Keeping choir attendance up – stick or carrot?

Listed on September 8, 2014 in Blogs!

As I wrote recently (It’s summer – where have all the choir gone??!!), patchy attendance at regular choir sessions can be very frustrating.

stick and carrot

donkey photo by Clay Junell

If you’re a community, or amateur, or singing for fun, or casual choir, how can you keep attendance levels high?

sign on the dotted line?

I took over a choir once which had a sign-in sheet. At the start of each session, choir members would tick off their name so the choir leader could keep track of attendance.

Often people would forget to tick the sheet or put the tick in the wrong column so it was never very accurate. I think the idea was for people to feel that attendance was important and that having a sign-up sheet would help keep numbers up each week. It didn’t.

pay now, sing later?

Many choirs allow people to come as and when they want, paying for each session that they attend. However, I’ve always insisted that people pay up front for the whole term.

I figure that when it’s a cold, dark, rainy evening and people fancy staying home to watch the telly, the fact that they’ve paid in advance will be that extra motivation they need to get them out the door to come to choir. Having paid good money would persuade people to come every week.

It didn’t.

have a goal in sight?

One new choir member a few years back asked if we were having a concert at the end of term. I asked why. He said that if he didn’t have anything to work towards then it wasn’t worth him coming.

My current choir only perform once a year, but my previous choirs used to perform at least once at the end of every term, and sometimes more often. You’d think that having this hanging over their heads would help people’s commitment and attendance each week.

It didn’t.

we all have the best intentions

I turn up for every single choir session. If I can do it, why can’t everybody else?

I think that when people join a choir (unlike a gym) they do it because they love to sing and fully intend to come to each and every session. But life intervenes: people get ill, schools have parents evenings, relatives come to visit, work kicks into overload. With the best will in the world, not every singer will be at every session.

I’ve been in professional performing groups when not everyone is at every rehearsal. And they’re getting paid!

So patchy attendance is a fact of life, but is there anything we can do about it?

how to improve attendance

There is no simple answer and no answer that will fit all choirs. It depends a lot on what your choir ‘culture’ is: formal and strict, or informal and laid-back. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. carrots

  • award points for regular attendance – these can then be redeemed for ‘goodies’ later
  • have an end of season prize for best attendance
  • give a discount for 100% attendance
  • set up a lift sharing scheme

2. sticks

  • don’t let singers perform in concerts unless they’ve attended a certain number of rehearsals
  • if singers attend less than, say, 50% of choir sessions, give their place to someone else next term
  • make the occasional session self-contained so if people don’t attend they will feel they’ve missed something

your ideas?

I’m sure there are plenty of other sticks and carrots out there. Do let me know if you have any ideas for keeping choir attendance high. But remember, this is for more informal, relaxed singing groups.

further reading

You might also find these posts interesting.

What motivates you to turn up to choir week after week?

Don’t stress about things you can’t control

How will your choir cope if you don’t turn up?

You are the most important singer in your choir

How to catch up if you miss a choir rehearsal

Chris Rowbury