March 17, 2020: Longtime studio owner Misty Lown hosted a virtual gathering of more than 130 dance industry leaders to discuss COVID-19: State of the Industry. Lown outlined challenges faced by both studio owners and national vendors, in what she defined as a $3 billion industry of 66,718 dance-related businesses. The necessary closure of dance schools has an unprecedented impact on the viability of all these businesses. “With no schools in session,” she said, “that means no classes and no revenue.”
Noting that in a survey of the 300 studios that are affiliated with her More Than Just Great Dancing organization, Lown said not one reported they were open for business. Yet, even though your in-person classes may be cancelled, she pointed out, that doesn’t mean your business is closed. There remains the rent to pay and other expenses to cover. The challenge comes down to this: “We have to provide enough value in order to continue to receive tuition payment,” she said.
The presentation covered a range of perspectives, but here is our takeaway about how concerned studio owners can take action now:
1. Consider how to move your offerings to an online environment.
Live video classes are the best way to maintain connection with your students, but you can also film sessions in advance. There is much free content available to stream, but this is recommended only as a stop-gap arrangement to buy you time to film your own. Your parents will need to feel they are receiving adequate value for the tuition they have paid.
2. Educate yourself about the necessary virtual technology.
And you’ll need to make it easy for your studio parents to use. Clint Salter, founder of Dance Studio Owners Association, recommends the ease of Google Meet, (the business version of the Google Hangouts platform) using a plug-in to Google Classroom to house the recorded content.
3. Contact your insurance agent.
Make sure your liability coverage will include students’ online class activities and employees working off-site. Also, your music license may not cover online activities, which may be considered public use rather than private.
4. Ask for help to protect your cash flow.
Contact your bank and the Small Business Administration for debt service relief, to access a line of credit, to negotiate lower interest rates. They will likely be receptive and helpful. Likewise talk with your landlord if you are struggling to make the rent. It’s in their best interests to work with you during this time. Also review your budget for any non-essential services. For example, while your studio is closed, it makes sense to do a deep clean and then cancel your cleaning service.
5. Communicate with your studio community in a factual, non-emotional way.
Keep your community regularly informed about what you know now and when they can expect to hear from you next. Lown offers some sample wording here.
6. Visit the new Studio Help Source website where free service continuity resources are posted.
Karen Hildebrand is the editor in chief of Dance Teacher.