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Manu Reo o Aotearoa

Young Person's Guide to Starting a Choir

Mch Rgb Disk smallThis resource was written with young choral practitioners in mind but is applicable for anyone who wants to start a choir. It was written as part of the “Singing for Lifelong Wellbeing” project, funded through a grant from ManatÅ« Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage.

Young Person's Guide to Starting a Choir
Initial questions → Planning and research → Setting up officially → Running a choir → Administrator's Toolkit → Financial matters → Funding applications → Other resources

The Administrator's Toolkit

The role of your choir's secretary/administrator/manager will vary considerably depending on the size and nature of the choir – but here are some things that all administrators should look after.

Record keeping and other systems & processes

Keep robust and up-to-date records of:

  • your committee and official members required as an incorporated society
  • your choir members
    • have they paid their annual subscription (if applicable)
    • their attendance
  • people auditioning
  • your donors and sponsors
    • how much and when they donated
  • regular attenders/concert supporters
  • music management – who has what music; what has not been returned

You can do this using free tools within Microsoft Office or Google Docs. There are a lot of choir management systems and CRMs available, but most require paid subscriptions. Have a look at Digital Stuff We Love, which lists a lot of online tools that are free or have not-for-profit discounts. Chorus Connection also has a useful document you can download.

Keep the privacy of your members in mind. Limit access to your records to as few people as necessary. There is a guide to record-keeping on the CommunityNet website. 

Develop streamlined and robust systems and processes to record:

New members

  • collect contact details
  • invoice for annual fee/bond/etc as appropriate and to give receipt of payment
  • log and record payments
  • ensure they have all the music and information they require

Renewing members

  • check contact details and update records as necessary
  • invoice, collect and record payments if required
  • send reminders or follow up if necessary


  • collect expressions of interest
  • circulate information of audition requirements
  • notification of acceptance/nonacceptance
  • collection of contact details, and place them on contact lists if they want ongoing choir information etc.

Develop robust systems for contract management, including actioning and filing:

  • agreements for all your music staff
  • agreements for soloists or other people engaged for a concert
  • venue contracts
  • contracts or agreements with suppliers
  • ticketing contracts

It's a good idea to write a set of instructions for your systems so that they can continue seamlessly if there is a change in personnel.

Rehearsal and concert management

Don’t forget to consider the following and put systems in place.

Health and safety
  • Prepare a health and safety plan that covers accidents and events that could arise within your rehearsals and performances. Each performance should have an individual plan, as different venues will present different challenges.
  • Prepare an incident management plan so you know what to do when an accident happens.
  • There is a range of useful papers on the NZCF H&S Resource page.
  • Have you thought through the accessibility of your rehearsal space etc.
  • Do you need wheelchair access?
  • How are you going to deal with people who can’t read music?
  • Are you catering for all ages? If so, have you thought about how the voice changes at different ages, or duty of care for a children’s choir? Some related issues are listed here.
Obligations as an Incorporated Society or Charitable Trust
  • Prepare your annual financial statements.
  • Hold your AGM and get your financials approved.
  • File an annual return on the Incorporated Societies or Charities websites, along with the approved financial statements.
  • Update the information they hold – officer details, member details etc. - if any of this has changed.
  • It is likely that you will be considered a 'small society' which means you will not need to get your financial statements audited, but keep an eye on the requirements here.
  • If you don’t have a friendly accountant to assist you with the preparation of the financial statements, you may find someone through your local volunteer organisation. (See Resources page LINK)


How are you going to tell your community about the choir and get them to your concerts?

Marketing your choir should be the collective responsibility of everyone in the choir. You will have members who have knowledge and experience in the many aspects of marketing and communications, such as:

  • managing the website
  • monitoring and engaging with social channels, developing the chorus’s brand, promoting concerts in local event calendars
  • designing posters and programs
  • distributing print and online materials
  • managing email marketing
  • working with media and local organizations
  • creating content

...and so much more!

Some members won’t have that knowledge and experience, but they can help sell tickets.

First, you need a marketing and communications plan and budget. There are many examples online. It's best to create your own plan based on your unique choir and community.

Chorus Connection (a chorus management software) shares some good information within their blog, plus an extensive guide to marketing your choir. They also have a download on free choir management tools, including marketing tools.

It is worthwhile to measure what you do so you can track what posts and messages are making a difference and reaching your market:

  • Website – Google Analytics
  • Track social media engagement – the clicks, likes, shares etc of a post.
  • Track ticket sales – numbers, revenue, best ways of sale (via singers, ticketing agency, other)
Audience development

How are you going to build your audience?

There are articles, guides and case studies on The Audience Agency.

Privacy and permissions

You need to keep all contact details and other information you collect about your singers in a safe place and limit access to the core office holders in your choir.

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If you intend to take photos for promotional purposes, you should ensure that you have the agreement of your choir members.  You could include a simple consent clause that covers all issues of photo ownership and privacy issues within the membership registration form that singers sign when they join. However, for videos or large photographic projects, it is probably best to have a project-specific release form. Here is an example of a media release form



If you video a performance of your choir and want to post it on your website, YouTube or any other online channel, you should do some Video Icon 6research to make sure you can post it legally. Keep in mind the fact that there are at least three different copyrights:

  • rights to the music being performed (and copyright applies to the lyrics, the composition and the arrangement, if it is an arrangement),
  • rights to the performance, and
  • rights to record and distribute a recording of the performance.

APRA’s website says – “If you create your own video with music and want to upload it online, you need permission from the copyright owners. You’re using their work in something called “a synchronisation”.

Synchronisation clearance is required for most videos containing music when uploaded to sites like YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook. APRA can help you find out who to contact. The music publisher should also be able to tell you who owns the copyright and if clearance is required.

When in doubt, ask someone! The last thing you want is to face a copyright lawsuit and deal with the legal fees of the case.