Photo of Shira



PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Your Dance Studio:

An Arts Incubator?


You've decided to pursue a dream - you have opened your own dance studio. But once open, how do you attract the public to come visit? And how do you build loyalty

One approach is to borrow an idea from the technology industry, and recruit "business partners". A business partner is another business who will team with you in joint marketing efforts, artistic projects, and other activities. You can each promote your alliance to your respective audiences, which enables you each in turn to gain potential customers from the other artist's following.

  • You hope that the other business' marketing efforts will bring visitors to your studio to see their projects. You hope that these visitors will become interested in what you have to offer once they are exposed to it.
  • The other artist hopes that your students will see her brochures or exhibits at your studio. She hopes that they will purchase her art, or attend her recitals.

If you pursue this idea, it's important to be realistic in the benefits you expect the project to offer. In other words, don't expect the income you receive from the other artist to be significant. Instead, expect that the other artist will promote your studio to her prospective customers, who in turn may want to hire you or try your classes.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by PixieVision, Glendale, California.




Art Gallery

A dance studio is a large, open space with mirrors on one wall, and possibly large expanses of empty space on the other walls. One way to attract visitors to your studio is to invite a visual artist to showcase his/her work on those empty walls.

The typical business model for an art gallery works something like this: Once a month, you invite a different artist to display his/her artwork in your space. If one of your studio's visitors purchases a piece, the artist pays you a commission based on the value of the transaction.

If your city has a monthly "gallery walk" event, you work with the event organizers to include your studio in the list of galleries, and you hold an open house at the designated day and time to enable visitors to view that month's featured artist's work.

If you decide to pursue this, think creatively about what type of "art" might be suitable to feature. It doesn't necessarily need to be paintings and sculpture. For example, you might approach a local quilting club about sponsoring a display of quilts made by their members one month.

ARTWORK CREDIT: Drawing by Artist NikkiJ.




Music Recitals

Do you know any people who teach music in your area? If so, would they be interested in holding recitals for their students in your studio?

Would you be interested in sponsoring a monthly "salon" event providing an opportunity for hobbyist string quartets, jazz bands, chamber music ensembles, choirs, or other groups to perform for their fan clubs?

Would any of these musicians be able to learn how to play Middle Eastern songs and collaborate with you on joint projects?

Perhaps a nominal cover charge at the door could be paid to compensate you for use of the space? Or, perhaps the sponsoring music teacher could pay you rent?



Poetry Readings

Would you be interested in featuring "poet of the month" poetry readings in your studio during hours the studio is not otherwise being used? Would the poets be receptive to you charging their fan clubs a modest cover charge to compensate you for use of the space?

Are there opportunities for a collaboration in which you create dance choreography to illustrate the words of a poem? Do you know any musicians who could accompany such a project?




Startup Theater Group

Do you know any people who produce theatrical projects that are too small for a regular theater? Perhaps someone has created a one-woman show, or maybe someone is a wizard with puppetry. Your space might be suitable for rehearsals, maybe even performances.



Things to Consider

Partnerships can be mutually beneficial, or they can turn into nightmares. The key is to clearly define who is responsible for what, to state those responsibilities in a written contract, to anticipate what could go wrong, and have a plan for ensuring that anything which does go wrong is a manageable risk.

All of these issues can create real headaches for you if you have not clearly identified each party's obligations in a written contract in advance. For example, you may want to include language requiring the other person to purchase event liability insurance or property / casualty insurance to cover any personal injury, theft, or premises damage related to her project. You should also indicate what remedy each party has in the event the other fails to perform her contractual obligations.

Considering the many things that could go wrong, it's important to hire a lawyer to help you contain your risks. Discuss the above questions with the lawyer, and with that person's help create a contract that addresses these issues.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.



Here are some responsibilities that should be clarified in contracts, plus some planning you should consider when negotiating the financial details with the other party.



