Influence 6: Scarcity

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scarcityPeople are, perversely, more motivated by the threat of losing or missing out on something than on gaining something. This is why advertising campaigns that say ‘Hurry! Only two whatevers remaining!’ work. People don’t want to miss out on their chance to gain a whatever if there are only two of them left, while they wouldn’t be bothered one way or the other if they could go get plentiful whatevers at their own leisure.

So, how does this impact on our work with choirs? As I mentioned in this post, it is something that we fight against if we have a regular rehearsal slot and other, competing events come along as a one-off. People would much rather skip a rehearsal (of which there will be another next week) than miss anything that will never happen again.

There are ways that we can leverage this principle, though, to get greater commitment from our singers:

One is to undertake a reasonably challenging performance schedule. If people think that there really aren’t that many rehearsals before their next performance, they become commensurately more valuable. Project choirs that meet for a limited period only running up to a concert have an in-built advantage in this way.

Another is to ration places in the choir. Auditions are not appropriate for every type of choir, but for those that use them, they give the signal that the right to sing in that group is relatively scarce. Likewise, limiting the number of places – and keeping a waiting list once it is full – provides a means to enhance the value of those places for participants, whether or not they are auditioned.

And we can also use this principle as a way to encourage engagement with repertoire. Choirs and their audiences can be somewhat habit-bound by the kinds of music they sing, so if you want to sell them something unusual, then it may work to do so in terms of there being not many opportunities to sing or to hear it. That immediately transforms the obscure into the special.

The principle of scarcity is also what helps produce a good turn-out when you have a visit from a choral clinician or performance coach (such as me, for instance). It isn’t just that the choir is making an investment in the service, or that it will be a fun and educational experience (important as both those factors are), it is because it doesn’t happen every week and people won’t want to miss out.

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