Practical tips for recruiting new singers to your choir - Total Choir Resources

Practical tips for recruiting new singers to your choir

Practical tips for recruiting new singers to your choir

When it comes to recruiting singers to choirs, from semi-professional ensembles to community groups, two things have to be in place. First, potential members have to know about the choir. Second, they have to want to sing in the choir. Let’s look at ways that you can tick these two vital boxes and attract singers to your choir.

Raising your choir’s profile

Unless your choir is very unusual (eg a scratch choir that meets once a year for a single project), you’re probably looking to attract singers from a limited radius around the point where you rehearse. How can you make sure that the singers or potential singers within that radius know about your choir?

Perform

Every time your choir performs, new people are going to hear about you. Even if they’re not singers, they might mention the choir to friends and family members who are. Performance raises your profile in your community, attracts singers and grows your choir, which in turn enables you to perform more frequently. It’s a virtuous circle. Consider prospective performances not only in terms of what they will cost or earn, but in terms of their wider impact on your profile.

Encourage word of mouth

In any community, word of mouth is a powerful way of reaching out to people. Encourage your choir members to help you attract new singers. Involving your existing membership in recruitment gives them a sense of ownership. You could also consider an “introduce a friend” discount in subs or fees.

Target local marketing

Local newspapers, magazines and websites are usually crying out for copy. Send them a timely, succinct, well-written piece about what your choir’s up to and it will probably be published. Focus on community work and personal stories. Have you supported a charity or taken part in a local event? Has an individual choir member achieved something notable?

Website/social media

Don’t assume that everyone you reach online is in some far-flung place. Most people’s Facebook connections include friends and family who live in their area. Ask them to ‘like’ your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter.

Attracting singers to your choir

Once you’ve taken steps to make your choir better-known in the area from which you want to attract members, you need to convert knowledge of the choir’s existence into a desire to join.

Be excellent

It sounds a bit trite to say it, but being excellent at what you do is probably the most important way of attracting new singers. By ‘excellent’, I don’t mean that you have to be running the most advanced, musically-perfect choir in the world, just that you and your choir should aspire to do whatever you do to the best of your ability.

Hold open rehearsals

Open rehearsals are great fun for the choir and a chance for prospective members to dip a toe in the water without committing themselves to anything. Include some entertaining warm-ups and exercises that get people laughing and put them at their ease. You could sing some well-known repertoire that new singers are likely to know already or learn easily. Alternatively, you could resurrect pieces that your choir knows well, so that their confident singing can carry along your guests. Lay on some refreshments and plenty of chatting and mingling time and you have a great recipe for attracting new members.

Communicate the benefits

What do your choir members get out of being in the choir? Have you asked them? Gathering testimonials gives you the opportunity to communicate explicitly to prospective members the benefits they can hope to enjoy when they are part of your choir.

Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet. If you’ve got exciting plans and projects on the horizon, let people know. The fact that you’re performing a particular piece in your next programme may be all the incentive a singer needs to make the leap.

Ultimately, there’s no magic formula to attracting new singers.  I believe that if you run a choir with integrity, authenticity and good humour, and you strive to be excellent, you will create something that people will want to be part of.

    Victoria Hopkins

    Victoria is a founder and director of Total Choir Resources. She leads Total Voice Chamber Choir in the UK.

    Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
    Klutse William - 7 months ago Reply

    Hello, I’ve just started a new choir and I want to ask some procedures I can take them through to become a good choir .

    Vida - last year Reply

    Hi Victoria, I am looking for examples of recruiting flyers, wording, etc. Any suggestions from you or your readers would be greatly welcomed.

      Victoria Hopkins - last year Reply

      I don’t think we’ve ever done a flyer, Vida. Perhaps someone else will chip in.

      david - last year Reply

      thank you

    David - last year Reply

    hi i would like to ask how i can improve my choir quality, we are quite shaky with rehearsals. most volunteer choir members find it too hard to regularly come to rehearse… i’m not actually the director of the choir, i’m a pianist and it hurts so much not being able to feel the choir doing something great, it actually kill my morale everytime. i need help

      Victoria Hopkins - last year Reply

      Oh dear David. That sounds really rough. Without knowing anything about your circumstances, I think you should talk to your choir director about the situation and discuss how you might improve things. Don’t suffer in silence!

        Darrell - last year Reply

        David, plan for a quartet and be delighted if more show up. Be the best duet, trio, quartet etc your group can be.

