Organising a ZOOM Concert | Step-by-Step Guide

A step-by-step guide provided by St Agnes’ Community Centre for Music & the Arts on how to organise, set-up, and run a concert via ZOOM.

We want to thank Joanna Crooks and all the team at St Agnes’ CCMA for developing and sharing this great resource with us.

The negatives
The negatives arise from the limitations of ZOOM itself, in other words, latency. The only way for everyone to play together is to have all players muted playing to a track.

The positives
– Connection – both during the rehearsal period AND the event itself there is a strong feeling of real time connection. Audiences can join in from anywhere in the world. Players can join in from anywhere in the world – make the most of this advantage!
– Celebration – seeing everyone’s faces all together present in real-time is heartwarming in pandemic times.
– Live participation with the spoken voice adds another dimension.
– Pre-recorded video can be included. For example, a short virtual performance by a group.
– Visual materials can be included.
– Special guests and guest speakers can be invited.

Very First Steps
Set up an Event Manager for the ZOOM concert, whose brief is to follow up on each detail of the planning through till the post-concert follow up. Where there are several organisations, identify the key representative of each one. Have an initial planning meeting with this group. Discuss budget at this meeting. Suggestion: Organisations pay their own professional tutors / conductors.

  1. Agree on the ZOOM host who has an account that can cope with the anticipated number of players and audience, for example, up to 500. This can be organised just for one month of needed.
  2. Be specific from the start. Agree a date and time for the ZOOM concert. Schedule the date/time so that the web link, ID and passcode can be included in all related PR material. Plan that the concert will open ten minutes after the start time on the poster.
  3. Schedule the general rehearsal before the concert at the initial planning.
  4. You may decide that access to the concert will only be made available a few days in advance. It may be wise only to broadcast access links to the concert after the general rehearsal is over to avoid confusion.
  5. Design and set up a strong visual image with essential information, plus date, time and (tbc) relevant sign-in information.
  6. Collect essential logos for the visual and e-posters.
  7. Circulate the most up-to-date information on using ZOOM for sharing music. Include latest update information (up to version 5.4.9 at present) and if helpful include Denise Ni Dhuibhir’s visualisation of how to use advanced sharing for sound.
  8. Organiser drafts a list of the concert repertoire. Time it carefully.
  9. Organiser plans how tracks will be assembled for the planned repertoire. Tracks may create an item to be considered under the budget.
  10. Agree on the running order for the concert.
  11. Music files: Music files for each piece in the programme are set up with each part scanned and saved as a pdf, along with score and tracks. Tracks may be saved with one or more speed options.
    1. WAVs or MP3 tracks – for practice purposes MP3 is easier to manage.
  12. In addition, create sectional files so that each piece for the full programme, e.g. for 1st violin, is saved in one file. This makes distribution very easy. You could use Dropbox for this.
  13. Bear in mind that Dropbox may work well for some people, but not for everyone. It is important not to exclude anyone so sending music directly to individuals is also essential.
  14. Note that the host and the conductor will almost certainly be taking part from their own homes. The host sets up agreed co-hosts when the ZOOM room opens up.
  15. Note that conductors sharing tracks must have good and reliable equipment to share the best quality sound.
  16. Agree who is sharing tracks, who is acting as compere, who is introducing pieces.
    If children are introducing pieces, set up a rehearsal schedule for this. This adds an extra dimension to the live experience.
  17. Agree on two back-up key people as well as the host who will have tracks and be able to share tracks if the first one and then another computer goes down.
  18. Agree on two volunteers to co-host and look after admission from the waiting room. Plan to switch off the sound as someone enters the waiting room when the concert starts. These volunteers also check mute buttons throughout the concert and take action if needed.
  19. Agree on a protocol – ie whether audience videos should be on or off. St Agnes CCMA policy is that videos should be on always for health and safety reasons.
  20. Agree on a naming policy and ask players to change their ZOOM account in advance if possible. Send information on how to do this. This is useful if players are coming from different cities or orchestras. This should be done for the rehearsal.
  21. Agree on a dress code.
  22. Send basic information on problem-solving to participants, for example, if their audio link does not work, it is best to leave the ZOOM and re-enter the meeting, checking that audio is switched on while coming back in.
  23. Recording permission must be obtained from those under-18 for recording the ZOOM concert. Plan who is recording (the host). Decide on the use of recorded applause when editing.
  24. Send out notices for the rehearsal on ZOOM. The timing of the rehearsal will be the same as the timing of the concert, although the rehearsal may be at a different time of day. A general rehearsal increases the sense of occasion. It will also give an indication of the potential size of an audience.
  25. At the rehearsal, the chief conductor should remind players to use speaker view or spotlight to follow the conductor during pieces. H/she will also remind everyone to mute as and when requested.
  26. Use all relevant social media channels if appropriate to bring in a ZOOM audience. Encourage players to share concert information and invitation in advance and to send out the links immediately before and on the day.
  27. Post-concert – decide on who will edit the recording and how it will be made available. The greatest impact from the concert is received if the recording can be released quickly.

Note: For an event which will be shared by several orchestras with different conductors, there are many possibilities. Two examples are:

  • Each conductor shares the tracks that he/she conducts from the agreed repertoire with all players participating;
  • Participating orchestras perform, for instance, one piece that they have chosen for themselves and which is only played by their own orchestra. In this case, this orchestra provides its own track which is shared by their conductor. Other players listen.

Here is a PDF for Instructions for optimising Zoom sound when using music tracks or playing an instrument in a teaching session.