Statistical Findings

Statistical Findings: How Often Do A Cappella Groups Serve the Community or Charities?

In the fall of 2010, The A Cappella Blog invited every collegiate a cappella group we could find to participate in a survey. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of current trends in a cappella—what groups are or are not doing and to what degree.

Over 300 groups from across the US and abroad responded to the survey. Throughout our 2010 publication season, we will review results from this survey and talk about what our findings mean. We welcome and encourage groups to look over the information to learn, to benchmark and to satisfy their own curiosity.

This edition’s questions:
How many times did your group perform at a community event, local school, or similar event outside your college or university this year?
How much money did your group raise or donate to or for any charitable or community cause over the last year?

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As the sheer number and the profile of collegiate a cappella groups has grown, has their social consciousness grow in kind? Of the groups surveyed, 88 percent reported that they performed in their local communities twice or more in the last year. Just under half of the groups reported they had raised money for charities last year, including 12 percent that had donated $1,000 or more (and note, 20 percent didn’t know how much they had raised, which means it is possible they also raised some—perhaps even a great deal—of money).

And so, it’s fair to say that groups are giving back. Understandably, using a group’s natural talents for performance is more common that raising money. This is, usually, logistically easier to do and marks a terrific hands on way for an a cappella group to serve its community, whether they visit a school, or attend a community event.

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It can be a sticky thing to raise money in the collegiate setting. College students are often strapped for cash, and reluctant to pay to attend a show; parents are often tapped out on their sons and daughters’ tuition payments. Nonetheless, if a group remains focused and saves accordingly from an assortment of private gigs, and CD and ticket sales, and/or makes a point of advertising that the money they raise is going toward a good cause, it is possible to make financial contributions to the larger community as well.

Statistical Findings: How Many A Cappella Group Names are Puns?

In the fall of 2010, The A Cappella Blog invited every collegiate a cappella group we could find to participate in a survey. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of current trends in a cappella—what groups are or are not doing and to what degree.

Over 300 groups from across the US and abroad responded to the survey. Throughout our 2010 publication season, we will review results from this survey and talk about what our findings mean. We welcome and encourage groups to look over the information to learn, to benchmark and to satisfy their own curiosity.

This edition’s question: Is your group’s name a pun or play on words?

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Although popular wisdom would lead you to believe that the vast majority of a cappella group names are puns or plays on words, the groups that responded to the survey suggested that it’s almost a dead-even split between puns and non-puns.

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Granted, there is some room for ambiguity here as the term “play on words” is a little arbitrary. The six percent of groups who answered indecisively supports this reading, and it’s difficult to tell how many of those “no” responses may have been on the fence. Meanwhile, it does also make sense that musical pun names are starting to run out. While new ones will pop up each year, there may well be a trend emerging of groups adopting names more linked to their schools or to their identities as a group. Regardless of the rationale, it seems as though puns are not the dominant force in a cappella names that some might suspect them to be.

Statistical Findings: Where Are A Cappella Groups Performing?

In the fall of 2010, The A Cappella Blog invited every collegiate a cappella group we could find to participate in a survey. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of current trends in a cappella—what groups are or are not doing and to what degree.

Over 300 groups from across the US and abroad responded to the survey. Throughout our 2010 publication season, we will review results from this survey and talk about what our findings mean. We welcome and encourage groups to look over the information to learn, to benchmark and to satisfy their own curiosity.

This edition’s question: How many different venues did your group perform in last year?

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Of the groups surveyed, over 43 percent reported that they performed in more than 10 different venues last year. Over 90 percent of the groups reported performing four or more locations. It’s clear that groups are not sitting tight at just one performance spot, but rather are getting around campus and beyond.

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These numbers suggest that groups are invested in reaching beyond an isolated audience. Historically, a number of groups sat tight, performing on a single stage in the school of music. Today’s groups are performing at events around campus, whether it’s a concert or just a song or two to provide entertainment for an event. Groups are performing at events like Relay for Life or for other charitable causes at school and in the community. All of this on top of acting as guest groups, touring and competing—groups are getting around.

Statistical Findings: How Many Drummers Do A Cappella Groups Have?

