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IMPROVING COMMUNITY "PRESENCE"

Does anyone have any practical suggestions on raising the "presence" of a community choir's within a community (and surrounding locales)?
 
We advertise, put up posters around town, send out press releases, talk to friends & strangers, and contact potential audience (i.e. Vets on Memorial Day, 4th of July, etc.).
 
I keep feeling if we had better "name recognition" our publicity would result in more articles, consistent announcements on our local media/radio/TV outlets--so any ideas what might constitute getting/creating "recognition"?
 
Our audience is growing, but we would like to attract singers, advertisers, and donors as well as audiences.
 
Your thoughts, successes (and failures) are appreciated!
 
Lark Underwood, Publicity Coordinator
Plant City Community Chorale
Replies (11): Threaded | Chronological
on April 23, 2014 10:19am
One idea that I used in the early years of our choir (www.griffinchoralarts.org) was to hold auditions in the various surrounding communities.  Set up auditions at target churches and schools/colleges.  Put up posters in those locations, place announcements in the school newspapers (or ask if they can be included in the read PA announcements) and church bulletins (or the projected pre-service announcements), see about speaking to the school/college and church choirs about your organization.  I stopped doing this because I would sometimes only get one or two "hits" from certain locations.  But I think if you are truly try to create a presence, just having the posters up and announcements placed will get your name out there and create recognition.
 
Best of luck!
 
Dr. Stephen J. Mulder
Artistic Director
Griffin Choral Arts
on April 28, 2014 11:36am
Thank you, Steve!
 
We had not considered doing auditions in other communities--we tend not to audition, but rather do "voice placement" wherein a singer's ability to stay on pitch and range is determined.  This is an idea we might be able to "tweak" for our choir!
 
Your other ideas are ones I will bring to our BoD to see if we cannot implement them!
 
Lark
on April 23, 2014 10:29am
One thing that has worked well for one of my community choruses (non-auditioned, and located in a close knit community of about 30,000 people) is to make lawn signs like the ones policticians use during campaigns. The signs don't advertise a particular concert but they have the name of the chorus and its logo very large and visible. When a concert is imminent, members and their friends and neighbors put the signs on their lawns. The recognition factor of the chorus has increased by a lot.  We had the signs made professionally but it wasn't terribly expensive and we re-use them season after season. People actually ask for one for their front lawn!
Beth Armstrong,
Providence Rhode Island
on April 28, 2014 11:38am
Beth!
 
Great minds...!   I have been pressing to do this very thing & it looks like the BoD will add it to next year's budget so it might actually happen!
 
Thank you for your suggestion!
 
Lark
on April 23, 2014 10:40am
We are a community choir in the UK and we have the exact same problem.  Last week we held a concert.  Our members put a lot into performing a really challenging piece (Pergolisi's Stabat Mater)  and 17 people turned up.  We lost a lot of money.  I advertised in the local paper, put posters up in the locality and surrounding villages - we even offered free tea and cake but just 17 came.  We try and take an active part in the community, we've sung at Christmas Tree festivals, light switch-ons (it was minus 3 degrees, FREEZING) all to build our profile but still we have such low audience numbers its depressing.
 
Our member numbers have increased slightly as we advertised more and have a web presence.  However we are not audtioned and the quality of singers is variable.  The good singers get bored going over the same piece again and again but the weaker singers freak out if we try a more difficult piece.   We provide rehersal files but some of the singers who need to use them don't.  We are desperate for altos, again we have advertised for altos but none have joined.  We really don't know what else to do.  I am posting to say that your issues are not uncommon and if someone can come up with a magic solution, please post and share it!
 
 
on April 28, 2014 11:47am
Jo,
 
I strongly suggest you require your membership sell a set number of tickets for each concert you give.  Our group's obligation is 4 per person--even for our one annual free concert we ask them to distribute 2 tickets!
Even if they don't sell them all--some of our members just donate the ticket $--you will probably defray a good many of your costs!
 
Do you have sectionals? DO!
Have your members been told THEY ARE EXPECTED TO REHEARSE ON THEIR OWNTELL THEM!
Has your Director flat out said, "The ___ Section needs to work this piece a little harder?"  SAY IT! (DON'T single out a lone voice!!!)
When a section makes an improvement, ARE THEY PRAISED TO HIGH HEAVEN?  SHOUT IT TO THE ROOFTOPS!
 
Having the Group's expectations articulated is a good start for improvement.
 
Good Luck!
 
Lark
on April 28, 2014 1:35pm
Thank you!  We are much improved, I suppose I am impaitent!    I took over as secretary after the previous incombant had done nothing with the choir for years.  I  have pushed to change a lot of things - we have a constitution which clearly lays out everyone's responsiblities and expectations, a new name (the last name was terrible!), music organisation is improved and we are buying new music.   Our MD is very good and well respected, but disorganised.  I am applying some management techniques I use on my staff at work with him and it is better - we have a whole term's music planned in advance.  This has never happened before in 14 years. He does praise us but in a reserved British way! Perhaps I need to get section reps to do that more too.    We do make it clear that people should rehearse at home, we have rehearsal files made for us available via the internet or on CD that are part of their fees.
 
Sectionals our the next thing to put in place.  Our rehearsal venue has just bought a new piano (whooo) so the old one is going into a spare room - which means a section can break off and have a note bash with our pianist or section rep (section reps are good singers and most are piano players who can play individual parts over and over and over!)
 
