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How do you get your music performed? Do you do public performances of your works for solo instruments you play? By whom and where is your music performed?

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There's a bunch of things you need to do/pay attention to.

I'll make a bunch of lists now.

Budget, because you need to pay for:

  • Musicians (concert and rehearsals)
  • Venue (for the concert itself and maybe if you need to rehearse there beforehand.)
  • Logistic (travel costs if people are not from where the concert is)
  • Misc (Food, lodging, whatever comes up)

Then venue:

  • Does the venue allow for rehearsals? How often, how long? Do you have to pay extra?
  • If you need a piano, does the venue have a piano (and if so, what kind, which tuning, etc.)
  • What's the lighting situation. Can you set the lighting yourself, is there a technician, etc?
  • Cost, of course. Sometimes venues will collect a percent of the ticket sales, you need to get that all in writing.

The meatbags with their noise-implements:

  • Certain instruments (usually stuff made of metal) need time before rehearsals to "warm up," take that into account when planning your rehearsals.
  • Dress code, which usually isn't a problem, but it can be with singers and, well, women. Not a "problem," exactly, but it's something to add to your checklist nonetheless.
  • Applause rehearsal, because seriously this is important and it reflects on you as a composer that everyone knows what the hell to do during applause.
  • Encore? Plan at least for two short pieces (or a repeat of a catchy bit from the concert program), because being optimistic helps group dynamic!
  • Keep rehearsals short and precise and try to schedule them either before or after lunch, since you don't want people hungry while they're trying to follow a 32th 7/16 marimba passage. If your rehearsal is so ungodly long that it overlaps with lunch (or dinner), then make sure you give your musicians options for taking a lunch break. This is your responsibility as organizer.

The actual concert, finally:

  • Organize your concert program so that if you suddenly need to move 5 marimbas and 2 pianos across the stage, you don't do it between short pieces. Keep large things on their own concert segments separated by a pause.
  • 15 minutes is good enough for a pause, only do longer if you need to move 10 marimbas and 4 pianos, or something that requires very specific preparation (like tuning a harpsichord to a specific tuning, whatever.)
  • Calculate the time the concert will last. This is very important specially when you're presenting the project to interested venues. You need two numbers, the actual length of the music proper and the "real" length, including pauses between movements, stage setup, pauses and applause. Can also include introductions, and any other thing that happens during the concert. Round upwards always, things take much longer than they may at first appear.
  • Make a good and proper concert program that people can have during the concert to read up on important things like your biography, how great you are, and why everyone should be like you (great). Don't forget to ask the musicians if they are OK with including biographies for them in the program and allow THEM to give you their own text. Edit for size, but not for content. Also helps to add a list of the pieces performed along with their length and any other things you think are interesting to know. As a super helpful tip, if you can't fit it on a double-sided A4 paper, then you need to reedit.


And if all of this doesn't scare you, then congratulations! You're ready to annoy strangers with your weird pieces for dog whistle and garbage truck.

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Posted (edited)

Also add an advertising budget and a sound guy to record it for you.  If you're premiering one of your own works at your own expense, you want people to hear about it, and you want a recording to share around and get other people interested in programming it again.  If you are not a conductor, you need to hire one to run rehearsals and conduct the performance.  A cappella choral works may also need a rehearsal accompanist, depending on the group, the piece, and the conductor.  Depending on the venue, you may need to hire ticket takers and/or ushers or they may include staff in the price to rent the space.  These can be teenagers you know who want to make a few dollars and put something cultural on their college applications.  

Personally, I go the cheaper route and just make my pieces easy to find on the internet in the hopes that people will program them.  It means you have no control over the quality of the performances, you don't always find out about them until after the fact, and you rarely get a recording, but you don't have to pay anything to do it.  

In the last three years, I've had 15 performances in 3 countries.  Everything from middle school to college groups, to church choirs to good community choruses.  

You can also enter composition contests that give a performance of the winning work or works as the prize.  These almost always have an application fee and many entries.  The application fee of the many entries that don't win finances the time of the expert judges to review all the pieces, any administrative costs, and pays any prize money to the winners.  Some contests require you to attend the concert if you win, but will pay a modest cash amount to help cover your airfare.  

Edited by pateceramics

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