Ideas to Restart Your Concerts (#Covid)

Last Wednesday, a handful of hosts were able to join me on a Zoom call to discuss ideas and best practices for when we are ready to start hosting events again. In particular, how do we navigate audience size, promotion, proximity, food, bathrooms, schedule, etc.?

We didn’t cover everything, but here’s a recap of what we covered in 40 minutes.

How to Restart?

Start Small: LRN will recommend 50% capacity max for indoor shows. We’ll actively promote the TenTen Concerts format to encourage folks to do more shows, especially to help out local and regional acts.

Chairs: Spread them out more for obvious reasons, but also to minimize people touching each other’s chairs as they navigate to their seats.

Lodging: Book more local and regional acts who can drive home after the show.

Front Row: Singers/speakers have to project and can’t wear masks while performing, so it’s good to move the front row back further than usual.

Elderly and immunity-compromised guests should not be in the front row.

Outdoor setups provide more space, and allow people to bring their own chairs/picnic.

Merch Table: Disinfectant wipes should be available to wipe items.

Bath: Disinfectant wipes, lysol, etc. Enable people to clean whatever makes them more comfortable… toilet, doorknob, etc. One set concerts allow some guests to skip the bathroom altogether.

Food/Alcohol: Might be best to skip both – keep things simpler and cleaner. Invite guests to bring what they like, but not large portions for sharing.

 

Below are the suggestions I made before the conversation, which offer some additional context.

1. We’ll have to start small and/or outdoors for maximum safety. The point is to allow people plenty of space, not just between seats but extra space to walk around, especially in the congested areas. Consider limiting to HALF your previous capacity.

2. If possible start with local regional acts. With so much uncertainty, artists cannot confidently plan long trips. They will not be able to absorb cancellation costs or barely profitable touring anymore. Every gig has to make sense on its own. That means drastically reduced travel for the near term. Of course, if you have existing bookings, you should honor those if they still work for your artists.

3. We’ll have to limit the buffet and food sharing. There might be some creative answers here, but I think people will be most comfortable eating at home. Please consider how that might affect alcohol consumption… serving alcohol without food can be more risky.

4. We’ll have to be vigilant about safety and backup plans. What if you are scheduled to host a show in two days and now you have a cold/fever? Backup hosts/spaces would be very advisable. I recommend partnering with another local host for each event, especially if you do book an act that will be traveling. ONE of us will host this thing!
Also, audience members can be encouraged to wear masks. Have a “best mask contest” for each show!

5. Flexible pricing – if a number of our potential guests have lost work or income, it might be worthwhile to ask/promote a looser policy for donations. Please give less if you must, please give more if you can.

6. Smaller = more shows?
This probably sounds ambitious, but smaller shows are easier, and we’ll all be missing the opportunity to connect. Small house concerts will be one of the best ways to reconnect safely.

House Concert Contracts (Nontract?)

Over the years, many hosts have asked about contracts, which are sometimes sent by an agent representing the artist.

Avoiding Contracts?

Artists and agents, as they get more established, find it increasingly worthwhile to have signed contracts to protect their income and to develop standard expectations while on the road. Venues are accustomed to contracts, which often include a “rider” that spells out what the act expects on stage (tech rider) as well as accommodations – lodging, food, transportation and more. These riders can be a single-page, but are often 3-5 pages for a small act, and hundreds of pages for rock stars playing stadium shows.

House concerts rarely involve contracts. As you might expect, contracts and riders could prove intimidating for a house concert host, who is not running a business, but stepping up as a volunteer promoter. In addition, there are important reasons to avoid contracts for house concerts.

If the host signs a contract, it suggests the host is involved in the commercial aspect of the activity, instead of inviting friends over and allowing the artist to collect donations. Local zoning boards, insurance companies, the IRS, and other officials could take issue with a commercial activity in the home.