  • Who is responsible for marketing the art exhibit or event?
  • Who will write the press release and send it to the media?
  • Who will design and pay for advertisements, and what will the advertising budget be?
  • Which tasks will you perform or pay for? Which do you expect the other party to do or pay for?
  • Will you establish a regular, consistent monthly event in which the other artist participates such as a gallery opening or music recital, or do you expect the other party to organize the event herself as a one-off?
  • Who will contact your community's "gallery walk" or "First Friday" organizers to arrange for a listing in the promotional materials? Who will pay for any advertising expenses associated with this?
  • Where will you display the other party's brochures or business cards for your students to take pick up and take with them?
  • Where will you display your own business cards or brochures to ensure they are visible to guests of the other artist?
  • Will you advertise the other artist's project on your web site? Will the other artist advertise your studio on hers?



  • If you're featuring visual art, does the community's "gallery walk" event require you to pay an advertising fee in order to be listed in their promotional material? If so, how much is the fee? Can you afford it? Will you pass the cost on to the artist?
  • How much will you charge the artist to be featured in your studio? Will you charge a flat fee for space rental, or something transaction-oriented? Art galleries often charge commissions ranging from as little as 10% to as much as 50%. Venues hosting live music often keep a percentage of the cover charge.
  • Determine how you will measure the success of the project. Do you expect to make money from selling the art, or would you be satisfied with attaining more publicity and prospective students as a result of the artist advertising the exhibit?
  • Will a music license be required to cover the playing of still-in-copyright music for other the events arranged by other people usingn the studio? If so, who will pay for that?
  • Does the city require any special licensing for any of the events you are contemplating hosting? For example, if a visual artist wants to host a gallery opening reception with a cash bar, will you need a liquor license for that?


Liability Issues

  • What if a fire, storm, or flood damages your studio, including the other party's artwork, musical instruments, costumes, or other items? (Remember, floods can be caused by plumbing problems, and fires can be caused by wiring problems or lightning strikes.)
  • If you hang artwork in your studio, what if one of your students loses control of a cane and smashes one of the pieces of art, or knocks it off the wall, damaging it?
  • What if a thief steals property belonging to the other artist?
  • What if someone coming to see the other artist's work spills a drink on the floor, breaks a window, or otherwise damages your dance studio?
  • Will it cause problems for your damage deposit on the property if the other artist drives nails into your studio walls to hold artwork or scenery?
  • What if the visual art hanging on your hall is damaged by the people who come to a musician's performance? How will you resolve such a dispute?

In addition to putting a written contract in place, you'll want to talk to your insurance agent about property, casualty, and liability insurance to cover the above issues. Suppose the other person fails to purchase the insurance your contract stated she should provide, and something happens. Are you willing to take the risk of being sued for that?



  • Are the temperature and humidity in your studio acceptable for the other party's needs?
  • How much physical protection against loss, theft, or damage can you offer the other party for their art, musical instruments, costumes, or other items they may bring to your studio?
  • If you offer an art gallery, will you have "gallery open" hours when the public can visit to view the artwork, outside of your class times? If so, who will unlock the studio, be there to ensure everything runs smoothly, and lock up when done?
  • Are you prepared to unlock the studio and wait around while the other artist is using the space? What if it takes longer than predicted to complete the job?
  • If the other party is hosting an event that attracts visitors, how will you protect your dance floor from damage by people's shoes or spilled refreshments?
  • What kind of setup will be required? Tables for refreshments? Chairs for visitors to sit? Special lighting to highlight the art?
  • Who will clean up afterward? Do you have a cleaning checklist specifying what needs to be done?
  • Will you allow the other party to use your studio's sound system, or will you require that she bring her own?
  • Will you need to be present for all this? If so, how will you charge for your time?
  • What physical items will you need to provide? Toilet paper? Napkins? Furniture?



Moving Forward

The key to a successful business partnership, whether between two artists or between two giant corporations, is that it must be mutually beneficial. Be creative in deciding what types of artistic partnerships to pursue, but also be practical. Don't waste your effort on trying to set up partnerships with people that you know from experience will fail to follow through on their tasks. Focus on seeking out people who will deliver the results that you expect.



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