Running a ‘Come and Sing/Play’ event

Contents


Why host a ‘Come and Sing/Play’ day?

‘Come and…’ events can bring loads of benefits to your group and the local community. For example they can:

  • find new members for your group
  • grow your audiences
  • encourage new talent
  • reignite musical passion and persuade someone to dust off that forgotten instrument case  raise your group profile
  • help engage more with your local community
  • take your music to those less able to access it
  • provide a learning experience for young and old alike
  • most of all, it will be fun for all involved!

A good event can do all of the above, but be careful of trying to do too much. Think about what your main aim is. For example: if you want to increase group membership you could have a stand at the event where people can find out more about membership and sign up. If your main aim is to grow your audience then you could offer participants a discount for your next concert. If your focus is to help the local community think about how you will follow-up with this after the event so it isn’t just a one off involvement. If you want to raise the profile of the group maybe you could invite a local reporter along to the day.

What are the format options for a ‘Come and Sing/Play’ event?

There are a number of different format options and ways to run a ‘Come and Sing/Play’ event. We have highlighted the most common options, and key things to think about below:

To perform or not to perform?

The most common format for this type of event is to have a half day or day-long workshop culminating in a performance at the end of the day. The performances could be:

  • Informal - for those at the workshop and maybe some invited guests (friends and family etc.)
  • A formal concert for the paying public. It is worth bearing in mind that a formal concert may be off-putting for people who are just trying something out

You don’t have to do a performance at the end – it could just be a workshop session. However, it is a good idea to have some sort of climax to the day.

Remember that there may be fees due to PRS for Music (the UK’s royalty collection society). Whether or not you have a concert, if you are performing music that is in copyright you will need to pay PRS. You can find out all you need to know about PRS for Music and copyright elsewhere in our Resource library.

One piece or many? Perhaps the most common option is to have a workshop dedicated to the performance of one piece – with everyone involved. This does have the advantage of creating group cohesion with everyone working towards a common goal.

However, with a likely range of abilities and imbalance in voices/instruments it can have practical and musical difficulties. Another option could be to split up into smaller groups with each group concentrating on their own performance. This works particularly well with an informal performance at the end of the day, as each small group can perform to the other groups. It also means you can have a range of different genres available which will have a wider appeal.

On the road

You could set-up a ‘Come and Sing/Play’ event at a particular place – for example in a care home or school. This could still follow the workshop/performance format. It does change the event slightly in that your audience may be limited – but you can still get friends and family of the residents and/or pupils involved. It also has the advantage of knowing a bit more about your audience before you start – this can help with the musical planning. It is of course also a great way to help a specific part of your local community.

Partners

Finding a partner to deliver the event with can work well and help share costs and the organisational responsibilities. A local school could be an option – they may be able to provide the venue and some musical/leadership expertise. Or you could team up with another group in your area. As a choir you could run a ‘Come and Sing’ event alongside a ‘Come and Play’ event with a local orchestra for example. Or maybe a choral society could team up with a local barbershop group and deliver different sessions as part of the same ‘Come and Sing’ event. There are lots of opportunities for partnership – the important thing is to make sure you have agreed aims before you start, defined roles and a clear plan in terms of who is organising what and how costs will be split. See our guidance on collaborating with other groups and our group collaboration agreement template. 

What are the musical considerations?

Getting the musical aspect of the day right is obviously very important. The general idea is for the events to be as inclusive as possible. This is often much easier with a ‘Come and Sing’ event than it is with a ‘Come and Play’ event.

‘Come and Sing’: ideally you would like the right balance of voices. Practically this will not be possible and so you will have to make adjustments. Ultimately it is better to have more people there than have less and a perfect balance. You could think about starting the day with a ‘learn to sing’ session.

‘Come and Play’: logistically this is more challenging. It is unrealistic for you to provide instruments so the usual approach is for participants to bring their own instruments – this also implies that a level of skill is already in place. The balance of instruments can be a problem – again you have to be flexible where possible – this is why smaller groups can work well. For ‘Come and Play’ days it is a good idea to find out what instrument a participant is bringing in advance to help you plan the day.

Repertoire

It is important to get your repertoire right for the day. The idea of a ‘Come and Play/Sing’ event is to be inclusive and open to anyone, which will mean you have a range of abilities and experience - make sure you pick repertoire that reflects this.

You may also want to think about the fact that people coming along may not know much music. An obscure or unknown piece may seem inaccessible to them. Offering more widely known pieces will help everyone feel comfortable and get involved.

As mentioned earlier, picking a number of different styles could work well – don’t be afraid to pick music that is outside of your group’s normal genre and repertoire. This means group members can learn something new and also helps break potential barriers between the experienced group members and those who come along and are trying something for the first time.

