Learn To Play Day is a free national event organised by the Music for All charity to inspire new and lapsed musicians to take up playing an instrument, and takes place every year in March.
If you’re part of a Making Music member group, you could give your group a higher profile in the community by staging a special event for Learn to Play Day. What you choose to do will vary depending on the space and resources that you have, but encouraging members of the public to take part in the Learn to Play lessons should be at the heart of the event.
Wondering how to get started? Here are a few tips from organisers Music for All to help you.
- What happens on Learn to Play Day?
- Why should I get involved? What's in it for me or my group?
- What's the attraction to the general public?
- Finding spare instruments, paying our MD for an additional day, recruiting and paying music teachers, advertising… isn't this going to cost me money?
- Celebrities and VIPs
- OK, so it'll get more people to my group on the day but how do I make something longer-lasting out of all this?
- Can I run my event on just the Saturday or Sunday – or do both?
- Hiring a venue especially for the day is expensive/our usual venue is not free on Saturdays or Sundays – what can I do?
- This all sounds interesting but we don't offer lessons and don't have the space/time/energy to do so. Why get involved?
- OK, this all sounds great but I don't have the time to organise an event. Should I bother?
The basic premise is to offer the general public free (short) ‘taster' lessons in order to quickly show them that they can be a musician.
So what happens on the day?
- Free lessons on any or all instruments – these could be taster sessions with members of your group/orchestra, or you could ask local teachers you know to join you and donate some time for free on the day (after all, they will probably gain new pupils from this!) or you can ask Music for All (or your local music shop) to help you find local teachers
- Group workshops – on drums, guitars or keyboards
- Offer space for families/groups of friends – to jam or try out various instruments at the same time
- Mini recording sessions and software tuition – if there’s someone in your group who always records your concerts, they may welcome the support!
- Competitions and prizes – a great way to gather data on new members. Making Music members could offer free tickets to their next concert, either to all participants or as prizes in a raffle or competition. Or you could have a ‘free ticket if you bring a friend’ (it’s often easier to come in twos than on your own!)
- Live performances to draw the crowds in – a very effective directly outside the venue; you could also do this to show attendees/pupils on the day what they will be able to achieve with their new instruments
- Product and technique demonstrations – do you have a relationship with your local music shop? If not, maybe now is the time to go and talk to them. Ask them for vouchers, particularly for instrument hire and purchase; ask if they will display a leaflet about your event. Can they send a member of staff to show the range of items available in the shop and how friendly, helpful and approachable they are?
- Close harmony singing or music quizzes are other great options to engage people.
This is an excellent opportunity to increase awareness and visibility of your group within your local community. You will be amazed how many people don’t know that you’re there! On the day itself and in the weeks that follow, you can accumulate new members or audiences, develop your relationship with your local music shop, sell more tickets, and even start new activities (establishing a ‘training’ or ‘start-up’ group).
Critical to this success is the need to give all pupils on the day a special voucher that can only be redeemed at your concert or with your group (e.g. discount off membership subscription). Giving the voucher with an expiry date usually results in people making sure that they use it. It’s also a great way to check on how many people from the day go on to start their musical journey, for example by coming to your concerts or join your group.
Never underestimate a parent’s desire for their child to learn or play music, especially if their school does not have a strong music offering. Equally, there are millions of adults out there that used to play and want to start again.
But many people are intimidated by music groups (consider how you feel when you venture somewhere new for the first time and the worries you may have – ‘will I be good enough, will anybody talk to me, will they be nice…?’). So the knowledge that you are offering free educational, enjoyable activities on Learn to Play Day breaks down the hurdle of ‘getting them in the door’ and is a great opportunity to bypass the far bigger issue – the ‘fear’ of trying a music group!
4. Finding spare instruments to use, paying our MD for an additional day, recruiting and paying music teachers, advertising… isn't this going to cost me money?
Possibly not - but as with most things these days, it's all about return on investment.
Before you pay for anything, take advantage of free opportunities. You can:
- Find spare instruments by teaming up with your local music shop and asking if they can provide instruments and instrument demonstrators/teachers to help you on the day. You could also get in touch with music manufacturers such as JHS or Sound Technology to ask if they can offer slight seconds or instrument hire. Or if you aren't able to run the sessions yourself, get in touch with local tutors or musicians to come and spend the day giving free taster lessons at your event - it's a good way for them to reach new pupils or audiences.
- Shout about it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+ pages. Make sure you add a link from your website to the Music for All Venue Locator learntoplayday.com so that people can find out where to go
- Advertise your event in your local area and put banners on your website. Music for All can provide you with posters and flyers for the event as well as website images. These are often best used away from your usual rehearsal or performance venues in places where you find the general public. For instance, at the local Tesco, shopping centre, garden centre, football club etc.
- Use free event listings with websites such as wherecanwego.com, chooseyourevent.co.uk friday-ad.co.uk
- Send a small number (e.g. a string quartet) from your group into local schools to give a music workshop and then ask to send letters home to parents explaining the format and details of your event
- Call your local paper, tell them about the event and emphasise the charity and educational angles. If you've managed to wangle a local (or national) celebrity to attend or even the local mayor to open the event, a newspaper will often give you a plug before the event and also send a photographer or journalist along to write it up post-event. You could also consider local radio - can they pre-promote the event in return for a competition prize? Pre- publicity is clearly the key – people need to know about the event in advance. Some shops hosting events even take pre-bookings for the lessons – you could do the same!