    Guy Edwards - a couple of years ago Reply

    Hi, I’m the Chairman of a multi award-winning Male Choir (www.wessexmalechoir.co.uk), but just like everyone else, we struggle to recruit new members. I think that one of the things that can put people off joining is an appearance of too much formality, so we are now piloting a more humorous brand of recruiting flyers, business cards, posters and social media memes. In addition to formal concerts, we also include in our programme (wherever possible) appearances at sporting events (we’ve performed the anthems at Twickenham and Wembley) and flashmobs in shopping centres etc. I’m also watching with interest the success of Blokefest (https://www.blokefest.net) which seems to be able to tap into this informality and make singing a ‘manly’ activity. How to harness that approach for a fairly ‘traditional’ Male Choir is a challenge, but perhaps we are asking the wrong question. Maybe we should be moving away from the traditional model, but I’m not sure how that works in terms of performance standards etc. We are an auditioned choir, and undoubtedly that puts some people off despite the fact that we don’t audition on day one – we leave it about 6-8 weeks before the chorister formally auditions. We have section ‘buddies’ to help the new guys settle in, and all of the individual lines are recorded and put on the members’ section of our website so guys can listen to the rehearsal and their own part lines in the comfort of their home (or download mp3 copies to play in the car etc.)! We are also very sociable, not least because our rehearsal venue is next door to a pub! We also try to target the right demographic. We’ve tried in the past attracting young men, but most leave us to go to university, are too busy with careers or families etc, so we reckon to get much more response from the mid-forty-something bracket. For men’s choirs, leaving attractive business cards in barbers’ shops is one way of reaching a wide male audience (unless they are bald). Some GP surgeries may also take choir material, especially if it focuses on the health benefits of singing. We have also run a couple of local talent evenings for the choristers (to help build confidence and have fun), and maybe we could widen this to include non-choir singers. Any other ideas would be most welcome!

      Christine Mulgrew
      Christine Mulgrew - a couple of years ago Reply

      Hi Guy,

      Thanks for your message regarding recruiting new singers. I think this can be an issue that affects many choir leaders and we have certainly found with our choirs that it’s often easier to recruit women than men. I think your piece is a great example for others of all the things you can be actively doing to help recruit new members. I think your ideas are great and I think you have all options we can think of covered. Performing in public is a great way to reach local people particularly with a fun element such as a flash mob creates. Thinking about how you advertise, how your brand looks and how it comes accross in terms of presenting your choir is vital. Good luck, I hope your campaign pays off with lots of new members.

    Una McCann - a couple of years ago Reply

    Great site, Victoria! Thanks.
    I run community choirs and singing workshops in Northern Ireland, and I too encounter the shyness of the back row singers that Sally mentions.
    I have found that singing in a circle is great (no back row to hide in). Singing rounds and walking around at the same time is also great. People wobble at first but they soon get used to the sound of their own voice. And also moving parts around, not keeping all the altos, sopranos etc together, everyone jumbled up or in pairs. I did this as an exercise but the choir really enjoyed it and the blend of voices produced was much better.
    Good luck!

    Sally Dovey - a couple of years ago Reply

    Hello
    We are a (very) small community group and find it very difficult to recruit, despite trying most of the things above. I find 2 major problems: 1: a lot of people come who want to “disappear” in the back row and there are not enough of us for a “back row.” 2: people don’t like to go to a new place with “strangers” on their own and often do not have a mate who wants to sing. Also, although we don’t have auditions and people don’t have to be able to read music, we do sing in parts and that puts off people who haven’t done it before (although we always sing quite a few rounds). Also, most of us are of a certain age and that tends to put off younger people. Having looked at what I have written, I am thinking of giving up altogether! Regards, Sally

      Victoria Hopkins - a couple of years ago Reply

      Hi Sally. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having a rough time with your choir. Here’s my opinion of the problems you’ve outlined, for what it’s worth. In respect of problem number 2, I don’t think there’s much you can do about that except stress that your choir is a friendly and welcoming place for new people. If someone doesn’t want to join a choir without a ‘mate’ to go with, they’re probably not that bothered about joining at all!

      In respect of problem number 1, I think you have to be quite strong and insist that people move around and try out different places. It’s always worked well with our choirs, and we have quite a few people who hate not being on the back row. Start gently, perhaps moving around just for some warm-ups, or just for a final sing at the end of a rehearsal. Then experiment with new formations during rehearsals. Once people get the idea that they don’t have a particular place and that they are expected to be open to new choir formations, they’ll get over their fear.

