Tuesday, February 5, 2008

One issue for almost all community music groups

One issue that lies below the surface for Community Music groups is the issue of funding, an extremely important issue but one that is not always talked about openly. Some groups are sponsored (all or in part) by a municipal recreation department or by the mayor's office. For them, they must raise funds that are not covered through their connection to the municipal budget. However, there are many groups in the Milwaukee area that are completely independent. They are incorporated as 501(c)3 organizations and are registered charities within the State of Wisconsin. They must raise all of their funds in order to continue operating. This post discusses some of the major areas of expense for a Community Music group to give you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes. In the next post, I'll write about some of the fund raising efforts by different music groups in the area, what they do to raise the funds needed to operate the group, and how you can help them.

Costs related to Music and Concerts

There are a number of items in this category for music groups. The most obvious cost is the rental of the concert venue. Some groups use High School Auditoriums or Gyms. Other groups use halls connected to a parks department or a government agency. Still others will rent a concert hall at a local college. In most cases, the Community Music Group must pay a fee for the use of the hall. At some locations, they must pay additional fees for tech help to control the lighting and sound systems, ushers, chairs, music stands, grand piano, etc. There are very few Community Music groups that perform concerts without the cost of the concert venue on their budgets. And, of course, the nicer the concert hall, the more expensive it is to rent.

A second major expense for Community Music groups is the cost of new music. Over the last five to ten years, that cost has jumped. Years ago, a major piece of music would be priced in the hundreds of dollars range. In today's market, a major work is now priced at hundreds of dollars per movement. For a piece of three or four movements, the cost of the entire piece can play havoc on a community group's budget. On the other hand, without new music to play, both the audiences and the volunteer members will tire of the same music concert to concert. And so, many Community Music groups work to find creative ways to fund the purchase of new music.

Costs related to the operation of the group

Another cost the groups incur is the cost of storage and rehearsing. Many groups rehearse at schools and churches, but very few groups do so at no cost. Besides using a large room for rehearsing, the percussion instruments (many, like tympani and chimes, tend to be quite large) and the music library must be stored year round. With the cost of heating and cooling skyrocketing, many churches and schools have had to raise the rents of Community Music groups, further straining the budget.

A large expense is liability insurance. This insurance is required by many concert and rehearsal locations before they will consider allowing a group to use their facilities (regardless of any rent being charged for the facility use). As a result, most if not all Community Music groups have libility insurance. It should be noted that most venues for concerts require proof of a one million dollar policy being in force before they will allow their facility to be used.

An annual charge for copyright fees is another cost that is incurred. Without the fee being paid, the Community Music group can be shut down. While this fee is not huge, it is still a good percentage of a group's budget.

Finally, many groups provide small stipends for the Music Director and the Music Librarian. Some groups also fund a managerial position. In reality, these amounts are very small compensation for jobs that take much time. However, these costs do add up and they become a good percentage of the group's budget.

The vast majority of people participating in a Community Music group volunteer their time and efforts for the good of the organization, to contribute to their community, and for their own enjoyment. There are some organizations in which everyone volunteers their time. However, even those groups will still have expenses as noted above.

Next time...

In the next post, I'll go over some specific fund raising efforts of different groups in the Milwaukee area, and how you can help.

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