‘Come and Play’ events can be more challenging than singing events, as there are likely to be various different instruments to cater for, along with the inevitable imbalance of parts when using standard repertoire and arrangements. Don’t let this put you off! There are a growing number of compositions and arrangements designed to allow unusual mixes of instrumentation, with parts in multiple keys. The multiple groups and pieces/performances approach can help with this too.

Leadership

It is important to have clear musical leadership on the day. Often a group will have someone who has the skills to do the job (Musical Director, accompanist, section leader etc). They should:

  • have the necessary musical knowledge
  • be comfortable talking to and leading big groups
  • be able to recognise and deal with performers of varying abilities

If your group does not have someone suitable for leading the day here are two approaches to consider:

  1. Using expertise from your local community. This has several advantages: 
    • They may already be well known in the community, and may be able to help you find resources in the area.
    • They would also be in a better position to help you raise your community profile, and they will be around to work with again if you organise another event.
    • Finally, a local leader is likely to cost less, with little or no travel involved.
  2. Bring in a well-known figure to lead the session. This will cost more but you are paying for expertise and it will be a huge boost to your publicity. If you go for this option you can base the publicity around the high profile person. It may well attract more people and make the event bigger – which has organisational implications. A high profile person may also mean you can charge participants more.

One piece/performance: if you are going for a workshop based around one piece, having one person in charge of leading the workshop is very important. However, it is also a good idea to have some ‘vice captains’ too – they can support the workshop leader and possibly lead some breakout sessions.

Multiple groups: if you are going for a number of different groups and pieces/performances it is very important to have an expert/leader for each group. For ‘Come and Play’ sessions an expert for each family of instruments is a good idea. There should still be one overall workshop leader to help coordinate and facilitate the different groups.

Shared responsibilities: it might be wise to have a musical leader in charge of the workshop, and a logistics leader who is in charge the practicalities of the running the day – registration, refreshments etc – there are more details on this in the planning section.

Finally on leadership – all your group members have an important role to play in leadership. It might be unrealistic to expect every group member to be involved on the day but if you involve them in the planning and keep them updated they are more likely to help before the event and on the day itself. Having experienced and enthusiastic group members taking part in the workshop will help both the leaders and new participants and make a big contribution to the success of the event.

The practicalities

The main thing to think about here is how the participants will access the music. They may not be able to read music so for ‘Come and Sing’ events lyric sheets might be fine. For a ‘Come and Play’ you might need to hire sheet music. Following copyright rules and the terms of the hire agreement is very important. As is the number of copies needed - remember people can share!

For ‘Come and Play’ events it is likely participants will bring their own instrument – but will they remember to bring music stands? It might be good to have some back-ups if possible.

How do I budget for a ‘Come and Sing/Play’ day?

Budget

It is a good idea to decide what your financial aims are. Do you want to use it as a fund raising opportunity for you group? Are you happy to just cover costs? Maybe you are happy to make a small loss on the grounds that it will increase your group’s profile and future membership and ticket sales income. Whatever you decide a clear budget is always useful. Things to consider are:

  • venue costs
  • refreshment costs
  • marketing costs – leaflet printing etc.
  • musician/expert/leader fees
  • music hire
  • instrument hire
  • some miscellaneous money in the budget is always a good idea for any unexpected costs that crop up

Ticket costs

It is not uncommon or unreasonable to charge a fee for workshop participants to come along - they are receiving a valuable learning experience and a full day’s worth of entertainment. The fees should be reasonable and not price people out of the market - £10 to £15 is a good ball park figure. Things to think about:

  • Make it clear what they get for their fee: expert training, a fun social experience, are refreshments included?
  • Charging a small optional extra fee for lunch is an option - it helps to cover the cost of catering and gives you an idea of numbers to avoid waste.
  • If you have a high profile workshop leader you could charge more – make sure they are high profile enough to justify the cost! 
  • Maybe think about offering discounts for pensioners, students, children and families. 
  • Could you offer a group booking discount (e.g. book five places for the price of four) people are more likely to try something new in a group. Remember to factor discounts into your budget. 
  • If you are doing a formal concert at the end of the day with priced tickets can this help subsidise the workshop fee?

Sponsorship

Sponsorship from local business is often a good way to bring in extra income. Think about the things you can offer them:

  • access to your mailing list and contacts (make sure data protection laws are followed)
  • adverts on your publicity materials 
  • the chance to distribute their leaflets/marketing material at the event
  • free places at the event for their staff
  • a local music shop or college may want a stand at the event

Of course you should also think about what you want from them:

  • it could be some money in exchange for having their name attached to the event and some of the above benefits
  • it could be discounts on things you need – for example a local cafe may give you money off lunch catering as part of sponsorship

Grants

Typically grant funding for ‘Come and Sing/Play’ events comes from local sources, e.g. local authorities and grant-giving trusts. There are also some national schemes providing funds for community initiatives, e.g. banks and building societies, landfill and service station companies.

