large events ) and the cost factor for putting on an event , is a gamble at best .. price should seldom be a factor, if quality is given..
  12. Salsa Bear

    Salsa Bear Sabor Ambassador

    Politics of Rhythm

    Since this thread focuses on Salsa Congresses, you might want to hear what Edie The Salsa Freak has to say about the direction they're headed in The Politics of Rhythm at http://
  13. andreiro

    andreiro Son Montuno

    Sounds like it will be a great documentary, I want it when it comes out!

    I didn't know the real musicians had it so hard. I know and love songs by all of them; for example Hector Lavoe, Eddie Palmieri, Ruben Blades, Cheo Feliciano, Ray de la Paz, Oscar d'Leon, Willie Colon, Tito Puente, etc, are very popular at parties :).

    There was one thing I disagree with though: one guy included "cha cha" under the "salsa" label, but there's no way it fits there.
  14. Salsa Bear

    Salsa Bear Sabor Ambassador

    The word "Salsa" has different meaning to different people. Many Cubans, in particular, long maintained there was no such thing as Salsa; they thought it was just a name Americans applied to Cuban music. Some people use Salsa as a catch-all name for all Latin music.
  15. andreiro

    andreiro Son Montuno

    Yes, it's still somewhat a new word and it didn't begin with a clear definition. But I believe the salsa community now defines perfectly what the word "salsa" should mean :)
  16. crazygirl

    crazygirl Rhythm Deputy

    1. It's completely open to the public to join in! There are no barriers you just turn up and give it a go.

    2. If you personally find them a waste of money then you don't have to go. Again the too tired bit doesn't apply to all of us so perhaps it's just not the right format for you. I barely miss a workshop and dance every evening :)

    3. As a follower I don't enjoy classes that teach moves at congresses or at home. Mostly you just end up as a dummy for the guy and little is offered from the lesson to the girls. Hence at congresses I go for everything else - different dances, body movement, etc. Ultimately it's up to us to vote with our pockets if the promotor isn't offering what is wanted.

    4. I don't think congresses are bad value really. Of course I'd like them cheaper so I could do more of them but everyone wants to make some money eh. Disagree about the instructor bit. You may just as well attend another class somewhere if that was the case rather than go for a weekend. What if you find you don't like their style or teaching? Now that would be a waste of money....

    Not everyone will enjoy congresses and perhaps you just fall into this category.
  17. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    Congress workshops

    There's been several threads on this.
    Turn pattern workshops at congresses are mostly useless if your goal was to learn and perfect something in 45 min and be able to use it at the nightly party in 4-5 hours.

    If your goal was to survey many top level instructors in RL before deciding on whose dvd to obtain then that would be more realistic.

    I wish congresses would emphasize the "diversion" workshops more. There are sections of salsa songs where it makes sense for the couple to separate and each dancer is improvising on the dance floor. Dancers have to acquire a repertoire to be able to do that, look good and inspire their partner to step it up too. To me the difference between an intermediate and an advanced dance partner is not how well they follow standard repertoire patterns but how well (or if) they can improvise when the music calls for a shine sequence or body styling separate from your partner. It might be more intensive to have one instructor come to town and teach their styling exhaustively in a workshop series but its far more productive to have many instructors come to town and add their flavor of things and then as an attendee you're just immersed in the whole mix.

    My best dances at salsa congresses were the ones where I was so inspired by what is going on around me and by the band on stage stepping it up that I catch myself thinking "Is this me out here?" Getting into those "Dancing In The Zone" moments is what salsa congresses are all about.
  18. salsamarty

    salsamarty Rhythm Deputy

    This thread has been a critique of the Salsa Congress format. Going back to the original question: Salsa is not part of pop culture. How would you change it? How would you make salsa more popular?

    I don't think you can attribute the relative popularity of salsa to the "business" model of representing salsa through salsa congresses. Salsa congresses are a small part of the salsa community.

    Salsa, like any other music form, is going to only be as popular as it's appeal to people's lives. Rock & Roll, County Western, Hip Hop, etc. are popular, widespread, and long lasting because they fill a need that is that big within people all over the world. You can't make salsa popular by tweaking the format of salsa congresses. At this time in history there are many powerful ways to communicate with each other. It you want to make salsa more popular then you need to utilize today's avenues of communication to give salsa and it's message more exposure. Salsa congresses, live music, club music, festivals, competitions, concerts, TV, movies, YouTube video, radio play, digital music, grade school music classes, scholarly research, written media are all ways to promote any type of music and culture. Once you get the exposure then it will either take off or not depending if what salsa has to say is something people need to hear.
  19. AndrewS

    AndrewS Shine Officer

    If you want to make salsa more popular I think you need to do the following:
    a) Most importantly, and most difficult of all, you have to make it a cultural norm for men to want to dance (which I assume is the case in Cuba and PR, for example, but definitely not the case in most Western nations).
    b) You have to make the dance easier to learn and it needs to take a shorter amount of time to reach a reasonable level - many people give up if they find something difficult. Of course, if dance became something that everyone did from the cradle the problem of difficulty would lessen, if not disappear.
    c) Write salsa songs in English. The US market is the biggest in the world for music. You make the music popular there and it will be copied all over the world - as with Rock music and Hip Hop, for example.

  20. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    b & c :

    Yeah! Turn it into something that isn't salsa and everyone will love it!

    But that kinda misses the point to me...

    point a: interestingly only a couple of generations ago dancing was a typical way to get to meet your future partner in Britain. Cheaply-available recorded music has put paid to that I think. Before then, music needed musicians and therefore was expensive, so you had to all gather somewhere to listen and dance.

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