Monday, November 20, 2023

Pay as you go or regular fee upfront – what is the best system for singers in your choir?

Many choirs charge their members as and when they turn up: a pay as you go system.

But there are disadvantages to that approach, so other choirs operate a lump sum in advance system. Let’s look at the pros and cons of these and which might suit your choir best.

Some choirs are run as drop-in choirs: singers attend as many or as few sessions as they want to. There is no requirement to commit to a certain number of sessions in advance. The most obvious (although not necessarily convenient) way to charge singers in these choirs is for them to pay as they go: they pay for each session that they attend.

Other choirs depend on a certain amount of continuity. They hope that singers will attend every rehearsal. In this way, songs can be built up over the weeks and it’s easier to prepare for concerts. It’s still possible for singers to pay for each session as they attend, but to promote commitment, many of these kinds of choirs require some kind of lump payment in advance.

You can read about the advantages and disadvantages of these two types of choir here: Regular weekly choir or drop-in singing group? – the pros and cons.

pay as you go

Singers pay for each session they attend.

There are two main ways to achieve this: payment on the door (cash, cheque or card); online payment (on the day, or just before/after the session) such as PayPal or bank transfer. The more ways there are to pay, the easier it will be for your singers.

The main advantage of pay as you go is for the singers. They only pay for the sessions they attend and don’t need to commit in advance. This will suit singers whose lifestyles make it hard for them to commit to dates in advance.

The biggest disadvantage for the choir is that the singers only pay for the sessions they attend and don’t need to commit in advance! This makes it hard for any future financial planning. The choir’s income is unpredictable and will vary from session to session.

The other hassle is having to deal with so many individual payment every single session. This is quite an administrative overhead in order to give your singers a bit of freedom.

lump sum in advance

Singers pay a set sum in advance for a set number of sessions.

Many choirs (like evening classes) work on a termly basis, so a common approach is to charge by the choir term or season. Singers can pay by bank transfer, cheque, PayPal, credit card, bank standing order, etc. A few singers might like to pay in cash and they will usually be encouraged to bring payment to the first session of each term.

The advantages of paying in advance are that choir income becomes more predictable which will help financial planning. Singers pay once a term, then can forget about it. Although there’s quite a lot of administration at the start of each term, there is no collection of money at each session.

The disadvantage is for those singers who maybe can’t afford a lump sum upfront. In this case, special arrangements can be made for payment by instalments or weekly pay as you go.

Another disadvantage for singers is that they can end up paying for sessions that they don’t attend. However, this is common with other activities and not just choirs. For example, gym membership, evening classes, theatre season tickets, etc. If the lump sum in advance is seen as reserving the singer’s place in the choir, it becomes more palatable. Especially if your choir has a waiting list. Of course, if a singer knows in advance that they will be missing lots of rehearsals in any one term, they might choose not to attend that term.

hybrid payment methods

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to how singers pay for singing sessions. You may have an overarching system in place, but you also need to be able to adapt to cater for individual singers’ particular circumstances.

One common hybrid approach is to have a pay as you go rate, but also a lump sum in advance rate which is more attractive. For example, if your pay as you go rate is £5 per session, you might offer a rate of £45 in advance for a 10-week term: a saving of £5.

other relevant posts

Money matters 1 – practical solutions for dealing with choir finances
Whatever kind of choir you run, at some point you’ll have to deal with money. Whether it’s hiring a rehearsal space or paying an accompanist or collecting members’ subs. Money and finances can be scary though. Here are some practical steps you can take to ease the pain.

How much should you charge singers to be in your choir?
Most choirs charge their singers to be a member (‘subs’). The amount can vary a lot from choir to choir. 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.

How to start your own community choir 3 — Finding the money
Where is the money coming from when you start a choir? At the very least there will be the cost of hiring a venue to hold choir sessions in. Not to mention admin. costs (stationery, internet access, postage, etc.), publicity costs (promoting the choir initially, future concerts, website, etc.), and your own time (if you want to earn money from the enterprise).

The challenges of running a drop-in singing group (and why you shouldn’t start one)
Some people run ‘drop-in’ singing sessions. People can drop in on any session they want, there is no commitment and no signing up for a ‘season’. It’s a nice idea: no commitment, no pressure, all very fun, sociable and informal. But there are plenty of good reasons why groups like this are hard to sustain. Here are ten of them.

Chris Rowbury


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