In the fall of 2010, The A Cappella Blog invited every collegiate a cappella group we could find to participate in a survey. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of current trends in a cappella—what groups are or are not doing and to what degree.

Over 300 groups from across the US and abroad responded to the survey. Throughout our 2010 publication season, we will review results from this survey and talk about what our findings mean. We welcome and encourage groups to look over the information to learn, to benchmark and to satisfy their own curiosity.

This edition’s question: How many different vocal percussions did your group have last year?

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Of the groups surveyed, just over 55 percent reported that they have two-to-three vocal percussionists. Overall, over 93 percent of groups indicated that five or fewer of their members do percussion for them, including over five percent of groups who indicated that no one does percussion for the group at all.

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It’s interesting to note these statistics in juxtaposition with our finding on the number of soloists each group had. While more than half of most group’s members get solos, a far smaller percentage ever pick up the perc mic. There can be a number of reasons for this. For one, vocal percussion is a specialized skill, and one that it can take some real dedication and time for someone to learn to do. Furthermore, unless you’re exceptional at what you do, drumming isn’t necessarily the most glorious role to take on stage, and so there may not exactly be new members clamoring for it. Finally, I’ve been personally acquainted with groups that brought in a member or two for the specific purpose of drumming. Such members didn’t necessarily have the singing chops to be in the group otherwise, but played their roles well, and so had that dedicated role for just about every song for their tenures with the group.

Statistical Findings: How Many Soloists Do A Cappella Groups Have?

In the fall of 2010, The A Cappella Blog invited every collegiate a cappella group we could find to participate in a survey. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of current trends in a cappella—what groups are or are not doing and to what degree.

Over 300 groups from across the US and abroad responded to the survey. Throughout our 2010 publication season, we will review results from this survey and talk about what our findings mean. We welcome and encourage groups to look over the information to learn, to benchmark and to satisfy their own curiosity.

This edition’s question: How many different soloists did your group have last year?

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Of the groups surveyed, only four percent depended upon three or fewer soloists. Groups seem to lean much more toward a wide range of soloists, with nearly 38 percent reporting seven to nine soloists in the past year, over 20 percent offering up four to six soloists or ten to twelve different soloists. Fifteen percent of groups even went so far as to have more than 12 different singers take the fore. A part of this statistic may be skewed as the question did not account for songs with dual or alternating soloists.

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The decision to have so many soloists is indicative of a number of a number of things. For one, there’s the suggestion of a communal spirit—groups spreading the solo wealth and appreciating that most singers will appreciate the opportunity to have at least one solo. Furthermore, it gives groups the opportunity to showcase a bevy of different talents, and in so doing appeal to different audience members. Hand in hand with this, a variety of soloists affords a group greater opportunities to perform music by a variety artists and from a variety of genres. On top of all of this, there’s a certain pragmatism to having a large roster of soloists—if someone gets sick or can’t make a show, it makes the group less dependent on a select few, and better prepared to adapt and perform different material.

Statistical Findings: How Often Do A Cappella Groups Rehearse?

In the fall of 2010, The A Cappella Blog invited every collegiate a cappella group we could find to participate in a survey. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of current trends in a cappella—what groups are or are not doing and to what degree.

Over 300 groups from across the US and abroad responded to the survey. Throughout our 2010 publication season, we will review results from this survey and talk about what our findings mean. We welcome and encourage groups to look over the information to learn, to benchmark and to satisfy their own curiosity.

This edition’s question: How often does your group rehearse?

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Of the groups surveyed, just over 50 percent reported that they rehearse three times per week, while an additional 40 percent said that they practice twice each week. Six percent went so far as practice four or more times each week. From these numbers, the message is consistent—the vast majority of a cappella groups are rehearsing quite frequently.

The amount of rehearsal time suggests a shift to groups taking themselves more seriously. These aren’t groups in name that get together a few times a semester to throw together a big show. They’re finely tuned music machines, practicing regularly—learning new material and refining the old—to be prepared for numerous engagements around campus each month, in addition to the big shows, competitions and touring. The days of more casual participation, at least for the average a cappella group, may have passed.

