Sunday, October 21, 2007

Does poor scheduling squander market share?

Last year, I observed in my personal blog that too often, multiple choirs gave conflicting concerts on a given weekend. This seems to be a huge recipe for disaster. Our audience is already so small. Why pit one choir against another and fight over scraps?

My guess at the time was that choirs rarely considered other groups' schedules before setting their own. I ideaslistically thought that if groups bothered to pay attention to what was already set on the schedule, there may be less of these so called choral car pile-ups.

Last spring, I started a yahoo group and calendar, Bay Area Choral Schedule, and invited all fellow choralistas, choir directors, and choir executives to join. I solicited a nice-enough response. Twenty or so Bay Area choral mavens have signed on, and between their input and my own research, I have posted schedules for over 30 different active Bay Area choral groups (including symphony and college choruses).

The sheer number of groups tells me something already. Conflicts in the choral schedule are unavoidable. So, better coordination between groups may not amount to much.

The Christmas choral season is upon us. Many weekends in November and December host as many seven or more different choral concerts around the Bay Area on a given night. December 1st boasts the record of hosting nine concerts which I know of, by groups including Bay Area Classical Harmonies, the California Bach Society, Cantabile, Cantare Chorale, Creative Voices, San Francisco Lyric Chorus, Schola Cantorum Mountain View, Soli Deo Gloria and the Tallis Scholars (presented by Cal Performances). The Christmas season is exceptional, though, in that our audience temporaily balloons to include all people desiring an injection of Yuletide choral cheer.

Other weekends host anywhere from one to six events (which I know of), with a median number of approximately three. Many Bay Area groups present three concerts; one in San Francisco, one in the South Bay on Penninsula, and one in the East Bay. They could take care to never present in the same locality as a competing group on a given night. These are detailed tweaks. In reality, issues like staff and artist availability ultimately dominate scheduling, leaving conflict avoidance in the triage pile.

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