The 7 steps: Practising what you preach

In 2002, I wrote my first book entitled 'The Survival of your choir'. Why, might you ask, since I am a composer and conductor of music and not a renowned author? Bear with me whilst I explain:

I was fortunate enough to have been given the grounding and inspiration from the late Dr Francis Jackson and many others who took the time to share their knowledge and experience with me which has shaped (and still does) my career and life as a musician. Choral directing and training work has taken me all over the UK and also to Canada, the USA, Holland and Norway and, for over 30 years, I have been promoting and running many concerts a year with a variety of choirs, from mixed to male voice; sacred to secular.

With my choirs, orchestras and other music groups, I have taken music into churches, stately homes, museums, railway stations, abbeys, market squares and boats! I have explored almost every type of concert, from free ones to restricted audience ‘Exclusive VIP’ ones. Some have been amazing, some have been so hare brained that I can’t believe we ever did them – but it’s an ever-changing world and the old way of a concert at 7.30 in the local church publicised by a handwritten handbill attached to a tree in the village main street by the local bobby on his bike is as much a thing of the past as the local bobby himself!

Along the way, I have tried to pass on my experiences, good and bad, to fellow choir directors and concert organisers so that others might learn from my mistakes, avoid some of the pitfalls, and hopefully gain some knowledge and inspiration from my successes. Hence, the first book came along... since then, there have been 3 more! Each book tries to address the different aspects and challenges faced of being involved with a choir or musical group from the point of view of the committee, choir leader or concert organiser.

It struck me yet again after two successful concerts with my mixed voice and male voice choirs recently the reason why I wrote 'Seven steps to more successful concerts' - those that are concert and event organisers know how much is involved in planning events and how much can go right and wrong! We all know how disheartening it can be to spend weeks rehearsing and perfecting music to then arrive at the venue on concert night and find only a handful of people in the audience, and even then, these people are friends and family coming out of loyalty to a participant, with the occasional interloper sheltering from the rain! Which picture would you rather see here.... ??

This sort of scenario is common, and it can lead to losing talented and valued members of your group, making financial losses and the inevitable round of questions as to whose fault the whole thing was. Or, it can lead to a worse scenario: that apathy sets in and it is accepted that events are expected to be like this and it’s ‘just one of those things’!

Is there a magic wand that can cure all of this and make every concert by every performing group full of rows of smiling concertgoers, all eager to mob you with wads of money for the next concert? Frankly no! (sorry about that!) but there is a lot that can be done to help in raising the chances of more people coming to your events.

By using the methods that businesses use, you can drastically improve your group’s efforts at building audiences. Starting with serious planning and thought about what you will perform (and why you are performing certain music), to where you will perform and how you will publicise it, to thinking about your concerts as the audience will see them and looking at it all from the ‘customer’s’ point of view.