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Summer 2004 edition

Greetings, and welcome to the VAN Report, summer 2004 edition, covering the past year’s developments at Vocal Area Network (www.van.org), New York’s home for vocal ensemble music.

In this note:

  • WORDS OF THANKS
  • NEW FEATURES / SERVICES:
  • UPDATE ON ONGOING FEATURES / SERVICES: VAN Features, Sustaining Membership, VAN Ads, VANupdate, Concert Calendar, Choir Directory, Choir Auditions, Info Exchange
  • WHAT WE ASK IN RETURN
  • IN THE WORKS

WORDS OF THANKS

As always, thanks to all who have contributed information and listings to the Vocal Area Network web site over the past season. Your positive comments (see www.van.org/feedbackhighlights.htm for samples) indicate that VAN’s information-sharing services are highly valued by the New York area vocal ensemble community (singers, groups and their audiences). We’re proud of the quantity and quality of the information we offer, and we couldn’t deliver it nearly as well without your ongoing participation. We’d also like to recognize all those who have helped spread the word about VAN. The number of site visitors continues to grow, thanks certainly to solid word-of-mouth. And very special thanks to the ensembles and individuals who have provided financial support through the Sustaining Membership program and through the VAN Ads program.

NEW FEATURES / SERVICES

Our focus in 2003-04 was less on adding features to the site and more on improving existing features.

We took significant steps to make the e-mail addresses in our Choir Directory less susceptible to harvesting by spammers. Rather than showing the e-mail addresses on the page, you now see just a "Contact" link for those choirs that offer e-mail contact. Further,  e-mail addresses in the source code are specially encoded to deter nasty spambots that automatically harvest e-mail addresses. We hope that will result in a bit less unwanted e-mail in the inboxes of our listed groups.

We also improved the Info Exchange by giving each ad an explicit expiration date. That simplifies maintenance. Old ads are removed automatically, making the Info Exchange a tidier and more useful resource.

And we continue to tweak the home page to provide better access to information and sites people need. This year we added a few more VAN QuickLinks to resources such as Chorus America, nyc.choruses listserv, ChoralNet and NYC Music Places.

UPDATE ON ONGOING FEATURES / SERVICES

We ran 12 VAN Features this past year, the same number as in the first year of this offering. In case you missed any of them, here they are:

Thanks to all the authors who contributed to our second season of features. We'd love to do more this year. If you'd like to contribute a feature article, just drop us a note outlining your proposed story. Chances are good we'll approve it. A feature article is a great way to get exposure for your group--and a great opportunity to see your name on a byline.

Vocal Area Network's information-sharing services have always been and will continue to be provided free for the benefit of the vocal ensemble community. You’re probably wondering how we can do that. Much of our financial support comes from our Sustaining Membership program, which encourages ensembles and individuals who derive value from our free offerings to help defray some of the costs of providing those services. In other words, VAN saves you money, time and effort, so you share some of the savings with VAN. After all, your group’s marketing budget goes farther when you take advantage of VAN's services. An ongoing ad on the Choir Auditions page draws more qualified singers than a one-time posting in the newspaper--and it can be updated throughout the year. Listings in the VAN Concert Calendar help you connect with more of your target audience. And the Info Exchange comes in handy when there's a special need to fill. Group Sustaining Members are recognized on the Sustaining Membership page and, depending on the membership level, on other pages around the site. Payments can be made online using PayPal or the Amazon Honor System or by good old-fashioned check. Details can be found on the Sustaining Membership page (www.van.org/membership.htm). We especially thank our Gold Sustaining Members, The Dessoff Choirs, the Grace Church Choral Society and the West Village Chorale; our Silver Sustaining Members, the Brooklyn Community Chorus and the Greenwich Village Singers; and our other Sustaining Member ensembles: Americas Vocal Ensemble, AmorArtis, Cantabile Chamber Chorale, Cerddorion, Chorus 802, Christ Church Choir, Douglas Frank Chorale, Holy Apostles Community Chorus, Hudson Valley Singers, Lehman College and Community Chorus, New Amsterdam Singers, The New Choral Society, New York Choral Society, Riverdale Choral Society, Russian Chamber Chorus of New York, Sacrum Convivium, The St. Cecilia Chorus and Women Singing. We hope you’ll join these groups and others in the community who have already become VAN Sustaining Members. And we encourage our current Sustaining Members to renew their support for the coming season.

