Category Archives: Announcements

The next 20 years

Dear DepListers,

As DepList approaches the 20th anniversary of its first website, the time has come to think about DepList’s future ownership and management. 

When DepList began in 1999, it was as a PC-based mailing list, half the membership did not own a mobile phone and neither Facebook nor the smartphone had been invented. The website was launched a few months later, in January 2000. DepList as a concept has been very successful and has seen off a few short-lived competitors over the years. There have been about 700 members and 400 advertisers. A few members have sadly died and a few have gone on to make great careers. Interestingly, the number of active subscribers at any one time has remained pretty constant at between 200 and 300 members at any time throughout the 20 years. The number of job adverts that pass through DepList on a daily basis remains remarkably steady in spite of a declining trend in the use of traditional church music at services, weddings and funerals.

But technology evolves, and DepList now needs a more modern interface, possibly in the form of an app that would make it easier to instantly post ads, see which jobs were still vacant and let members customise their notification settings. I am not the person who can develop these things, particularly now that I run a busy B&B. Also, the admin side of things is now taking up too much of my time, so I would like to start preparing for my retirement from the service that two of us started 20 years ago. I hope to hand DepList over to someone who can take it to the next stage of development and continue to provide the service that I so wished had existed during my own singing career.

With this in mind, I have made the following changes:

(1) I have terminated all recurring PayPal payments so that when your subscription expires 12 months after making the last payment, there will be no more payments taken from your account. This will leave the path open to my successor to implement their own subscription policies. You will shortly receive notification from PayPal that your subscription has been terminated, but this of course will not affect your membership and you can continue to post and receive job adverts in the normal way.

(2) No new applications for membership will be accepted until after the handover. Application forms for membership and sponsorship on this website have now been disabled.

Please rest assured that the mailing list will continue to function as normal, with emails and job adverts being posted just as before, until I have handed over to a new owner/manager. The timing of my retirement will depend on how soon a successor can be found. When I leave, the website in its present form will disappear and it will be up to the new owner to rebuild DepList and to take it in whatever direction they want it to go.

With many thanks for the support of all the members and advertisers over the past 20 years. I hope to announce the change of ownership in my next post.

 

Corinne Orde

Slimline Website

DepList has revamped its website in accordance with the trend towards slimmer, more mobile-friendly sites. I've tried to pare it down as much as possible. If there's anything that's not clear or that doesn't work, let me know.

Busiest December ever

The Christmas season was DepList's busiest ever. Mhairi Ellis has kindly compiled some statistics for the month of December.

 

Voice or instrument Xmas Eve Xmas Day Other Dec services Carols Concerts
Soprano 8 2 13 14 1
Alto 7 1 5 15 2
Tenor 7 1 12 25 6
Bass 4 2 7 13 3
Organ 3 3 5 6 3

Spam policing makes life difficult

For years, it was possible for visitors to our site to fill out a job advert form, press "submit", pay their two quids' worth and send out their advert to all our members in the form of a direct email. Instant and easy. No intervention required by me, except gentle moderation and keeping an eye on what came through. It worked. It was great. There were seldom any problems and, thanks to the requirement to pay two quid, no spam users of this facility.

In recent months, however, first our server and then Google started blocking such messages and preventing them from even leaving the starting-blocks. I suspect this is the result of a global concerted effort by all servers and host providers to put in place more sophisticated anti-spam measures. I kept having to push more and more advertisements through manually, which was annoying at best, and disastrous at worst if I happened to be away from my computer for any length of time and the advert was for an urgent job placement.

I tried every trick in the book to get our system to work reliably once more, but every workaround had a downside and/or was not failsafe. One of these attempts to fix the problem led to some embarrassing incidents of mail with sensitive information, meant for my eyes only, getting posted to the whole list. Every time I had to go back to the drawing board, spending many fruitless hours on it, until I simply ran out of options to try. Eventually, after consultation with our form providers and our server, I was told that the only reliable way was to avoid the direct web-to-group system and to route everything through an authenticated SMTP email account, which had to be an account owned by me. So at first I routed all the web-based advertising submissions to the group via my own personal Gmail account. This was hardly an ideal situation. Luckily I found out that it was now possible for one person to have more than one Gmail account. This used not to be the case. So DepList now has its own dedicated gmail account for the sole purpose of gathering outside advertisements created on our website and then forwarding them automatically to the group. Unfortunately there is a compromise attached. The "reply to" field, which I had programmed to be the advertiser's email address, gets ignored and is replaced by the address of the new gmail account. As everything that comes in to that new account immediately gets sent to the group, anyone who is careless enough to use the "reply" button, instead of following the instructions for using the advertiser's contact details, will see their reply posted to the whole of DepList. This is unavoidable and is the price we have to pay for a system that now works in spite of the spam police.