- If you're getting local music teachers involved, ask them to let their students (and their parents) know about the event – maybe their students could come and perform with you as well? Also, could the local Music Hub or Music Service get involved with teaching support or even performances from their choirs or ensembles etc.? This is an opportunity to make new connections in your community.
- Work with your local music shop to see if they can provide boxes of freebies or competition prizes
Beyond that, it's up to you how much advertising and marketing you do, from local newspaper ads and postcard mail outs right through to radio adverts or side-of-bus advertising!
The more people you advertise to, the more people will attend and the more new members or audiences you will create. Keep in touch with Music for All, as they will have loads of ideas and ways to support you with much of this.
It is really important to labour this point, as an appearance by a music celeb (or a celeb that plays an instrument) or a mayoralty makes a huge difference to the success of the day in terms of advance press and publicity.
Most groups know someone famous who has been to one of their concerts or used to perform with them or been active in their local area. Most famous musicians are only too happy to be seen to ‘give something back’ and often just need asking. If you have any link to them, this is so much easier than having to deal with their agents etc.!
So… ask them now before they get booked up. If you can confirm an appearance (or even if they will give a lesson or two), Music for All can work with you to get this publicised nationally as well as with your local media.
6. OK, so it'll get more people to my group on the day but how do I make something longer-lasting out of all this?
On the day itself, you'll naturally need to be on the ball to make the most of any opportunities – to sign people up for your next concert, to encourage them to come and do free ‘trials’ with your group, to also have a go at an instrument, even if they’re officially just ‘accompanying’ a participant or ‘watching’!
- Let's assume that many of the attendees will be children who suddenly discover a love for bashing drums, strumming ukuleles or playing the cello and who will then badger their parents to buy them something. Point them in the direction of your local music shop or ask the music shop for vouchers or discount offers in advance. Could they be there with a stand and bring some instruments and other goodies?
- Ask the music shop, for instance, to print out a list of their best-priced beginner instruments and bundles, handing the sheet to each person who comes on the day.
- Have plenty of sign-up forms/tickets for concerts/copies of your latest CD at the ready, and maybe offer an incentive that’s only available on the day, such as getting a term’s free membership to your group or a free ticket or two to your next concert.
- Find a way of capturing visitor information (contact numbers, emails) on the day, either through a free prize draw, kids’ competitions, questionnaires (make sure it's made clear that you will use their email or number to contact them after the event – Music for All can help with wording).
- Run a tuck shop on the day!
- And remember, it's not all about the day itself. Make sure you plan for follow-up emails and phone calls.
You can choose any of these options. Following feedback, Music for All has produced specific marketing materials to incorporate both days. Just let them know if you want to host your Learn to Play Day on Saturday and Sunday, or just one of the two days and they will ensure that you receive the extra marketing materials and support you may need.
8. Hiring a venue especially for the day is expensive/our usual venue is not free on Saturdays or Sundays – what can I do?
See if you can source a different venue, for example the nearby shopping centre, local supermarket, local theatre, village hall or even a vacant shop in the town centre. Or talk to Music for All to see if they can help you. These venues are often more where the general public ‘go’ and could be more successful than running the event in your usual venue.
9. This all sounds interesting but we don't offer lessons and don't have the space/time/energy to do so. Why get involved?
The underlying motive behind Learn to Play Day is to ‘make more musicians’. Even if you don't offer tuition (as most music groups don’t), you could get in touch with local tutors or musicians to spend the day giving free taster lessons at your event while members of your group let the public try or hear your own instruments and do mini-performances.
You would be offering teachers the chance to meet and take on new pupils. They, in turn, could offer you the opportunity to promote your event – and your group – through their existing customer base of past and present students.
There is a great deal that the Music for All team can do to help you put your Learn to Play Day event together. Over the next few weeks, Music for All will be keeping in touch with you, giving you reminders of things to do and also giving you loads of free stuff that will help you put your event together.
Here are just a few things that Music for All can help you with…
- Posters, flyers and stickers to help promote your event and graphics, banners, logos and other design materials
- Marketing and PR expertise to advise you on getting the best publicity for your event
- Share advert and banner templates that other participants have designed, based on our original logos
- Timetable templates to help you organise workshops or lessons throughout the day
- Share top tips from others (music shops) who've made a success of previous Learning to Play Day events (or who have learned valuable lessons from those events)
- Give you links to a database of childrens’ activity sheets (join-the-dots, mazes, quizzes, colouring-in pictures)
- Secure discounts for you with various companies who can provide anything from marketing materials (pens, t-shirts, badges, stickers, lanyards) to handy supplies (music stands, colouring pens and pencils, sweets and drinks, cheap instruments, inflatable guitars, wristbands)
- Keep you in touch with suppliers who may be able to help with demonstrators on the day or offer special discounts or bundles
- Give you contacts for local music teachers/Music Services/Music Hubs
If you have any other questions, please get in touch with Music for All who can help you with queries and help make your event a success.
For more info contact:
Alice Monk, Music for All/Music Industries Association
01403 800 500
If you would like to hold an event, register and let the Music for All team know what you'll be doing.
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.