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A direct result of the sheer volume of rehearsals may be the intensity of social connections between group members. This is not a new phenomena, but given the amount of time these students are spending together, there is little doubt that a cappella groups remain social groups, which underscores the importance of being critical during the audition and selection process of not just musical talents personality types that will mesh with the group dynamic.

Statistical Findings: Do Collegiate A Cappella Groups Have Uniforms?

In the fall of 2010, The A Cappella Blog invited every collegiate a cappella group we could find to participate in a survey. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of current trends in a cappella—what groups are or are not doing and to what degree.

Over 300 groups from across the US and abroad responded to the survey. Throughout our 2010 publication season, we will review results from this survey and talk about what our findings mean. We welcome and encourage groups to look over the information to learn, to benchmark and to satisfy their own curiosity.

This edition’s question: Does your group have a set uniform or set of outfits it typically wears on stage?

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Of the groups surveyed, 68 percent indicated that they do have a uniform of some sort that the group wears on stage. This figure suggests that groups are quite conscious of appearance, and whether they strive to be more professional, or more visibly casual, groups are recognizing a certain merit in presenting united front, at least from a visual perspective.

A group’s attire can go a long way toward establishing its identity. Again, the decision to wear evening gowns or blazers is quite different the statement groups make when they take the stage in baseball jerseys or funny hats. In either case, though, the group is setting up expectations and distinguishing itself from the crowd. It not only creates cohesion on the stage, but can also be effective off of it. If someone sees a guy in black collared shirt, colorful tie, jeans, and Converse All-Stars on the Syracuse University campus, they know he’s a part of Orange Appeal—or if they don’t, there’s surely someone around who can tell them. In this way, a uniform helps group members stand out, and works as a very informal promotional tool.

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Despite the benefits of developing a uniform, 32 percent of the surveyed groups indicated that they do not have a standard dress code. A part of this result may be a consequence of ambiguity in the way the question was worded—if everyone dresses in black, does that count as a uniform? Otherwise, there are surely groups that seek to preserve member individuality, and consciously choose not to assign attire.

Overall, over two-thirds of the surveyed groups indicated that they do dress alike on stage, though, confirming that many groups do find a certain level of visual uniformity important.

Statistical Findings: How Many New Songs Do A Cappella Groups Learn in a Year?

In the fall of 2010, The A Cappella Blog invited every collegiate a cappella group we could find to participate in a survey. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of current trends in a cappella—what groups are or are not doing and to what degree.

Over 300 groups from across the US and abroad responded to the survey. Throughout our 2010 publication season, we will review results from this survey and talk about what our findings mean. We welcome and encourage groups to look over the information to learn, to benchmark and to satisfy their own curiosity.

This edition’s question: How many songs did your group learn over the last year?

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The groups surveyed reported a fairly wide range when it came to the number of songs they had learned in the past year. The highest percentage, 33, had learned six-to-10 songs, while next highest number of groups came in at 11-to-15 songs per year.

It makes sense that different groups would learn different numbers of songs. Two of the leading factors would include scheduling and quality. As we’ve documented earlier, some groups perform as frequently as multiple times in a given week, while others still focus on semesterly shows. Some groups tour, others compete. Some groups are trying to record new CDs, other just want to rack up a viral video on YouTube. Each of these choices warrants different breadths of song catalogs—as a general rule, the more frequently a group is performing, the more new material it will need to keep the act fresh. By the same token, if a group is zoning in on perfecting solely its three song competition set, it’s not likely to learn much beyond those three songs, and maybe a fourth song to serve as an encore.

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The number of new songs a group learns also depends on where the arrangements are coming from. Those groups that pay professionals for a significant portion of their arrangements probably just can’t afford to pick many new pieces. Groups dependent on alumni arrangers may find that their source doesn’t have the time to really focus on the group; or, conversely, that an alumnus is hung up on the group and can’t think of anything else, which results in a plethora of new material with which to work.

Nonetheless, over 89 percent of groups ultimately report that their learning six or more songs in a given year, which indicates that groups are generally staying busy, and busy and working hard to assimilate new material into their repertoires.

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