Associate Member Advertising

Our Associate Member Advertising facility has moved to this section of our website. To post an advertisement as an Associate Member (i.e. without having to pay for it!), you will need to be logged in before the advertising form will be made visible. If you are not logged in you will simply be redirected to our Members' Area home page. If you've lost your password you can ask for a reset link to be sent to the email address associated with your membership. If your email address is not recognised please email us using one of the contact buttons in the main part of our website.

Why do we have to use PayPal?

I often get requests from Members for different payment options. Membership subs and adverts are paid for via PayPal. I used to allow other options, but not any more. There are too many members now. To create additional payment facilities would considerably increase my admin time and force me to increase the subscription fees, which I don't want to do, partly because I run DepList single-handedly and there's a limit to the amount of time I can devote to it. The PayPal system is actually an integral part of my record-keeping system, allowing me to find out quickly who has paid and who  is due to pay etc. It also makes things much simpler for my accountant and my end-of-year tax return, if everything to do with DepList comes through PayPal.

Keep those subs up to date

Last week I chucked about thirty members off the list. They'd all let their subs lapse. What a shame at this time of the year when jobs are coming in thick and fast. Some lapsed members are now trickling back, having cottoned on to the fact that their DepList in-box is strangely quiet. An email exchange ensues, which is time-consuming for me and time-consuming for those who have to go to the bother of re-joining. Best not to let it happen in the first place. There are ample notifications and warnings, so there's really no excuse!

Subscriptions and PayPal

Did you know you can avoid payment failure notices and subscription cancellations on PayPal by changing your payment settings in your PayPal account? By switching your method of payment from a card to an ordinary bank account you needn't worry about having to recreate your subscription payment facility every time your credit/debit card changes something about its details. Cards frequently change their expiry date or their 3-digit security code. Bank account details tend to stay the same for decades if not life!

Why Was I Rejected?

It's not as easy to join DepList as it might once have been. Our requirements have got stiffer over the years as the number of applicants has increased. We have a lot of members — more than we need — and we get new applications to join every week.

Unfortunately, it takes only one insufficiently skilled applicant slipping through the net to bring the whole organisation into question. Word of incompetence spreads fast in the musical world, and the last thing we want is for our users to lose faith in DepList and its quality-control systems. Over the years, we have had occasional complaints which have involved having to remove people from our books. They were lovely people, but unsuited to DepList. It's unpleasant for them and unpleasant for us to have to terminate their memberships. The only way to avoid such risks is to raise the entry barriers to a point where all doubt about an applicant's suitability is eliminated. Having said that, it's not impossibly difficult to attain the required standards — you just need the right type of training and enough of the right kind of experience. The main thing is not to apply before you are ready and/or if the bulk of your experience is in a different field of music-making.

If you received a rejection letter from us, you may find some clues as to why in our page about the type of qualifications and attributes we look for. Usually it's a question of experience, or rather lack of enough of the right type of it. The skills we demand from singers can more or less be summarised as follows:

  • Knowledge of, and excellent sight-reading in, the kind of repertoire that is DepList's staple diet
  • A voice that is sufficiently well trained to hold a line on its own
  • Impeccable credentials when it comes to professionalism, reliability and timekeeping
  • A good deal of professional experience in a particular type of context involving minimal rehearsal

We have to err on the side of caution when admitting new members. If just one of those four conditions falls anywhere short of the "excellent" end of the spectrum, you will not be admitted. Those who are not admitted to Full Membership are free to join as Associate Members.

New Mass Setting at Westminster Cathedral

The Music Makers are delighted to announce the liturgical première of Jeremy de Satgé's Westminster Mass for Boys’ Voices, at Westminster Cathedral on Tuesday, 14th January 2014, at the 5.30pm Mass. The Choristers of Westminster Cathedral Choir are directed by Martin Baker. You are warmly invited to attend the Mass. Follow this link more information about the music.