Monday, March 25, 2019

How to put on a successful concert 1: planning

It seems such a straightforward idea: learn a bunch of songs then find some people to sing them to.

photo by Nick Youngson

But planning a successful concert involves a lot of planning. Here’s a guide to how you might approach it.

Putting on a successful concert is hard work and involves a lot of planning. Here are a few questions that might help.


Not every choir performs. Singers can have a satisfying experience learning songs together without anybody else ever hearing them. In fact, performances can add a lot of pressure which many singers just don’t need. Especially nervous singers who are just starting out.

Even if you decide not to put on a concert, there are other ways of sharing the songs you’ve learnt. See 7 ways to share your choir’s singing without making a big performance of it

See also:

Should you choir perform live? – arguments for and against

Choirs that don’t perform

what for?

Is there a special reason for having this concert? Maybe it’s your choir’s 10th year or the anniversary of one of your favourite composers or your local town’s heritage day. Or it could be to raise money for charity or to celebrate the opening of a new venue.

The clearer you are about what your concert is for, the easier it will be to programme and publicise it.


There are obvious things to take into account:
  • avoid clashes – don’t schedule your concert when others are on nearby (many areas have “clash diaries” to help avoid this – if one doesn’t exist, it may be helpful for you to set one up). Also avoid other big events like music festivals and football matches.
  • leave reasonable gaps between your concerts or your audiences will get tired and stop coming.
  • bank holidays and religious festivals are maybe not a good time for a concert (depending on what the concert is for – a carol concert at Christmas makes sense for example), as many families go away. Same applies to school holidays in general.
  • choose a day and time when most people are available – this depends on your target audience of course, but you’ll probably get more punters on a Saturday evening than at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon.
  • what’s worked in the past? – if you know that a particular time and day has always worked well for you, then stick to that. Otherwise you may want to experiment. How about a Sunday afternoon, for example? Or a Friday evening?


Many concerts happen in churches. These are often the only large venue in a small town, and they are usually far more affordable than a local arts centre. However, it can put certain audience members off. See The pros and cons of using churches for choir performances

It may be possible to form a relationship with a venue in your town which is of benefit to both of you. They can help with rehearsal space, advertising, ticket sales, etc. whilst you might form part of their outreach or community programme (always good for arts funding!).

From time to time you might want to go big and do a one-off special project or do a joint gig with other choirs or local bands. You are then likely to sell far more tickets than usual and might be able to afford a larger venue.

Depending on health and safety regulations and performing licences, it can be fun to find unusual venues to perform in: empty swimming pools, old factories, public parks. etc.

See also Making the space work for you – how to cope with unusual venues


What will you be performing at your concert? This is where song choice comes in. And depending on that song choice (and particular arrangements you choose) it will also determine what else you might need like backing tracks (and PA system), soloists (and microphones), musicians (or accompanist), and so on.

Your ‘why?’ and ‘what for?’ answers from above will help you to narrow down your choice of songs, especially if the concert is themed in some way.

See Choosing the right songs for a concert

who’s coming?

At some point you’ll need to publicise your concert. Getting the timing right is tricky: too soon and people will forget by the time it comes around. Too late and people will have arranged to do other things.

Use as many publicity outlets as you possibly can. Social media now allows you to drip-feed publicity over a long period at no cost to you other than time. Remember that any single form of publicity will not work on its own. For example, posters are good at reminding people about something that they’ve heard about elsewhere.

Make a timetable so you don’t miss monthly magazine deadlines. Write many different versions of your publicity with a range of different angles. Some will suit some mediums better than others. And if you’re using social media you don’t want to keep repeating yourself.

Make sure tickets are easy to buy and have several options for buying them (not everyone likes buying things online).

See also:

How to sell more tickets at your next concert: use your choir members

How to sell more tickets at your next concert: widening the net

How to promote your next concert to reach more people and get a bigger audience

Finding an audience (series of 4 posts)


Next week I’ll be looking at the nitty gritty of how you get your concert together: choosing a running order, looking at song structures, entrances and exits, debriefing, etc.

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Chris Rowbury




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