As covered in our chapter “Confirming the Show,” house concert details are best handled by email, which makes for a sufficient digital handshake. It is important to clearly state the expectations of the host and the artist/agent.

Here is what we tell our hosts at Listening Room Network

  • never sign anything that makes you uncomfortable
  • never agree to deliver something you “hope” you can make happen
  • only agree to a “guarantee” you can cover without missing a car payment

One of our European hosts emailed because she had just received a contract from a booking agent. She hadn’t seen that before, and wanted advice. There is a chapter on this in the upcoming book, but what do you think of my response?
“We do not recommend contracts for house concerts, but it is not unusual for agents to ask for them. My recommendation:

I would say “I don’t sign contracts because I am a volunteer host, not a business. However, I agree to do my best for [artist] according to the emails we have exchanged.”
If you are comfortable offering a guarantee (amount is up to you), I would also say “I do understand you are looking out for your artist, and that there are travel expenses. I can guarantee €100 in donations for this booking – if the collected donations are below €100, I will make up the difference to reach the minimum guarantee.” [You can guarantee less or more, the amount is up to you. Donations/guarantees are not affected by merchandise sales.]
If you like, instead of a contract, it is nice to make a summary email that describes the responsibilities of each person. It can look like a contract, but does not require signatures.

Again, don’t sign anything that makes you uncomfortable.

Are contracts evil? Are they enforceable? Will someone get sued?
(No. Maybe. Probably not.)

House concerts are a personal experience, and these events can cross a lot of territory that wouldn’t ordinarily happen with a traditional venue. If you have 5 roosters in the backyard that start crowing at 4:30am – you’ll want to bring that up, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a reliable tool to remind you.

In this spirit, it is helpful for hosts to have a checklist or fact sheet they can offer to the performers. Skip the signatures and have a simple email like this ready to go when you book an artist for a house concert

If we had to make a house concert contract, it might look something like the next page.

The House Concert “Nontract”

Artist Name: ________________ Agent/Solvent (if any)_____________________
Host with the Most Name:______________________
Both partiers, artist and host, make this agreement in order to create a fantastic, fun time, and to make sure they are aware of their responsibility doodads to make that happen.
________ is the date the house concert will take place
________ is the time the show will start
between ______ and _______ is the time the artist should arrive
the artist will perform ____ minutes, take a break, and then play ____ minutes more – give or take a few.

Artist (initial all that apply)
__ will show up on time, sober, friendly, and ready to entertain.
__ will remain at least as sober as the host.
__ is comfortable with house hold pets, except _______ and tarantulas.
__ will be friendly to the audience/hosts/guests, but may require some alone time and space before the start of the show.
__ will respect the home, and not leave wet towels on hardwood floors.
__ will honor the smoking policy, and does/does not need a convenient place to shoot up.
__ is comfortable with the host’s requirement of a show that would not be rated more than G/PG/R/X in content.

Host (initial all that apply)
__ have food for the artist, most likely _______
__ have a bed or room for the artist’s to stay the night. Bed will be free of teddy bears.
__ provide an obvious, marked container for guests to place the suggested donation (e.g. suggested donation: $15)
__ will/will not allow children to attend. Teenagers untethered to iPhones may attend.

Both parties are aware that brown stuff can hit the fan. That said, both artist and host will do their utmost to uphold this agreement. If the event must be cancelled, both parties will be as accommodating as possible, by doing things like adapting, re-scheduling, buying a few CDs, sending chocolates or whatever it is that a kind person would do. Artist will be aware that the host may have put a lot of time and effort into promoting the show, and the host will remember that an artist may have significant travel expenses as a result of the booking.

This agreement should not be entered into lightly. Therefore, we put on our serious faces and sign below.
______________
artist
______________
host

Each party (and the NSA) will keep this for reference.

House Concerts Safer Outside?

It’s never too early to plan. There is plenty of evidence that viruses are less contagious outdoors, and that small gatherings are safer than large gatherings.