I am going to suggest we make our summer concert free, have a cake sale (We are in the UK, these ALWAYS go down well) have a raffle, sell refreshments and have a donation bucket.  I am also going to take up your suggestion of asking each memeber to distribute 4 tickets.  I will also drag people into the church and lash them to the seat!  1200+ people!  We don't have a venue anything like that size!  Thank you everyone for your ideas.  Its good to know we are not alone.  
on April 23, 2014 10:49am
My large community chorus has done something radical and it's made us quite popular - we make all of our concerts FREE! It has created tremendous goodwill and made us well known in the area. We pass the hat, charge $25 dues per season, but do no other fundraising than a yearly appeal letter. I'm well-payed, we have a fair amount of money in the bank and we're able to hire 4-16 instrumentalists for our concerts. We always do a series of three performances for each program and consistently have 1200+ audience members for the weekend. I'd be glad to give you more specifics if you'll contact me privately.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 28, 2014 11:49am
We started out this way 6 years ago, but we are now much bigger and our expenses have grown with us.
 
But WOW! what an audience you have!
 
Lark
on April 28, 2014 6:03pm
The key word for building awareness for the Nashville Singers has been DIVERSITY. We utilize all kinds of tools to build awareness for our group.

Background: Our mission is to enrich lives through singing and the support of music education. Our group was founded just over five years ago with four singers. We have grown the membership to 17 members. Our budget has grown from $2,388 in 2009 to just over $29,000 last year. We’re an all-volunteer group with a governing board that meets 12 times annually, plus three meetings with members of our advisory board. We have 21 people on the advisory board and usually have 66% to 75% of them attend meetings.

COMMUNITY SERVICE
As of mid-May of this year, we will have given away over $8,000 in music education grants and scholarships impacting 300+ young singers or instrumentalists at 10+ area schools in the previous four years.

PUBLIC RELATIONS
We service about six press releases to the media each year announcing our new board chair, new advisory board chair, spring concert, fall concert, Acappella Academy spring educational event, Middle & High School Master Class program, grant winners, scholarship winners.

ADVERTISING
We’ve done all kinds of low cost advertising, from Facebook ads, classified ads in the Tennessean, display ads in the Nashville Scene, to underwriting on the local NPR affiliate. Our concert is May 9 and we have 15 and 30 second PSAs (Public Service Announcements) airing on four different stations in Middle Tennessee, some for no charge, and a guaranteed 65 spots that cost us $650 over a two week period. The key is to NEVER spend anmoney on ads if you have no vehicle for tracking where your audience members come from. We do survey inserts in all programs and usually get 50% of the attendees to fill them out.

PARTNERSHIPS
We’ve partnered with organizations like Hands on Nashville to secure 28 event volunteers for us and coordinate the efforts of street team marketers for a nominal fee and Groupon which accounted for 17% of our tickets sold for our fall concerts last year. We’re members of the local chamber where we’re based and attend all kids of chamber events to mix and mingle with well-connected people in the community.

NETWORKING
I schedule 60-70 meetings annually with various well-connected people in the community to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.

SOCIAL MEDIA
· Facebook page with 1,750 fans
· Twitter page with 568 followers
· LinkedIn group page with 159 connections
· Reverbnation page with 2,500 fans
· YouTube Page with 60 videos, 35 subscribers and 3,800 views

WEB
We have a 60-page website with all kinds of audio and video content. The site gets about 10,000 unique visitors annually. www.nashvillesingers.org

EMAIL MARKETING
The Nashville Singers use Constant Contact for our email marketing and for processing online orders for tickets to our events. We maintain a database of 2,600 email contacts segmented into 59 different (interest) lists. We publish a weekly newsletter and distribute 100,000 emails annually. Issue #252 went out on Monday. We achieve an average open rate of 20% and a click-through rate of 12%. Email content drives who receives our newsletter in any given week. We can maintain an online archive of up to 250 newsletters. You can join our email list by texting the word SINGERS to 42828.

PERFORMANCES IN THE COMMUNITY
We’ve done 70 performances across eight counties in Tennessee in the last five years. We perform an average of 13 times annually, with 50% of them being outreach events like national anthem performances for sporting events for local pro or college teams.

SELF-PRODUCED CONCERTS
We produce two-three concerts annually over two weekend. The last event attracted 500+ attendees from 41 cities in 10 states. We always have a local news anchor serve as our host, which has led to on air mentions and even a media sponsorship.

DIVERSITY IN REVENUE SOURCES
Our revenue comes from a variety of sources: special events 36%, performance fees 16%, member dues 15%, donations 11%, merchandising 9%, grants 7%, advertising 5%, miscellaneous 1%
 
DISCLAIMER
None of what I have described above has been easy. It's hard work. I have invested some 5,000 hours of my time in the last five years to implement our strategic plan. 75% of the time I allocate to work for this organization is allocated to administrative work and has nothing to do with MUSIC
 
on April 30, 2014 7:00am
A Google search of your choir found only evening concerts advertised this past year.  Try holding at least some of your concerts on weekend afternoons so that your older attendees (aren't most of them older?) don't have to drive or even travel via public transportation in the dark.  Bet you will greatly boost audience attendance that way--and perhaps boost other things as well.
 
And if you sell tickets, why not offer a two-fer once in a while when one ticket holder can bring another person (relative or friend) for free?
 
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