Ruthie Byers

Who Gets Booked in the Bay Area, Music Edition

I recently spent roughly 20 hours on airplanes had time to take on a silly useless project. So I took all of the Bay Area contra dance schedules for the last two years, converted the information into csv format, and made pretty pictures of the results. Since there’s a lot of stuff there, I’m commenting on music related things in this post. I will comment more in future posts.

All the pretty pictures can be found here. Mouse over to see details for a particular dance.

Bands

The top ten most booked local bands to play in the Bay Area (with number of gigs) are:

  • StringFire (23)
  • The wiNgNuts (16)
  • The Rosin Doctors (14)
  • Uncle Farmer (13)
  • The Crabapples (9)
  • The Raggedy Annes (8)
  • Swing Farm (7)
  • Common Ground (6)
  • Erin Shrader, Richard Mandel (6)
  • Whimsical (5)

Things I find interesting here:

  • One band, Peak Nouveau, was booked nine times, eight of them for the San Jose contra. Although it clearly had more gigs than some bands here, I didn’t feel like it counts as a commonly booked band in spirit, so I didn’t include it in my list.

  • Some out of town bands were booked six or seven times in the last two years (these were bands that did multiple tours where they played multiple gigs each tour). Although these are clearly commonly booked, it didn’t make sense to compare them to local bands, since for local bands the limiter for booking is likely to be interest from dances, whereas out of town bands are almost certainly constrained by availability. More on out of town vs. local bands in another post.

  • The frequency of band bookings drops off pretty steeply. The top band plays more than twice as often as the the fifth most commonly booked band, and the fifth most commonly booked band plays almost twice as much as the tenth.

  • This list shows totals over two years, which undercounts the popularity of bands who weren’t playing for that whole time. In particular, Uncle Farmer started playing a lot fewer gigs around here when Mike Sokolovsky moved back East, and Common Ground played their last gig about a year ago (although some of the members still play together under another name).

  • Musician overlap in the top bands is small. Only one person plays in multiple bands (Charlie Hancock in the Raggedy Annes and Swing Farm). Lots of musicians play in multiple bands (see below) but mostly not in multiple very popular bands.

  • Most bands substitute musicians only occasionally, and many will use alternate names on a schedule if they are not appearing with all canonical members (e.g. The WingNots is the wiNgNuts with Darcy Noonan instead of Christie Hubbard). StringFire is the outlier. StringFire always includes Erik Ievins and Patti Cobb, but has appeared with no fewer than five configurations of fiddlers. They may have an advantage booking since they need only one of the four fiddlers who appear in the band to be available to book a gig.

Musicians

The top ten most booked musicians in the bay area over the last two years are:

  • Chris Knepper (51)
  • Charlie Hancock (40)
  • Ben Schreiber (33)
  • Rodney Miller (29)
  • Erik Hoffman (24)
  • Patti Cobb (23)
  • Erik Ievins (23)
  • Topher Gayle (22)
  • Will Wheeler (19)
  • Christie Hubbard (19)

Things I notice here:

  • All of these people are local except for Rodney Miller. Rodney Miller hangs around the bay area a lot, and plays gigs with local musicians in addition to his big-name out of town bands, so he gets a lot more gigs than bands who show up like once a year and play several local dances and then leave.

  • Only two of the top ten people are women (Patti Cobb and Christie Hubbard). More on this in another post.

  • You can think of there being two ways to get on this list, one is by playing in a lot of bands, and the other is by playing in one really popular band. Chris Knepper played about a fourth of his gigs with his top booked band, the wiNgNuts, whereas Erik Ievins and Patti Cobb only appeared with StringFire (the middle is well represented alsa). Here are the most booked musicians, in the same order, but with number of bands instead of number of gigs. Note that “bands” here is different from “named bands,” since some musicians are booked without particular band names (e.g. “Rodney Miller and Charlie Hancock”)

  • Chris Knepper (23)
  • Charlie Hancock (18)
  • Ben Schreiber (15)
  • Rodney Miller (17)
  • Erik Hoffman (8)
  • Patti Cobb (1)
  • Erik Ievins (1)
  • Topher Gayle (8)
  • Will Wheeler (5)
  • Christie Hubbard (4)

Where I got this Information

I generated the statistics here from publicly posted schedules from

  • Bay Area Country Dance Society
  • North Bay Country Dance Society
  • Traditional Dancers of the Golden State (Hayward Contra)
  • SF Queer Contra

Queer Contra booking information was suplemented by personal email from Margaret Pigman.

My processed schedules are in the *.csv files. You should be able to open them with your favorite spreadsheet program. There’s some syntax to the band info; you can probably figure out how it works. The code I used to process them is also in the repository.


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