Case study: Get your community connected online

Simon O’Hea from member group The Renaissance Choir explains how he set up Music in Portsmouth (MiP), a local classical music news and listings website designed to help connect music groups and to increase interest in regional events and music group.

You may not necessarily have the time or knowledge that Simon had to set up a resource like this but someone in your group might do. If you haven’t already, ask your members about their skills and interests and whether they could help, or might know a web developer. 

“I believe that the future of classical music lies in developing relationships between artists and audiences, and that quality editorial is the best and most effective way to do this.” 

Background

Launched in January 2017, Music in Portsmouth (MiP) is a classical music news and listings website covering Portsmouth and the surrounding area. The site provides details of concerts, performers, and venues, as well as news, previews, and reviews. MiP mainly supports regularly-occurring events held by amateur groups, but it also promotes selected events by professional groups.

A lot of classical music is made and played in our area, but before MiP was launched there was no coordination apart from an anti-clash diary circulated among groups from time to time. At that time, if you wanted to find something out, you had to trawl through various websites or chance upon a poster. In addition, I noticed that lots of groups struggled with marketing their events effectively - I could see that they needed help building their audiences.

I decided to set up MiP myself because I’d already built websites for various organisations over the course of my working life, including The Renaissance Choir, a Making Music member group that I sing with. I thought this would be an interesting and worthwhile community project to pursue in my semi-retirement.

The challenge

The challenge was to try and increase the size of audiences for local music groups and grow their public profiles. As well as being informative, the website also had to be easy to use. I would then use posters, email newsletters, and social media to spread the word.

What we did

I worked with a professional web developer to create a website that is informative, simple to navigate, and easy to maintain. Over the past 21 months, we’ve made a number of improvements to the website in pursuit of these goals. The website contains an events diary, information on performers, concerts and venues, and a content area which I’ve called the ‘Noticeboard,’ where news about performers as well as previews/reviews of performances are published. I believe that the future of classical music lies in developing relationships between artists and audiences, and that quality editorial is the best and most effective way to do this.

While I did not set the site up as a money-making exercise, I wanted people to be invested in their listings and news on the site by asking most groups for a small subscription to be featured on the website. I do not ask for a subscription from charities or organisations raising money for charity. I’ve encouraged MiP’s subscribers (artists) to contribute e.g. articles about their latest project/series of concerts, an opinion piece, or an interview where they explain the finer points of instrumental technique.

Alongside this, I have given subscribers tips on how to interact with the press, how to use social media (especially Twitter), and have offered a service of matching reviewers with concerts. We also send out a bi-monthly email newsletter to around 250 people and organisations. 

What we learnt

You need to be persistent.

It’s been quite a slow process getting people on board but it’s been important to keep people regularly informed about new developments, to encourage them to think about content as well as listings and to remind them to update their details. I would not have started MiP if I had not received encouraging feedback prior to launch. It was also useful to have a good web developer at my side.

The results

Getting people to attend concerts continues to be a struggle and measuring the impact of MiP is even harder! 

Having said that I am certain that at the very least MiP has played a part in providing potential audiences with more information about what is on offer in Portsmouth and the surrounding area. 90% of the groups that I have approached have seen the value of MiP and have wanted to subscribe to and interact with the site.

Google Analytics shows a positive trend: the number of visits to the site for the first six months of this year has tripled compared to the same period last year.

A rich resource

There might be people outside your group that would be happy to volunteer, whether  they’re a student, someone changing career and looking to develop their web skills or someone looking for a retirement project like Simon. You could get together with a couple of groups in your area to cover the any costs of working with professional developers. 

Once you’re up and running, the time and skill required to maintain a website is not as great as you might think. Have a look at our resource on looking after your website.

Get in touch with Simon

If you want find out more about MIP or starting a site of your own you can contact Simon at info@musicinportsmouth.co.uk.


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