Recruiting and Retaining Members

At a recent Sheffield Brass Network online networking meeting we were really pleased to have Stephen McNally, Making Music UK Manager based in Northern Ireland, speak about recruiting and retaining members. On behalf of Making Music Stephen undertakes campaigning and advocacy for members of the leisure-time music community in general.

Stephen’s presentation drew on research undertaken by Xenia Davis in 2016 for Making Music UK. This research suggests that ‘there is a drop-off in young people’s participation in music groups post-15, and that many don’t rediscover music making, if at all, until they are over 35.’

‘Under-35s, at a potentially unsettled and sometimes difficult period in their lives (moving out of education and parental homes, starting out on a career, arriving in new places, establishing new friendships, seeking life partnerships, starting families), would benefit enormously from (new or continued) engagement in music-making to support them in the many life-transforming transitions they face.’

Stephen’s presentation highlighted why under 35s join music groups; motivators being, 85% enjoyment, 64% to improve musical skills, and 61% for performance opportunities. Conversely, the research also revealed why under 35s don’t join music groups; 88% time-pressure, 24% feeling inadequate, 23% lacking confidence, and 22% financial barriers. Under 35s are a very diverse group and time pressure is a common denominator.

You can watch Stephen’s full presentation on YouTube here

Stephen’s presentation went on to consider ‘retention’ and the associated group psychology based on Tuckman’s academic studies on the stages of group development. These stages are commonly known as: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. Tuckman’s model explains that as the team develops maturity and ability, relationships establish, and leadership style changes to more collaborative or shared leadership. In Stephen’s presentation he asked how easy is it for new members to join your group and how can you recreate an induction atmosphere for new members?

Initially, an induction strategy, to create the “forming” stage, could include:

  • New members night
    • Create specific date(s) in the calendar
  • How are people welcomed into the group?
    • Buddy system
    • Could you do this via Zoom in advance?
  • Welcome packs
    • Do you have one & what’s included?
  • Mix people up
    • Breaks
    • Small group work
    • Join social media groups
  • Learning names
    • Simple name badges on induction night

Other ‘retention’ issues to consider involve ‘Keeping it flexible – time & finance’:

  • Can I miss a rehearsal?
    • Learning tracks separately
    • Record/livestream rehearsals
  • Subscriptions/rehearsal costs?
    • Can I skip a week
    • Pay yearly subscription in instalments
    • How is the group financed?

In Stephen’s presentation he suggested that a circular framework could help to create a simple recruitment plan:

Part of the recruitment process could ask, ‘What makes you so special and, how can you get there?’

  • SOMETHING UNIQUE? Can you back it up?
    • USP
    • Oldest
    • Newest
    • Youngest
    • Award winning
    • Technological
    • Smallest
    • Most remote
    • Worst (RTO)
  • WHAT BENEFITS? Who are you targeting?
    • Rehearse remotely
    • Easy payment options
    • COVID secure
    • Enjoyment
    • Travel
    • Social
    • High quality
    • Additional help/tuition
    • Performance
  • JOINING DETAILS? Nuts and bolts
    • FAQs
    • Who do I contact?
    • What type of music/standard?
    • When you rehearse?
    • Where you rehearse?
    • How much £?

All of the forgoing should form simple messages with strong images.

As part of your recruitment process you can use communication tools that suit your needs/skills best:

    • Newspapers • flyer • poster • banner • radio • TV • billboard etc
  • PROS
    • cheap (scale) • lo-tech • tactile • portable • long lasting • long form • can be reused • can repurpose digitally
  • CONS
    • time/cost to distribute • harder to measure
    • reach • no direct feedback • static
    • Works very well in small communities or where you can physically reach people in person
    • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok etc), websites, email etc
  • PROS
    • easy to target • multimedia • easy to budget • measurable • direct feedback • dynamic • specific • reach
  • CONS
    • hi-tech, lots of platforms, diverse users, disappears fast, short form
    • When you need to reach large numbers OR very specific people, across a wider geographic area (e.g., U35, Bb bass player, Barnsley)

Previous Making Music research revealed young people’s strongest expressed preference for rehearsal timings was for a Monday – Thursday evening session (74%). However, weekend daytime sessions were also quite highly rated.

‘It is important to note that this data includes all survey respondents, including those who work full time, students, parents of small children etc., and so while Monday – Thursday evenings came out as the most frequently selected preference, this would not necessarily be a suitable option for all respondents.’

Source: Making Music: Young People and Participation in Amateur Music Groups.PDF

‘Before drawing conclusions from this research, it is important to note the huge diversity that exists across the ‘young people’ this research has been targeted at.’

Some of these are fresh out of sixth form and highly ambitions amateur musicians, living more flexible student lifestyles and wanting a musical challenge. Some are single parents, juggling childcare and work commitments. Some are in demanding and busy jobs, living in a new city and wanting an opportunity to socialise and meet new friends in a relaxed environment.

Some are confident in their musical ability and would be completely unfazed by the prospect of an audition, while some are coming to music for the first time or returning after a long break, and are tentatively dipping their toes in the water and would be strongly put off by the prospect of an audition.

Some are only able to attend day time groups due to family life or work shift patterns. Some are only able to attend evening groups due to ‘9-5’ work commitments.

‘No set of activities or recommendations is going to be appropriate to the needs every single person in the 15–35-year-old age bracket, and it is important that the diversity and variety of groups reflects the diversity and variety of 15–35-year-olds.’

Remember, your group is your greatest marketing asset.

Further reading:

Young People and Participation in Amateur Music Groups

Tuckman’s academic studies on the stages of group development,more%20collaborative%20or%20shared%20leadership.

Starting a music group, Part 3: Finding members and creating a culture