      On the last couple of points you made about some aspects of the choir putting people off, my opinion is that you have to be resolute about what your choir is for. You can’t please everyone. If the ethos of your choir is that you welcome anyone, without audition or music-reading ability, have the strength to stick to that, even if it will put some off joining the choir.

      However, if you have a clear vision for what you want your choir to be, and you cannot attract enough singers to make that vision viable, you’ll have to have a fundamental re-think. I might be desperate to start a male barbershop group in my village, but if only three guys want to join that group, perhaps my vision and my demographic don’t gel. Equally, if there’s an appetite for a rock and pop choir in my area, but I hate that style of music and can’t bear the idea of leading that kind of choir, again, there’s a mismatch.

      I hope that helps a bit. It sounds like you’re in a bad place at the moment and feeling quite down about your choir. My advice is not to make any hasty decisions, but really think through what you’re doing and what you’re trying achieve. It might also be good to include your choir in that thought process by conducting a survey of some sort.

      Best of luck
      Victoria

    stella henry - 3 years ago Reply

    I will like to receive or download audios and resources that will help my voice and my life generally as a chorister

      Victoria Hopkins - 3 years ago Reply

      Hi Stella. Thank you for your comment. Our website is aimed at people who are leading choirs, not at choral singers. There are lots of resources online for singers, depending on the style of music you’re singing. Best of luck with your choral career.

    Wilmy - 3 years ago Reply

    How would a loyalty card scheme look like?

      Christine Mulgrew
      Christine Mulgrew - 3 years ago Reply

      Hi Wilmy,

      I guess it would be similar to cards you sometimes get for coffee chains or book stores. Members would get a stamp on their card each week when they pay for choir and then after so many get a free session. We do a similar thing with our quarterly payments as an incentive.

    Shirley - 3 years ago Reply

    Looking back at my comment in November, I moved the choir because I had targeted a small village hall as the venue and it just wasn’t attracting enough people. I am now in central Malvern, got the local paper on board and the numbers are growing each week. The really key factor for me is someone turning up the next week – with a friend – and receiving a text to say how much they’d enjoyed it. You’re right about asking them what they get from a choir – but how many of us do that? We are all shy retiring types! Tonight I am introducing a loyalty card scheme and hopefully this will keep the regulars er, regular :)
    I also think a choir leader should make the effort to know names – it’s unbelievable to me how many don’t and this isn’t the way to keep people attending.

      Victoria Hopkins - 3 years ago Reply

      A loyalty card’s an interesting idea.

    Richard Thomas - 3 years ago Reply

    Having just taken over as full time musical director of a small male voice choir I’ve found your tips invaluable, as my first task is to increase the profile of the choir in the area and hopefully increase membership

      Victoria Hopkins - 3 years ago Reply

      That’s good to know Richard. Thanks for getting in touch.

    Shirley Goddard - 3 years ago Reply

    My small, but gorgeous, community choir started as a little bud and over the last 6-7 weeks is starting to blossom, with the majority of new starters being brought along by an existing member. For me this is lovely, shows I must be doing something right! We’re open, friendly, funky and fun and I give plenty of time for half-time chatter and inject lots of humour into the sessions. Marketing the choir is a full-time job, no mistake with as much effort being put into this as the musical side.
    But all I want for Christmas is what I suspect many other choirs want…. MEN!

      Victoria Hopkins - 3 years ago Reply

      Good for you Shirley. It sounds as though your choir is really taking off. Wish I could help with the men, but if I find any stray tenors or basses, I’m keeping them!

    pearl hunter - 3 years ago Reply

    Can you please send me your free CD. Also interested in your recent articles. Where would I obtain these. I am in at the deep end next week with a community choir. Looking forward to that, but like the issues you write about for an all round happy choir who wants to come every choir night rehearsals and fun.

    Thank you

    Pearl

      Victoria Hopkins - 3 years ago Reply

      Hi Pearl, thanks for your question. We don’t have any CDs. If you mean our audio warm-up tracks, you can get these by simply putting your name and email address into the form on the right hand side of any of our pages. Once you’re signed up, you’ll be taken to a download page where you can grab the tracks. All our articles are freely available on the site. Either click on the ‘articles’ tab in the nav bar and browse around, choose a category that interests you, or use the search box in the nav bar to find articles and podcasts on a particular issue. Very best of luck with your community choir. Let us know how you get on.

