Monday, July 06, 2020

How to keep your choir or singing business alive while it’s shut down

I started my first community choir over 20 years ago. I used to worry that, after the long summer break, the singers would have forgotten me and wouldn’t return to choir when it started up again.

With choirs and singing groups not meeting in person, those worries are magnified. How can you keep your singing groups alive and ensure that your singers are still there when this is all over?

will your singers/ customers still be there?

During this pandemic, many businesses are worrying that they’ll have no customers left when they’re finally able to re-open. Even popular businesses like hairdressers are concerned that their customers might not feel safe enough to return as usual.

But not all businesses are scheduled to open again, at least not soon.

Choirs and singing groups will be one of the last to be allowed to meet indoors. And even when that time comes, it might not be choir as we know it.

Many groups will find that the number of singers will prevent them from using their usual rehearsal space and be able to maintain sufficient physical distancing. Some groups may choose to sing outdoors. But what happens when winter comes?

In short, it will be a long time before choirs get back to any kind of ‘normal.’

Which means there’s a huge worry for those of us who lead choirs and singing groups. Especially if it is an important source of income for you. Will there be any singers left when your choir starts up again?

You might trust that you offer something unique to your singers. They will rush back when you start up again, even keener than usual since they’ve been missing singing together for so long.

That will probably be the case. But it’s also possible that singers will have found other things to do with their time, or have simply got out of the habit of going to choir each week.

keeping your singers interested

What you can you do to keep singers’ interest alive until you can meet again.

Here are a few ideas.

  • sing live online – this works best if you have a regular choir or small group of singers. All the singers will know each other and you will have many songs in common. Many choirs are using platforms such as Zoom to keep on meeting regularly. Maybe even at the same time as your regular choir rehearsals.
  • socialise live online – it can be tiring and frustrating to try to sing as a group online. If you have a regular group of singers you work with, it might be enough to just meet up regularly online. It might simply be a check-in with each individual singer or you can use breakout rooms for small groups to chat. You can introduce fun things like music quizzes, name that song, simple karaoke, etc.
  • provide resources – some choirs have kept in touch with members by sending out regular resources such as concert recordings, recorded parts for learning new songs, lyric packs, etc. This doesn’t have to be online or live, but can be sent by email or even post. The latter ensures that older members or those without regular or reliable internet can be kept in the loop.
  • stay in touch – even if you don’t provide resources directly related to singing, it’s important to keep in touch with your singers to let them know what’s happening. This is particularly important if you don’t have a regular choir, but offer singing workshops for example. You need to let singers know which workshops or other live events have been cancelled, if any are being rescheduled, when singing together might be happening again, what you’ve been up to, etc. Singers kept in the dark will simply drift away. You might send out a regular newsletter or just keep your Facebook page or website updated.
  • offer alternatives – many choir leaders have had to be imaginative with what they offer now that they can’t lead rehearsals as usual. This might be to start a podcast or blog, send out a “song of the week” with full background information, introduce your singers to new songs and styles of singing, offer online courses via YouTube teaching videos. The only limit is your own imagination!

If you involve your singers by using some of the ideas above, there’s a greater chance of them being there when choirs start back again. If you ignore them, they will probably ignore you too!

and if all else fails …

If all or most of your income comes from your choir or singing groups, you will need to find ways of generating income whilst your groups are not meeting. This may also introduce you to new opportunities which will give you something to fall back on if your singers don’t return in the end.

Diversification is the key word. Many businesses have been forced to consider other ways of creating income while their main business is shut.

One of our local pubs set up a deli, then a fresh fruit and veg stall, and takeaway pizzas twice a week. It’s allowed them to create other income streams. Probably not as much as previously, but sufficient to keep them afloat.

The obvious diversifications involve using your current skill set and interests: music and singing.

You might start to sell your own song arrangements; offer your services to lead Zoom sessions for other groups; begin to write songs for choirs which you can then sell; create online courses (e.g. teaching songs, how to write or arrange songs, learning to read music, how to lead choirs, etc.).

And if all else fails … maybe now is the time to reflect on what a new career or even retirement might look like!


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Chris Rowbury




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