Such grants tend to have quite a short decision making period, typically within 3 months of application; but this still requires careful planning. You need to allow enough time to write an application and then wait for a decision. Funders don’t usually support projects already underway. Local trusts – like all funders – will normally require a brief evaluation at the end of a project, and are relatively straightforward to apply to.

You can expect any grant to come with certain conditions, such as time-scales or targets for participant numbers. Some conditions will relate specifically to your own reasons for putting on your event and why you are seeking the funding.

Your local library is a good source of information for some of these grants, as not all will have websites. Information in the Appendix will help you to locate others as will the Making Music Find a Funding Opportunity tool.

How do I plan a ‘Come and Sing/Play day?

Scheduling

Once you have decided on the type of event and made some progress on the musical side of things you can start organising the nitty-gritty of the event. Deciding on a date early is always a good idea as it gives you something to work around and can help when making plans and setting deadlines. You should think about a date carefully and make sure it is far enough into the future to allow enough time to plan properly. Also consider how the date will affect the event itself - is a weekend best? Could during school holidays work? Find out what else is happening locally – you don’t want to clash with another event if it can be avoided.

Good teams make good events

A come and sing/play event may well be bigger and more complicated than your usual rehearsals and concerts. Having a planning team in place will help share the workload. Leadership is a very important part of this. A possible leadership structure might be:

  • a musical leader - in charge of how the musical side of the event will work
  • a general planning leader - to take care of the practical and logistical side of the event planning

The relationship between these two people is important – if they work well together to make sure the musical and practical aspects dovetail the event should be a success.

Other roles in the planning team could include:

  • venue coordinator
  • catering coordinator
  • booking coordinator - including communicating with participants (what instruments they are bringing, dietary requirements etc.)
  • marketing and publicity coordinator
  • someone to manage any sponsors and exhibition stands

Clear lines of communication between the members of the planning team and regular meetings are a good idea. This will help track progress and identify potential problems and keep the planning separate to regular committee meetings. 

The venue

The right venue is vital to the success of the day. If you have a venue you use a lot that is suitable then it makes sense to stay with what you know. However, the ‘Come and Sing/Play’ event may well involve more people than usual and you may need a different venue. Key things to consider are:

  • Size – is the main workshop room the right size? Too full or empty may affect the day.
  • Number of rooms: does it have a welcoming registration/reception area?
    • is there a separate area for breaks/lunch (this could be same as the registration area). Having a break in a separate room to the workshop makes organising the day easier and has a positive effect on the workshop
    • if you are having separate groups and pieces/performances are there enough separate spaces? Are they far enough apart in terms of noise levels?
    • if you finish the day with a performance is there a suitable space for this?
    • you could think about having the performance in a separate venue to the workshop – this is not ideal but can work if it is close by.
  • Acoustics – think about how the space will affect the sound. There are practical considerations such as will it be too loud and will participants be able to hear the workshop leader? As well as artistic ones – how will the music sound? Acoustics are important but there may be some need for artistic compromise to get the right venue.
  • Catering – does the venue provide refreshments and catering? If not is there a suitable kitchen area where you can organise this yourself?
  • Location and access – is it easy to get to? are there buses/trains nearby, is there affordable parking nearby? If you decide not to provide lunch are there local cafes/shops nearby? Does the venue have disabled access?
  • Power – if you have electrical musical equipment are there enough power outlets in the right places?
  • Storage – can you safely store equipment at the venue from the day before, is there good access for deliveries?
  • Is there a safe place to leave coats and umbrellas etc?
  • Will the venue provide a member of staff on the day to help you run the event?

This may seem a lot but a decent venue should already have most of the above factors in place and all the relevant information you need. It is always a good idea to get a written agreement of these types of things before the event.

If you are using a new venue it is very important that you visit to make sure it is suitable. This is also true if you are doing an ‘on the road’ format in a care home for example. The staff at the care home may think it is fine but they may not be thinking about the requirements in as much detail as you. If it doesn’t quite meet your requirements don’t give up! You might just have to think round the problems and adapt what you are doing a little to suit the venue.

Risk Assessment

Carrying out a simple risk assessment will help with your planning. This should include the risk of having to cancel and the possible alternative arrangements (Making Music Silver and Gold insurance packages include event cancellation cover). You will also need to consider any risks posed by the venue you are using (trailing cables, positioning of equipment etc.). Many venues will have their own risk assessment which will be a good starting point.

You can also use our Risk Assessment guidance to help.

