As a platform that helps ensembles create home concert experiences for a broader audience, Groupmuse has had our attention for awhile. One of our longtime Listers, soprano and SAG-AFTRA member Harriet Fraser, tells of her experience last year with the groupmuse model. Learn more on their website: groupmuse.com
Love at first sight
A composer friend of mine turned me on to the groupmuse concept. I fell in love with it right away and wanted to make sure to do one. He offered his studio in Venice, where he had already hosted several groupmuse concerts as well as a massivemuse.
As with every new startup, everything is done electronically, so if you’re old-fashioned and like to talk to someone on the phone, this is not necessarily for you. But being one of those people myself, I did find the process relatively painless, and when I had to, managed to get in contact with the organizers by email, at least.
We had a venue and host already, so what we needed to do was to make a profile for our group, explain who we were and what instruments we played and then create a program, to then link with the concert that our friend would host. If you don’t have a venue, you can put your profile on the site, which must be approved, so linking it to video and recordings of your playing or a website helps with this. You can then reach out to venue/hosts who want to host a concert and see if you’re a good match, as some venues do not have a piano or only want certain instruments.
Things to know
There are a number of important things that make these concerts a success, and our friend had had experience with the ones that had followed the groupmuse ‘rules’ and ones that had not, and these were definitely less successful:
- The program should come in at less than an hour of music.
- The players should interact with the audience, perhaps explaining certain parts of the program and introducing themselves.
- Our host made sure there were drinks available, and he also suggested drawing materials and pens if we were expecting children.
- The audience is expected to pay a donation of (at least) $10 per person, which goes entirely to the musicians.
- Promoting the event to as wide a circle of friends and family is important, and the concert is also advertised on the groupmuse website for people who regularly attend these concerts.
- People were encouraged to bring chairs and pillows to sit on, as the venues are not set out like a normal formal concert venue.
Our prospective audience members were expected to sign up and pay their $10 online. Signing up included the request for a profile picture, which some were unhappy to do. Some got round it adding pics of their dog or some such irrelevant picture, and some found the sign up process off-putting, so we encouraged these people to come anyway and just pay at the door. I understand they want to grow their audience this way, but certainly some people on our prospective audience list were not going to part with any personal info.
As for the concert itself, it really was a success. It was what I had hoped for. We had nearly 100 people in a studio that comfortably sat them, in collapsable camping chairs that people brought, rugs, steps, adults sipped wine and the many children drew, watched, listened. We had a composer there in our audience who was able to explain her music before we performed it, which was particularly inspiring for the young audience to see, and she really accommodated the kind of audience we had.
We introduced pieces and explained our thoughts and themes and came in at under an hour. The comments we received were very inspiring. “We need more events like this, especially right now.” “Please let us know when your next one is,” etc. People were clearly hungry to be transported, to do away with the everyday even for an hour, to experience something different, fresh and meaningful. The casual nature of the setting really helped to bring everyone in — even those who were not used to hearing music like this. We didn’t dumb down our program: they listened to a good mix of favorites like Fauré and Schubert, but also Argento and Trumbore, and they really seemed to appreciate the variety and contrasting styles.
I would definitely do one again. As for the income, we did collect enough for us each to be paid roughly $260 each which was really worth it for us. We have looked into other groupmuses looking for musicians and so far financially it has not been right for us: too far to travel, too small an audience etc. But we will keep looking and will no doubt do another one soon. They now have a new feature they are piloting where you can actually post programs that hosts can select and we will definitely try that too. I’m happy to answer any other questions anyone might have by email!