    Suzanne Jones - 4 years ago Reply

    Our a cappella choir of 12 singers was decimated last year when our musical director, who created the Spectrum Singers in 2001 tragically died. Both he (tenor) and his wife (1st soprano) were key voices and we have yet to replace them. All but one bass decided to keep going, in tribute to our musical director, by meeting faithfully week by week in one another’s kitchens. A couple of months ago we found another director to conduct us into the future. It is now critical to the survival of the choir that we recruit some new voices. We’ve scored well on raising awareness of Spectrum through performing at high profile venues, getting coverage in local and national press, and publishing a shiny new website. We have yet to succeed in attracting members to join, however, and will be putting your suggestions of holding open rehearsals (with refreshments!) / staging a scratch event and testimonials to our recruitment strategy. Total Choir Resources has been a godsend in keeping morale going during a difficult year. Thank you.

      Victoria Hopkins - 4 years ago Reply

      Hi Suzanne. What a sad and inspiring story. I’m so glad that Total Choir Resources has been helpful to you. You’ve really made my day!

    Emmanuel B. Darko (Inspector De Sanku-Man) - 4 years ago Reply

    Very great ideas. Thanks to you, guys. Keep them coming… We love you dearly… Very proud of you guys

    tim yeoman - 4 years ago Reply

    Hi all,

    I have just taken over the marketing for the Wessex Male Choir based in Swindon, Wilts, UK. Our website is http://www.wessexmalechoir.co.uk. We are on facebook and twitter but we are now in recruiting drive so looking for any ideas. We number 60 at present but want to increase to 80 within 12 months if possible. We are a choir aged between 18 yrs and 70yrs.

    Tim

      Victoria Hopkins - 4 years ago Reply

      Hi Tim, thanks for commenting. We’ve always found that the two most effective recruitment tools are open rehearsals and performing. How about seeing if you can perform in a local shopping centre or anywhere with good footfall.

    Sally Collins - 5 years ago Reply

    Really excellent and practical advice here, Victoria. I have been organising choir workshops and performances for my client for years with large and small choirs in Canada, Australia and the US. We provide support documentation to help them with their drives and events.
    The hardest thing for small community choirs to do, is to sell themselves and market their benefits. Practical words such as you have outlined here are easy to follow and aspire to.
    Would love to hear what your choir does, you obviously have a lot of energy.
    Thank you.

    kurt mckinnon - 5 years ago Reply

    Remember to ask your members for names of people they would like to invite to the choir–ask them to write them down with the contact information and then as the director– make that personal invitation — by phone or in person
    It is amazing that many peole are just waiting to be asked to join.

      Victoria Hopkins - 5 years ago Reply

      Hi Kurt, thanks for visiting the site. That’s a great point.

    Brian Wareham - 5 years ago Reply

    We are a male voice choir. After the interval at concerts we invite men to come up and sing with the choir. We make the process fun to get the ‘shy’ men up. We normally get about a dozen men up to sing a simple recruiting song. To make it more fun we then sing it in a round. The audience enjoy it and indeed most of the men. As they go back to their seats we give them one of our recruiting business cards with details and contact numbers. We have recruited a few new members from this method
    Brian
    Chairman

      Victoria Hopkins - 5 years ago Reply

      Wow! That’s a fantastic recruiting idea. Thanks Brian.

      Chris Rowbury - 5 years ago Reply

      Great idea Brian! Do give more details on how you make it fun to get the shy guys up. I find that if we perform to a good standard, it puts people off joining us because they think they’re not good enough!

      I always teach the whole audience a song at the end of a concert to show them how easy it is, but that doesn’t often translate into new members.

      Chris

    Victoria Hopkins - 5 years ago Reply

    Thanks for contributing, Chris. I love the idea of taking taster sessions “on the road”.

    Chris Rowbury - 5 years ago Reply

    Some good ideas here, thanks.

    I have found that the ‘perform’ one can back-fire! I don’t have auditions for my choirs, but we always perform to a high standard. Sometimes I find that people in the audience who might have thought of joining hear us sing and then think that we’re too good for them!!

    Another idea is to run taster workshops in the area to show people how easy it is to sing together. I used to run ‘populist’ workshops like Beatles, Paul Simon, etc. then once people had joined the choir I’d introduce them to the Georgian and African stuff that I really like!

    One difficulty I have is recruiting outside “the usual suspects”, i.e. those people who already go to choir concerts or singing workshops. I know that there are people out there who would love to sing in a choir, but they just don’t realise that yet! My solution would be to take singing taster sessions TO THEM rather than expect them to COME TO US.

    Chris

    From the Front of the Choir

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