VAN Ads, our banner advertising offering, continues to offer a great marketing opportunity for the vocal ensemble community. An affordably priced banner ad on VAN, supplementing (not replacing) your free listings, makes your marketing dollars go farther. A mere $35 gets you up to 2,500 impressions of your ad. (Printing and mailing flyers will cost you a good deal more.) And your ad can be linked to your web site or even to your listing on VAN. Newspaper and radio advertising cost big bucks; you’re paying for a lot of readers and listeners who aren’t necessarily interested in vocal ensemble music. Visitors to the Vocal Area Network site, on the other hand, are very much interested. Since the program's inception, 46 different advertisers have placed a total of 125 ads. Here’s what Christine Hoffman, music administrator for the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space series at the Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola, says about VAN Ads: "Lots of bang for the buck. We realized that we could advertise our entire five-concert season--and have our programs in front of the very concentrated VAN audience almost continuously--for $175.00, less than the cost of just one ad almost anywhere else." See if the VAN Ads program fits into your marketing plans. Visit www.van.org/advertise.htm for details.

VANupdate, our twice monthly e-mail newsletter highlighting the latest additions to the site, continues to gain new subscribers. Visit our Lists page at www.van.org/lists.htm, view a sample VANupdate and sign up to get the latest news items, new site features, the most recent postings to the VAN Concert Calendar, concert listings for the upcoming half-month and the latest updates to the Choir Auditions page, the Choir Directory and the Info Exchange. As of August, 2004, the VANupdate mailing list is handled by IntelliContact Pro and is now a double opt-in list for the protection of subscribers.

The VAN Concert Calendar (www.van.org/vancal.htm) listed 688 vocal ensemble events in the New York metropolitan area between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004, down from a high of 835 in 2002-03 but more than the 579 in 2001-02. We’re well into posting events for the 2003-2004 season, so send in your listings. Though we continue to accept listings via e-mail, we encourage you, whenever possible, to use our new listing form. Listings submitted using the form require much less labor on our part to enter into the Concert Calendar database. People who want to find concerts involving singers know that the VAN Concert Calendar is the best place to find them, uncluttered by all the other worthy cultural events going on about town. And VAN Ads are a great way to attract even more interest in your events.

The Choir Directory (www.van.org/choirdirectory.htm) continues to grow and currently lists 310 choral organizations and vocal ensembles, up from 275 last year and 230 the year before that. Web sites, rehearsal night and neighborhood, size, director, contact information, links to the Choir Auditions page—it’s all there in the directory, making it easy for choral singers to find the group of their dreams. And we've made it harder for spammers and spam bots to harvest the e-mail contacts in the Choir Directory by specially encoding that information. Choir e-mail addresses are still easily available to legitimate visitors, but those out to methodically collect targets for spam will have a much harder time. Choirs by Night (www.van.org/choirsbynight.htm), a companion to the Choir Directory, lists choirs by the nights on which they rehearse and groups them by state (NY/NJ/CT) as well. We encourage you to check your group’s listing in the Choir Directory and send us additions, corrections and updates.

Recruiting singers? Groups listed in our Choir Directory are entitled to an audition ad on our Choir Auditions Page (www.van.org/choirauditions.htm). Singers from all over the New York metropolitan area know that Vocal Area Network is the best place to find audition information from area choirs. Currently, 225 groups are represented here, up from 198 last year and 154 the year before that. Sure, you can still take out an expensive, tiny ad in The New York Times that runs once or twice and then disappears. We think (and hope you’ll agree) that we’ve got a better deal: a free ad on the Choir Auditions Page that keeps your group’s name in the minds of potential singing members throughout the year. One request: please help us keep audition ads up-to-date. Fresh ads are more noticeable and attractive--remember, Choir Auditions ads are color-coded by age. (Freshest ads gets two green squares. Oldest ads get two red squares.) For the fall 2004 audition season, we've added a version of the Choir Auditions Page with the freshest ads at the top. Competition for the most desirable singers is intense; an up-to-date audition ad is among your most powerful—and cost-effective—marketing tools. Want your auditions to get more attention? Buy a VAN Ad to supplement your free listing.

Our Info Exchange (www.van.org/infoexch.htm) features postings from groups and individuals looking to make singing connections and from parties offering services and employment opportunities. Between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004, we posted 86 ads from groups (about the same as last year), 26 ads from individuals (about half of last year, continuing a downward trend) and 52 ads for services or employment (up just a bit from last year). And now each Info Exchange ad carries an explicit expiration date, making the Info Exchange a generally tidier place.

And our Links Collection (www.van.org/links.htm) continues to grow and improve. For highlights of the past year’s additions, see the Appendix at the end of this document. Continue to let us know if you find links that don’t work and, as always, we welcome suggestions for new additions to the collection.

We heartily encourage you and your group to become active contributors of information. Visit the web site, see what we offer and take advantage of our free information-sharing services. Your group and the entire metropolitan-area vocal ensemble community will benefit.

