Jennifer Bonsell from Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts explains how her group collaborated with other local concert societies to share the work of putting on a virtual concert for their members.
Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts promotes six concerts annually between October and March. In 2019-20, we had 100 members paying a subscription of £60 for the season, and non-members could buy tickets for each individual concert at £15. Our average audience size for 2019-20 was 150. We currently have nine people on the committee.
The first lockdown started in late March 2020. How soon after that did you start thinking about virtual alternatives to concerts?
We were prompted to start thinking about alternatives to live concerts in September 2020 when our secretary received an email from a nearby chamber music club, Inverurie Music. Their secretary told us that they had been in contact with a string quartet about the possibility of them making a pre-recorded video of a concert which could be make available to an exclusive audience. The quartet had been due to perform in a live concert for Inverurie Music the following month, but this concert had recently been cancelled.
They suggested that we could join together to promote the concert and share the costs. Before contacting us, they had already explored the idea with Newton Stewart & District Music Club, because this club was part of the tour that the string quartet had put together. Inverurie Music then contacted us and Music Nairn with the aim of creating a group of four promoters, making possible a larger fee for the quartet and also cutting costs slightly for the clubs.
How was the idea of joining together with other clubs received within your committee?
There was no resistance to the idea of joining with other groups. We did have concerns, but they were because we initially did not know what we would have to do in order to take part in the venture or how our members would access the concert.
We hoped that most of our previous-year members would listen to the concerts. Before deciding whether to join in with the first online concert, we did an online survey of 67 members; a majority said that they would be willing to attend online concerts.
How did you share out the work of arranging the event between the groups involved?
Inverurie Music took the lead in booking the musicians and asking the other music clubs if they would like to take part. The musicians booked the venue of their choice, decided on the programme, arranged for the video recording to be made, and chose the platform where the recording would be uploaded. At the beginning of the recording, the musicians gave a spoken introduction and named and thanked the music clubs. They then uploaded the recording to Vimeo and emailed the link to the four music clubs; each club then emailed the Vimeo link to their own members.
All four music clubs were involved in agreeing the fee that would be paid to the musicians for the recorded concert and how much each club would pay. This included the cost of hiring the venue and making the video recording which the musicians paid for themselves. Each club decided for itself how it would generate income from offering the concert to its members, and each club was responsible for promoting the concert and distributing the link to their members.
We approached the project in a positive spirit and discussed things by telephone or email until we reached agreement. Although we did not draw up formal contracts we made sure to put all details into emails so we had a written record of agreements made.
Did taking part in this collaboration inspire you to put on a virtual concert of your own?
After accepting a second invitation from Inverurie Music to join them in promoting another online concert, and realising there was an appetite for them, we gained the confidence to initiate an online concert ourselves. For our third collaboration we contacted the Broen Ensemble, who had been due to put on a tour funded by the Tunnell Trust, and with their help we took the lead in gathering together the music societies who were part of their tour. As the previous arrangements for collaborations had worked so well, we set it up in exactly the same way. In total, we worked with 11 different music clubs to put on five concerts, taking the lead in organising two of them ourselves...
How did you promote the events to your members?
For the first concert, we offered it to previous-year members free of charge. After receiving the invitation from Inverurie Music to join them for a second concert, and coming to the decision to arrange our own concerts afterwards, we asked people to pay a subscription of £30 (half the usual cost of our season ticket) to receive access to all our online concerts, and almost half of those we asked did so. We decided to charge one fee for access to all concerts in order to keep things simple, and we asked our members to pay by bank transfer or cheque.
In the end, we continued to offer most of the concerts to all of our previous-year members, even if they had not paid the reduced rate subscription. The ideas behind this were to encourage people to subscribe and keep them engaged with our group.
What were the audience figures for each concert? How did this measure up to your expectations?
The audience figures available are for the total number of views of the concerts since they were made available on YouTube (we don’t have audience figures for the recording that was uploaded to Vimeo). For the most recent concert, the artists sent individual links to each of the concert clubs, and the link for our own club has had 58 views so far. The other three concerts have a combined view total for all clubs involved of 276, 437 and 150 views.
The viewing figures for the concerts are a little lower than expected; however, concerts remain available online so audience numbers will continue to rise as time passes.
We have received occasional feedback from our members about the online concerts, which has been very positive and encourages us to consider offering more online events in the future.
What top tips would you give to a concert society who are considering collaborating with another group to promote a virtual concert?
If this is a first attempt, then make things as simple as possible. For example, we offered our first pre-recorded video to our members free of charge, because we thought it would be complicated to arrange the sales of tickets to an online concert.
Decide in advance on the fee to be paid for the recorded concert and on the amount to be paid by each concert promoter. Then all parties know where they stand financially.
Appoint one music club to take the lead in communicating with the musicians and the other clubs.
Wondering how to maximise enjoyment when viewing a virtual performance? Read our resource to find out.
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.