It seems that once you become director of a chamber choir, you are immediately added to a list of conductors to whom composers from all over the world send PDF's and post mail samples of their works. In the last five years, I have accumulated about one hundred new compositions, and admittedly most of them are still in their envelopes, having never been looked at, and only one of those (after much persistence from the composer) I have programmed, and even that piece had been performed before by another choir before.
It's made me think a bit recently of what is it that attracts choral conductors to new works, and why it is that of the many compositions we receive each year, it is unlikely that any of them will actually be programmed ... ever.
Here are my thoughts. When a composer "gives" a work to a solo performer, the chances that the work will be performed seems somewhat higher (although I have no idea how much higher). Quite often, the solo performer IS the composer. However, when it comes to choirs and orchestras, you are dealing with a large number of people, a board of directors, and a fairly consistent audience base. The risk of performing an unsuccessful work has implications that affect a great number of people.
So how do artistic directors choose "new" music? Often music that is premiered at conferences such as Podium, or ACDA conferences will have an effect on a large number of conductors. Reading sessions at these conferences as well are a great way to see a host of new works, and sing them through with other conductors. Recordings and live broadcasts of new works will likely get a second glance. After that, once a composer has a reputation of being a fine choral composer, they open up doors for commissions - which in my experience is where the highest number of "world premiere" performances come from. Since I've been with Da Camera, we have performed two commissions, and have another coming this year. The main reason for this is they look great on grant applications. Plus there is also nothing quite like the incentive of putting money into to something that will see a project through to its completion.
How many compositions have you performed of works that you have received by email or post mail? What percentage of new works that you perform are commissions? What is the best outlet for you to find "new" music?