WHAT WE ASK IN RETURN

Vocal Area Network’s information-sharing services are provided free for the benefit of the vocal ensemble community. Here’s what we ask in return.

Help spread the word. If more people know about Vocal Area Network, we all benefit. More site visitors means better visibility for your group and the entire vocal ensemble community. How can you help? Here are a couple of ways:

  • Mention Vocal Area Network in your concert programs. For example: "For more information about vocal ensemble music in the New York area, visit Vocal Area Network (www.van.org)." Or, "XYZ Group supports Vocal Area Network (www.van.org), New York’s home for vocal ensemble music." If your group becomes a Sustaining Member, we’ll send you a VAN Sustaining Member logo. (And if we forget to do that, don't hesitate to ask!)
  • Print and distribute the VAN Card to your members and your audiences. It’s available for download on our Spread the Word page at www.van.org/promo/spreadtheword.htm. (You’ll need a copy of Adobe’s Acrobat Reader to view and print it, available at www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.)
  • Add a reciprocal link to Vocal Area Network (www.van.org) in a prominent spot on your group’s web site. You’re welcome to use the VAN logo for your link. You’ll find an appropriately-sized version at the bottom of every page in the site except the home page.
  • If you have contacts in the media, make sure they know about VAN. A little media coverage of the site and of vocal ensemble music couldn’t hurt.
  • Speak kindly of Vocal Area Network, as so many of you have already done, especially if you meet singers who are new to New York.

Contribute information. Send us your concert listings, audition ads, postings for the Info Exchange and news about your organization. As always, we assure timely response and fast posting.

Place VAN Ads. Promote your auditions, concerts, CDs and services. At $35 for up to 2,500 impressions, it’s a deal that can’t be beat. Photocopying 2,500 flyers will cost $100 (at 4 cents a page). Sending 2,500 postcards will set you back $575 (and that’s just for postage, at 23 cents a pop). And a newspaper or radio ad will cost you even more.

Join the Sustaining Membership program. Your voluntary financial support keeps VAN’s services available and free.

Patronize our affiliate vendors. VAN continues its affiliations with Amazon.com (books, CDs, videos and more); Mainely A Cappella (vocal ensemble CDs); Sheet Music Plus (sheet music, songbooks and musicians' gear); J&R Music (CDs, audio/video equipment, computers); Lands' End (clothing); and Dell (computers, peripherals and software). VAN receives a referral fee on everything you purchase. Just start your shopping at our site and you'll be supporting VAN at no additional cost to you.

IN THE WORKS

We’re always looking to develop new services for our constituents. We welcome your ideas. Our efforts to prevent harvesting of Choir Directory e-mail addresses was spurred by input from our users.

We're still looking at reworking the way we list Sustaining Members on our Sustaining Membership page. Our goal is to recognize Sustaining Members who have made contributions within the current year while continuing to acknowledge the support received from Sustaining Members in previous years. And, because of the continued growth of the Choir Directory and Choir Auditions page, we're starting to think about better ways to make this expanding volume of information available to our site visitors.

That’s all for now. Thanks for your support. Enjoy the remaining days of summer, and do keep in touch.

Regards,

Steve Friedman
Vocal Area Network
steve.friedman@van.org

About VAN: Vocal Area Network was founded in 1995 to promote vocal ensemble music of all sorts in and around the New York City area. Though we’ve produced events of our own in past years, our focus today is on our web site where we provide a variety of information-sharing services for the vocal ensemble community. For more about Vocal Area Network, visit www.van.org/aboutVAN.htm.


APPENDIX: Highlights of the past year’s additions to the Links Collection (www.van.org/links.htm):
FindUsedCDs.com, a used CD comparison shopping site; Vocaland, a worldwide vocal arts forum; East Side Story, a Boston-based a cappella septet; Sarteano Chamber Choral Workshop, held in Tuscany in August; Vermont Vocal Foundation; Chocolate Pitch Pipes.com; Primrose Music, a UK-based outfit offering a cappella arrangements for choirs; The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music; Tipbook Vocals; Southern Fly-By-Night Singers, a mixed ensemble out of Nashville, TN; and Repertoire Online, offering vocal and choral music digital music files and printable sheet music, along with career support for singers, vocal teachers and vocal students.


Past VAN Reports
Summer 2003 edition
| Summer 2002 edition


VAN home  |  Concert Calendar  |  Choir Directory  |  Choir Auditions  |  Info Exchange  |  Links Collection
Advertise  |  Sustaining Membership  |  VAN Store  |  Feedback

Content Contact: Steve Friedman.
Revision Date: August 31, 2004.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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