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Concert Series - Share Information?

Good afternoon!   I'm starting a new concert series at my church that will feature vocal artists (choirs, ensembles, soloists) of national reknown and quality.   I'd like information from others who have successful large-scale series about the following...
  1. How the series is structured with staff and volunteers (Marketing, Programming, Tickets, Production, etc.)
  2. Sample Budgets
  3. Performer Recommendations - what performers have you worked with that were successful and pleasant to produce?
  4. Other wisdom and advice. 
I'm not new to the rodeo - I've produced concerts in the past - so I'm not particularly looking for general or basic information (contracts, riders, etc.).    I'm also willing to share from my own experience.   Thanks in advance!
Patrick Coyle, DMA
Minister of Music
First (Park) Congregational Church, UCC
Grand Rapids, MI  49503
Replies (3): Threaded | Chronological
on May 31, 2014 3:43pm
I was the founding volunteer chair of the Music in a Great Space concert series at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittburgh. (The series continues today but I'm no longer at the church and am not sure how it's now being run.) A volunteer committee, consisting mostly of choir members, did the heavy lifting for the series. The director of music had oversight of the committee. The committee, along with the director of music, established policy and ticket prices. One committee member handled financial reporting and accounting. Another handled all our receptions, which were lavish and imaginative. The rest of the committee served as ushers and ticket sellers on the night of the concerts, but didn't do much else. A church secretary handled phone orders. So as committee chair I handled all the marketing,contracts/ arrangement with guest artists, and originated many of the program concepts. Needless to say, it was an unspeakable amount of work. We actually turned a profit each year--enough to pary for the orchestra for an oratorio performance each spring. But of course I was working 30 hours a week for free.
My programming philosophy was to try to present one world-class choral ensemble each year--something that you would never hear any place else in Pittsburgh. Create a niche and make yourself known for occupying that niche. So in my years we presented Chanticleer, the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge; the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge; the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers; and the Vienna Choir Boys. The church, with a capacity of 750, was sold out for these headliner concerts. Headliners like this enable you to attract people to buying a series ticket (which you definitely want to do and make a high priority) because they get ticket and seating priority. If I were presenting choirs today, I'd be interested in Stile Antico. They do a great pre-concert talk in which they describe how they rehearse without a conductor. Really interesting. Then I'd want to present the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, because Stephen Layton is the greatest choral conductor in the world. (Unfortunately, the cost is about $20K).
We also established a Friends of Music fund. Friends of Music got their names in the programs, priority seating, and a season subscription. You can set the Friends of Music level at the level you think is appropriate for your prospective audience. You should do this!
In addition to the headliner choral ensemble, we included one organ recital (big name, not a local organist); a soloist or chamber ensemble, and a major choral work with orchestra performer by the church's professional choir.
Avoid Sunday afternoon--a time associated with old people and churchy events.
I worked hard to help develop a great marketing kit with the right kind of visual impact--yearly flyer, programs, posters, postcards, etc. I worked with an artist to create something original and engaging materials. (Whenever I see a flyer that has a staff, a treble clef and three notes on it, I know I am not interested in their product.) 
Our receptions were usually "over the top." That is because we wanted to make the whole experience exceptional and memorable for the audience member. No tired, dry cookes. It can't be like coffee hour after church! Drawings and doorprizes are great ways to collect names and addresses/email addresses from attendees at you big-draw events. That is critical to building your mailing list and developing an audience. 
So my advice to you would be: 1. Present some groups that have never been heard in Grand Rapids; 2. Develop a classy look to your print materials; 3. Start a Friends of Music; 4. Use your imagination in creating an all-round exceptional evening for the concert-goer.
Hope this helps.
Linda Everhart
on May 31, 2014 5:06pm
Linda, thanks for your very thoughtful reply.   My plan is to produce 5 events a year, including our church's 96-year old Christmas Candlelight Concert and a collaborative spring performance (major oratorio benefitting a local service organization).   In addition, we tentatively have bookeed Chanticleer and are in conversation with Sweet Honey in the Rock.   We'll add another vocalist or duo, and that will round out the first season.
I'm forming a steering committee, and so far, I have volunteers in the budget/finance area, and in marketing.   I'm open to suggestions, but I'm hoping to add Hospitality (hotels, meals, ground transportation, receptions), Graphics and Print (tickets, season brochures, programs, posters), and Logistics (facility needs, concert personnel).   Are there others?   I don't want the group to become too large and unwieldy, but I do want to make sure I have my bases covered.
on June 1, 2014 6:10am
Your plan sounds great to me in terms of personnel and talent. The audience at our pretty staid Prebyterian church was stomping on the floor by the end of the Chanticleer concert. They are a fantastic group to launch your series. I think Sweet Honey is another great choice. IMHO you're on the right wavelength. I think your plan of bringing people on with specific responsibilities is a good one.  You need to make sure that people understand that they will be responsibile for executing these various pieces of the concert series, as opposed to just advising on them. 
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