Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to use your audience to recruit choir members

To maintain a healthy, growing choir, you need new recruits, but often you feel like you’ve exhausted all your usual sources.

recruiting office

Here are some ideas for how to use your audience to recruit new choir members.
  • live performance is the best demo – the easiest way to demonstrate what your choir is, what it does and how much choir members enjoy being in it is a live performance. No need for fancy copy writing or clever descriptions or photos, what you do is right there in front of your audience.
  • a captive audience – Your audience, by definition, is really into what your choir does. They love you and are your best promotional tool. You literally have a captive audience sitting in front of you, waiting to help you sell you choir. Use them, involve them, ask them, suggest to them.
  • demonstrate that everyone can sing – I always teach the audience a song at the end of every performance. There are a few stubborn souls who refuse to join in, but the vast majority of audience members join in and make a great sound. Then I point out (without disparaging the choir and its efforts) that everyone has proved that they can sing. Then I tell them that that’s all they need to do in order to be a member of the choir.
  • create opportunities – grab the audience while you can. It’s much better to chat to people face to face after a great gig than to send an informal email. Always offer opportunities for people to sign up or find out more or speak to an existing choir member. Make it clear in your announcements during the concert and even put it into your printed programme.
  • target sections of the audience – very often there are particular sections of our choir that needs new recruits. Maybe the tenors are thin on the ground, or you have too many altos or not enough men. In which case, be selective when approaching your audience. Maybe teach a song at the end which involves just one particular kind of voice. Or do a song in the first half and invite all the men on stage with you and give them an extra part so they can join in.
  • set up intimate performances – it doesn’t have to be a big concert to act as a recruiting tool. In fact, lower key, intimate performances can be better as people are more likely to socialise and chat with choir members. Have a short show-and-tell performance on a choir night to show friends and family (and others in your community) what you’ve been up to. Make it free and have some refreshments. The biggest advantage of this is that the people who attend are definitely free on that night of the week so make good contenders as new choir members!
  • offer incentives – nothing works like bribery! Make offers to your audience. For example, if they join the choir, family members get a discount to concerts. Or if somebody introduces a new choir member (and they join and stay), then they get a free choir t-shirt (more promotion!). You get the idea.
  • it also works to create bigger audiences – you can use most of these ideas to also increase the audience at your next concert. The people who have come to see you perform are your best ambassadors. Help them to help you to spread the word. Make them feel important. As well as incentives you can create Friends of the Choir schemes with added benefits.
As with everything, there are possible drawbacks to this approach. Here are the two main ones:
  • the choir sounds too good – if you’ve done your job properly, you will sound amazing in concert. No matter whether you are an auditioned choir, a singing for fun choir, a formal sight-reading choir, a world music community choir – whatever kind of choir you are, you will sound really good. And that may put people off joining! Even if you demonstrate that everyone can sing, audience members may well feel that your achievement is way beyond them. It’s really hard to explain to them that they too could sing that well. You want to say that anyone can do it whilst at the same time acknowledging the hard work that the choir has put in. A tricky balance to strike!
  • if everyone joins the choir – there will be no audience left! Highly unlikely, but if you make the choir too attractive, everyone in the audience will want to join and there will be nobody left to attend your concerts. Bit tongue in cheek this one, but it also reminds us that we can never rest on our laurels and should always be trying to attract new audiences.
At your next concert, have a recruitment plan. Which ideas will you put into action? And do let me know how it works out (or if you have any other ideas of how to use your audience for recruitment). I’d love to hear from you!

Chris Rowbury’s website:

Chris Rowbury


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