What’s the best way to decide how much to charge your singers? Let’s look at some of the issues that can help you fix a suitable rate.
There are basically four kinds of choir. Choirs that
- are funded by grants
- are hosted by organisations
- don’t cost anything to run
- are entirely self-funded
The second kind of choir has its members’ fees determined by the organisation (such as an arts centre or workplace). The choir leader is usually paid a set fee by the organisation to run the choir which doesn’t vary with the number of singers.
The third kind of choir is one that is more social in nature and might be held in someone’s house. There are no overheads (venue hire, choir leader fee, etc.) so the members don’t have to pay anything.
The fourth kind of choir is perhaps the most common. It will either be run on a sole-trader basis (the choir leader runs the choir and is responsible for all costs and fees charged) or have a committee which oversees the running of the choir. This is the kind of choir I’ll be considering in this article.
Here are some issues that you (or your committee) need to think about when deciding how much to charge your singers.
- cover your costs – make sure that all your outgoings are covered by your income. Don’t miss anything out. Costs might include venue hire, accompanist, sheet music, tea & biscuits, choir leader’s fee, singers’ robes, etc.
- size matters – since your main source of income is the fee paid by your members, it will fluctuate depending on how many singers you have. If you know you have a consistently large choir then you can charge less than if you have a small group of singers.
- check out the competition – what do other local choirs charge? If you want to be successful you shouldn’t be wildly different from other similar choirs in your area.
- what is your demographic? – do you live in a rich/ poor area? Are you targeting a particular group (e.g. retired people, single mothers)? What do you think they can afford?
- other sources of income – rather than depending entirely on what the singers pay each session, you might like to consider any grants or other funding available to you. It might not cover all your costs, but might suit a one-off project, or part of your costs (e.g. sheet music).
- start as you mean to carry on – it’s hard to start out not charging then introducing a fee at a later stage. Similarly if you miscalculate, it’s hard to raise the fee significantly. Make sure you get it right from the start.
- don’t be greedy – just because you can get away with charging a certain amount doesn’t mean that you have to! Be consistent across different groups that you run and don’t raise the fee too often without good cause.
- concessions? – are you considering offering any kind of concessions? If so, can you afford to, who will the concessions be for and what discount will you offer? More importantly, will it make a difference? If someone can’t afford to pay £10 a session, they might still not be able to afford to pay £7.50.
- money up front? – or pay by the session? Asking people to pay for a season or term can help stabilise income. reduce admin and help singers with commitment. But some people prefer to charge by the session as a ‘drop in’ choir.
- hardship cases – if you do ask for payment up front, do you have a mechanism for dealing with singers who can’t pay in one lump? You might be able to offer payment by instalments.
I’m sure there are other models and ideas out there. Do drop by and leave a comment as I’d love to hear about your own experiences.