Monday, July 18, 2022

When a choir rehearsal is cancelled, should singers get a refund?

When you have a salaried job and get sick, you can usually claim sick pay for a day off.

But if you’re running a choir and are self-employed, what happens then? Do your singers still need to pay?

During these days of Covid-19, many singing events, choir rehearsals and concerts have had to be cancelled.

Sometimes the event can be re-scheduled and nobody loses out financially. At other times, full refunds can be afforded. But what about individual choir rehearsals which get cancelled? Should singers be refunded in some way?

options for when your choir leader is ill

There are several ways to cope when a choir leader is unable to lead a session:

  1. find a replacement leader for the session – not always possible, especially at short notice.
  2. add a replacement session onto the term, or later in the year – but only if there are convenient free days available
  3. re-schedule the session for a different day or week – again, is it convenient and is the rehearsal venue available?
  4. give some kind of refund or credit note to the singers – depends on available cash flow.


when and how to give refunds

If your choir is a pay-as-you-go choir (i.e. singers only pay for the sessions they attend), then if a session gets cancelled for any reason, then singers simply don’t pay.

However, many choirs ask their singers to pay up front. It could be by the term, by the month, or for a whole year.

For choirs which charge for the whole year (either as a lump sum, or by monthly instalments), singers are usually guaranteed a set number of weekly rehearsals. For example, 30 or 40 sessions spread throughout the year. This gives choir leaders plenty of wriggle room if a session gets cancelled. There is almost always a way of squeezing a replacement session in somewhere during the year.

If singers pay for a term or month, then there is far less wriggle room.

buying your place in the choir

One argument is that if singers pay in advance, they are essentially buying and confirming their place in the choir. If they don’t turn up because they are ill or go on holiday, they don’t expect a refund because their payment guarantees their place in the choir is there when they get back. There are always other singers on the waiting list who can replace them!

But what if it’s the choir leader who cancels and not the singer?

Even if a choir rehearsal doesn’t take place, there are still costs involved. Hire of the rehearsal venue, accompanist’s fee, cost of sheet music, research and preparation time, and so on. If the choir leader refunds all singers for a missed session, they may well end up out of pocket.

One option for a cancelled session is to let the singers use the venue and have a good old singalong of the songs they know and love. There will almost certainly be a choir member who could help give out starting notes.

we’re all in this together!

Although it may be the choir leader’s only, or main, source of income, leading choirs is not “just a job.” There is usually a strong sense of community, that “we’re all in this together.” Which means that singers are often more than happy to take some of the financial burden so that the choir continues in the long term. Singers understand that they are paying to keep the choir going, so won’t expect a refund for the occasional cancelled session.

In the past, I have offered refunds to singers if I’ve been ill for a longer time and had to cancel several sessions. In pretty much every case, the singers said they were happy not to be refunded.

make your refund policy explicit

If your choir finds it hard to know how to deal well with cancellations and refunds, it might be worth sitting down and thrashing out a clear refund policy. I have a cancellation policy for my one-off singing days and residential weekends. Once the policy has been created, it’s easy to refer singers to it rather than having complicated discussions.

I think the difficult situations will be those when a choir leader is off for several weeks or months. Those cases are hopefully very rare and would have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

what’s your experience?

I’d love to hear from you, whether you’re a choir leader or a singer. What’s been your experience with cancellations and refunds? Have you ever resented not being refunded or being forced to pay out? Do you have a written cancellation policy?

Chris Rowbury


Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox!

Click to subscribe by email.


found this helpful?

I provide this content free of charge, because I like to be helpful. If you have found it useful, you may like to ...

... to say thank you.





Monthly Music Round-up: