Ask the Experts: Setting Guest Artist Prices

Q: How do I set the prices for a guest artist to come to our studio to teach? By the time I add up the costs for travel and the artist’s fee, it will cost each student $70 for an hour-long workshop. Is this too much? How do you charge an amount up front when you don’t know how many students will enroll?

A: Guest artist fees do vary greatly based on experience, popular demand and travel expenses. Seventy dollars would be cost-prohibitive for a one-hour workshop, regardless of the teacher’s credentials. We recommend you find a way to set a fee that you know is reasonable for your clientele and takes into consideration the overall experience for the money invested. You could increase the value of the workshop by having the guest artist offer a question-and-answer session. You could also negotiate a lower total fee if you group dancers by ability (versus age), to reduce the number of hours the teacher is on the floor. Ask the guest teacher if he or she would be willing to set a lower fee if you also book private lessons to set choreography for solos, duos and trios as potential extra income.

While you cannot guarantee enrollment, you can create an incentive for students to register early by offering a lower price for early registration and by also limiting class size. Guest teachers are usually paid at the end of their visit; however, some may ask for a deposit to secure a date. Don’t pay anyone the full amount in advance unless you know his or her reputation and have a contract in place. Check out the teacher’s references to confirm reliability, and make sure they have liability insurance. Some guest teachers have their own contracts and stipulations, and you should have the same. Put terms in the contract that address issues such as a cancellation policy and who arranges the travel.

Exposing your students to new teachers often inspires their commitment and adds excitement. The time and effort it takes to bring guest artists into your studio can be a worthwhile investment when you get creative with ways to set a fair price.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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