Safeguarding

You might have children, young people or vulnerable adults attending your event and so you will need a safeguarding policy. Hopefully your group will already have one that will cover this event. Creating a policy is not as scary as you might think. It does not have to involve lots of work and is often a case of applying common sense. Some things to think about:

  • Have a named safeguarding officer for the event. This person should have a current DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service). Making Music can help with this
  • Have designated people to help with children (toilet trips etc). Anyone who will be working directly with children should have a DBS check
  • Have some clear guidelines and procedures eg children not being left alone with an adult.
  • Have some simple but clear procedures for how to raise complaints and deal with them. All leaders and responsible adults should be aware of these
  • Ask that children under a certain age are accompanied by an adult (think about fair ticket pricing for this)
  • Make sure you have contact details of any parents/carers for any children not accompanied by an adult including a home address for any potential transport issues.

Read our guidance on Safeguarding (including links to sample polices to find out more.  

Publicity and marketing

Publicity and marketing are crucial to the success of your event. Our Guidance on marketing your events will give you a lot more information on this. But here are some key things to think about:

  • Be sure of what you are offering and make sure the message is clear. Is it aimed at anyone to come along, or is it for people with some experience? Will there be a performance at the end? If so what kind of performance – formal or informal? Have clear messages about the benefits of attending and what people will get out of it.
  • Be clear on price and promote any booking discounts.
  • Make sure the language you use is positive and friendly – the idea is for people to try something new. If the initial marketing message is not welcoming they won’t pursue the idea.
  • Think about who your audience is and where you can access them. You might have a number of different audiences – you can access them in different places and with different messages.
  • Some methods of reaching people:
    • word of mouth – the best way to promote an event like this is to get your group members talking about the event – make sure they have the facts right
    • social media – this is a great way to spread messages quickly
    • print – leaflets and posters in local shops and public areas
    • a banner attached to the railings of the venue in the weeks leading up to the event is a good idea (but ensure you have permission from the venue to do this)
    • local press – local newspapers, radio and parish newsletters are all good avenues to explore.
    • contact local businesses – ask if you can email all staff or even go in and speak to them about the event

Bookings

Making your booking process simple will help persuade people to book. Online tickets are a good option if you can (Making Music members get discounts with Ticket Source and WeGotTickets). Think about the information you want to collect from people as they book:

  • name
  • contact details - email and phone (make it clear that these will only be used for contacting them regarding the event, or get permission to keep them on file for other purposes)
  • their musical experience (make it clear that none/a little is fine)
  • which instrument they will bring or which voice part they will sing
  • dietary requirements
  • access requirements

Once people have booked you should continue to communicate with them. Don’t bombard them but a reminder email a few weeks before the event with any updates, and a final reminder with directions a few days before the event is good practice.

What happens on the day?

If your planning has been thorough the day itself should run smoothly and be enjoyable for everyone. Having clear roles and leaders on the day is important. In addition to your musical/practical leaders, having some musical ‘vice captains’ is a good idea too. Other roles could include:

  • someone to welcome participants
  • someone in charge of refreshments
  • a designated photographer (remember to ask participants permission to take their photo)
  • informal hosts (see below)

Creating a warm welcome

One of the main things to get right on the day is creating a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Attending an event such as this for the first time can be quite a scary experience. Helping to put people at ease will relax them and encourage them to get involved – which in turn will help make the day a success.

This should start with welcoming friendly language and images on publicity material. On the day itself people greeting participants with a smile can make a big difference. Explaining key information can also help – knowing where toilets are, where to get refreshments and having a schedule for the day will help put people at ease.

Having a few group members or volunteers to acts as informal hosts is also a very good idea. They can also help direct people during break times and make sure participants are not left alone and wondering where to go or what to do. Making an effort to talk to people and find out a bit about them goes an incredibly long way to making people feel welcome – especially for any newcomers or people who have come on their own.

What happens after the event?

After a big event and lots of hard work it is easy to think that it is done and you can forget about it. However, to really get the most out the event you should make sure you follow-up on the success.

  • If you collected names of people interested in joining your group or attending a concert make sure you follow-up. A polite email or call could be very effective. Think about offering small discounts for people who attended the ‘Come and Sing/Play’ event (first rehearsal free etc.).
  • If you promoted the event in a local media – how about a follow-up story to celebrate the success?
  • What about a repeat performance? Use the enthusiasm created by the event to get planning the next one – some initial discussions to keep the ball rolling might be all that is needed at this stage.
  • If you ran the event in a school or care home could you do it again in different one?

And Finally

‘Come and Sing/Play’ events can take a bit of organising. But with a well thought-out plan and a good team, the workload can be shared and it is very achievable. This guide will set you on the right path, helping you to think about the key decisions you need to make and the important planning details to take care of. You will also have lots of ideas of your own and creative ways to run the day. As long as you have clear aims and good planning you can make the day a success for you and your local community. And most of all you will have loads of fun along the way.


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.