Apparently there are somewhere in the region of 300 million active Twitter users worldwide. That’s a lot of people expressing an opinion on everything from politics to gardening and pretty much every subject in-between you might conceivably imagine. Fortunately, of course, you can choose who you follow and tame your twitter feed to show you only the people and subjects you are interested in.
My twitter feed is mostly full of choirs and choir leaders. I also follow some recording companies as well as some of the schools I have recorded at over the last 15 or so years. I find it fascinating to interact with choirs on Twitter to find out what they are up to and hear about all their concerts and performances. It can also be useful to chat to other choir leaders or concert promoters. I’ve arranged a number of joint events with other choirs all over the UK from an initial ‘chat’ on Twitter. All of which is very positive and shows there is plenty of value in adopting a strategy for use of social media.
That said, I am no expert when it comes to Social Media, SEO and this sort of malarky that some business types get terribly excited about. I mostly use Facebook to share pictures of organs I have played and cake I have eaten; Twitter I see as a means of engaging with other choirs; whilst Instagram still strikes me as rather pointless so I tend to just occasionally put up a picture of a Cathedral organ or some random uninteresting scenery I happen to be glaring at. If I’m honest I can’t really be bothered to share my every move on some sort of social media platform. I’m far too busy actually living life to spend half my time sharing everything with people who quite frankly don’t really care what I’m up to.
Nevertheless, most days I do prod twitter either to share a random update about one of my choirs or to see what other people are up to. Over the last few weeks of course choirs are all busy arranging and promoting their Christmas concerts and events. Christmas has and always will be an extremely busy time choirs and choir leaders alike. No matter whether you run a church choir, a community choir, a gospel choir or a chamber choir, the chances are that Christmas is your busiest time for performances. And my Twitter feed reflects this. When I was having a look earlier I scrolled through pages and pages of choirs advertising Christmas concerts and other festive performances.
All of this got me wondering. If there are so many choirs and so many performances, how many people are actually attending these concerts? A lot of choirs I have spoken to tell me they increasingly struggle to fill venues. Even if you share the stage with one or more other groups the chances are if you all take part in the finale, there are suddenly only 12 people left sitting in the audience.
Obviously it is dangerous to generalise. If I were to suggest that no one goes to concerts any more, a million people will no doubt bombard me with tweets and messages to say otherwise and provide photographs of packed concert halls. Only last week my choir Blue Notes, a ladies jazz group made up of just 12 singers from South Cerney (a tiny little village in Gloucestershire) put on a Christmas concert in the local church and it was packed to overflowing and raised £1500 for a very worthy charity. Next week, another choir of mine, The BlueBelles, will be taking part in a Christmas concert in Marlborough College Chapel. Last time I checked, tickets were nearly sold out (approximately 1000 people now due to attend).
Christmas concerts always have been, and indeed always will be more popular. It’s the same in the church. This morning I was playing the organ at St Thomas a Becket in Bath for the normal Sunday morning service – attendance was about average with around 30 people in the pews. Tonight, we had the Nativity Service (which did admittedly include the attraction of live animals). Suddenly, the building was overflowing with 100 or more people crammed into the smallest church in Bath.
It would appear that Christmas is always the exception to the rule. If you want to fill a venue and put on a sell out concert then the best time of year is during Advent. However, what about the rest of the year? With choirs becoming ever more popular year on year, soon half the country will be singing in a choir. The trouble is, the people who don’t want to join a choir probably also aren’t that bothered about listening to a choir either!
So how do you put on sell out concerts the rest of the year?
Ultimately I’m not sure I have the magic answers to this but, for what it’s worth, here are a few suggestions as to how you might go about boosting the attendance at your choir events throughout the year.
- Do not over do it and put on too many concerts in the same venue / location.
- Join up with other choirs and put on joint events – this gives audiences something different to look forward to and you can also have a ‘home and away’ concert series.
- Put on concerts for free with a retiring collection for a charity – too many choirs seem to charge lots of money for their performances. If you’re The Sixteen that’s fine, but personally I’m not sure the average community choir is worth £10 a head! This is obviously just my humble opinion – perhaps many disagree?
- Find some new and interesting repertoire which hasn’t been performed before – maybe commission someone to write music for your choir. There is only so many times even the most loyal audience want to hear the same old songs sung over and over again.
- Join up with local schools to put on fundraising events to support the school or a charity they raise money for.
- If the audience won’t come to you, go and find them – singing at local events is quite popular. Although do be careful of just turning up in shopping centres and inflicting songs sung to backing tracks on the shoppers. There’s enough rubbish played in the shops – so if you are singing in the community try to find something new to entice people to come and listen to you.
There are probably many other positive and exciting things you could do to promote your choir and sing to bigger audiences. If you have any ideas please feel free to share them with me or let me know what worked best for you.
Jules Addison currently runs 3 choirs in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. In January 2019 he will be starting a new choir in Bath – quite a challenge given how many choirs already exist in the city! However, this one will be different as it’s currently the only Upper Voices Chamber Choir. Further details about Nuance Chamber Choir are available on their website.