Learn to Play Day - Q and As

Learn To Play Day is a national event organised by the Music for All charity (part of the Music Industries Association) to inspire new and lapsed musicians to take up playing an instrument by driving footfall into UK music stores and other venues. The 2016 event is scheduled to take place on Saturday 12 and/or Sunday 13 March.

Learn to Play Day


What happens on Learn To Play Day?

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. Here are a range of ideas that our shops use on the Day to create a real experience for the public. Some/most of these could also be used by Making Music members if they choose to stage a special event for this Day. What you are able to do naturally varies depending on space and resources but the actual lessons are clearly the central part of the event:

  • 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 us (or your local music shop) to help you find local teachers
  • Group workshops for drums, guitars or keyboards
  • Offering space for families/groups of friends to jam together on / try out various instruments at the same time
  • Mini recording sessions and software tuition – if you have someone who always records your concerts, they may welcome interest from someone new to help them in future!
  • Music quizzes
  • Competitions and prizes (a great way to gather data on new customers!)  - Making Music members could also 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’ which would also make it more likely they would actually come (it’s easier to come in twos than on your own!)
  • Live performances to draw the crowds in (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
  • Close-harmony singing
  • 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 them 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?

Why should I get involved? What's in it for me?

This is an excellent opportunity to increase awareness and visibility of your group within your local community. You will be amazed how many people do not know you are there! On the day itself and in the weeks that follow, you can accumulate new members or audiences, develop your relationship with the 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). Making the voucher with a cut-off/expiry date usually results in people making sure they use it. It is also a great way to check on how many people from the actual Day go on to start their musical journey (i.e. come to your concerts or join your group).

What's the attraction to the general public?

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 (honestly. Well, 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…).

Therefore, 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!

Advertising the Day, paying our MD for an additional day, recruiting and paying music teachers… 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 all the FREE marketing opportunities you can:

  • Shout about it on your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Google+ pages
  • Make sure we're linking to your website from our Venue Locator website on www.learntoplayday.com
  • Advertise your event in your local area and put banners on your website. Music for All provide you with posters and flyers for the event as well as images for inclusion on websites etc. These are often best used AWAY from your usual rehearsal/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 play up the charity/education angle. 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/journalist along to write it up post-event. Equally consider local radio, can they pre-promote the event in return for a competition prize? Pre-publicity is clearly the key, we want people 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/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 music shop to see if they can send down instruments/ instrument demonstrators/ teachers to help you on the Day or even boxes of freebies/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.

Celebrities and VIPs

It is really important to labour this point, as an appearance by a music celeb (or a celeb that plays an instrument) or a Mayor/Mayoress makes a HUGE difference to the success of the Day in terms of advance press and publicity.

All groups know someone famous who has been to one of their concerts/used to perform with them/is active in the 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), we can work with you to get this publicised nationally as well as with your local media.

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’!
However, let's assume that many of the attendees will be kids 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 them, 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 which is 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 - we can help with wording if needs be).
  • Run a tuck shop on the day! Kids love sweets and fizzy drinks and parents can't say no, right?

And remember, it's not all about the Day. Make sure you plan for follow-up emails and phone calls.

Can I run my event on Sunday 13th March too or instead?

Yes you can. Following the Day last year, we had a number of requests for the event to be run over two days. We have, therefore, produced specific marketing materials to incorporate both days this year. Just let us know if you want to host your LTPD 2015 on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 March and we’ll ensure that you receive the extra marketing materials and support you may need.

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 e.g. in the nearby shopping centre, local supermarket, local theatre, village hall. Even a vacant shop in the town centre. Talk to us to see if we can help you? These venues are often more where the general public ‘go’ and can be more successful than if you had tried to run the event in your usual venue!

OK, this all sounds great but I don't have the time to organise an event. How can Music for All help?

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, we'll 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 we can do for you…

  • Offer you posters, flyers and stickers to help promote your event and graphics, banners, logos and other design materials
  • Offer you marketing and PR expertise to advise you on getting the best publicity for your event
  • Share advert and banner templates which others have designed, based on our original logos
  • Send you timetable templates to help you organise workshops or lessons throughout the Day
  • Share top tips from others who've made a success of previous LTPD events (or who've learned valuable lessons from those events) (though most of those will have been music shops)
  • Give you links to a database of kids’ activity sheets (dot-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 etc.) to handy supplies (music stands, colouring pens/pencils, sweets and drinks, cheap instruments, inflatable guitars, wristbands, etc.)
  • 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

We'll also be giving you a useful To Do list, with plenty of things you can tick off well in advance in order to ease the load nearer the time. And if ever you have any other questions that we haven't already answered, please get in touch. We'll be very happy to try and help you with all queries in order to make your event a success.

Paul McManus, Music for All/MIA – paulmc@mia.org.uk 01403 800500 07739 469100
Kim Phillips, Learn To Play Day PR/Marketing – info@armarketing.co.uk 01604 881085 07914 855389
Making Music – Sharon, Ben or Barbara – info@makingmusic.org.uk , tel 020-7939 6030