At some point, we’ll make the decision that the joy of musical gatherings is greater than the diminishing risks of Covid-19. That time is not now, but it will come.

I believe house concerts are a great opportunity for us to slowly emerge from isolation, and to create small, safe events to re-engage with live music. If you have a house concert series, take a moment to consider the following.

1. How could you have your events outside?
2. How would you minimize contact points (no pot-luck, etc)?
3. How would you make necessary contact points (bathrooms) safer/cleaner?
4. How would you limit audience size (what #) to allow more space between guests.

Remember, this is about starting small and safe. Artists WILL adjust to smaller audiences for a while.

If you have other suggestions or questions to add, please email fran@listeningroomnetwork.com to help improve this post.

LRN extends all artist memberships by 2 months.

Even though we’re still seeing a little bit of booking activity, we’re adding 2 months to the memberships of all our active artists. This will prevent artists from being asked to renew during this difficult time, but also compensate everyone for the downturn.

In addition, we’ve had a successful launch of our Sponsored Livestream program, enabling fans and hosts to contribute to livestreams directly from our calendars, as well creating a general livestream fund. 100% of donations go to LRN artists, and our goal is to get $50 to every artist on the site if they list a livestream concert.

Thanks for being part of our community.

akprattheaderfull

LRN Launches Livestream Fund to Support Artists.

We’re building a Livestream Fund – your input please!

Since livestreamed shows will be the primary income of many artists for an extended period of time, we want to help LRN artists by subsidizing and promoting their livestreams.
Within a few days, I’d like to announce a list of private and corporate sponsors who will support a package of livestreamed shows. For example, $250 could give $50 to five performances.
You may have already noticed this page, which is growing by the day. https://my.listeningroomnetwork.com/events/stream
Artists typically post donate/payment links with their streams, so we are looking to supplement, not replace, that income.

Questions:

  1. I’d prefer not to take a percentage of this fund, but administering this program will cost money (web development, accounting, cc fees.) So I’m curious if you’d prefer to see me do a separate ask for these funds, or if I should take a small percentage (less than 5%) to make things simpler.
  2. We have one committed donor so far ($2000) and that would help us start by subsidizing 40 shows at $50 each. Would you rather see us promote fewer shows and subsidize at $100 each?
  3. If you are interested in supporting this, please PM me privately if you wish. fran@listeningroomnetwork.com
I understand that many hosts are affected by the economic situation, so please make sure you and your family are safe and secure before taking on additional responsibility like this.
Grateful for all of you. Please share any thoughts on how we could improve this idea.

Re-Scheduled LRFest offers online performance schedule

The 9th Annual Listening Room Festival has been re-scheduled for November, but festival artists will be streaming live performances on March 27, 28, 29 to give festival fans an alternative way to hear their music as a festival preview.

#LRFest, part of the Listening Room Network (LRN), is a unique festival that promotes concerts in living rooms and other unique, non-traditional spaces. Dozens of house concerts were scheduled around Tampa Bay, as well as a showcase at the Palladium Theater in St. Pete. The showcase is the largest and most public event of the festival, and draws 500-600 attendees.

The upside is that now you don’t need to be a member of LRN, you don’t need a special invitation to hear this year’s festival talent. The schedule is as follows.

Friday, March 27 (all times E.S.T. zone)
7:45 PM Fran Snyder Intro/Comments
8:00 PM Twin Kennedy
8:30 PM Kevin Daniel
9:00 PM Joy Ike
9:30 PM Amy Bishop
10:00 PM The Young Novelists
Saturday, March 28
6:45 PM Fran Snyder – Intro/Comments
7:00 PM The Young Novelists
7:30 PM Amy Bishop
8:00 PM Joy Ike
8:30 PM Kevin Daniel
9:00 PM Fran Snyder
Sunday, March 29
3:45 PM Fran Snyder – Intro/Comments
4PM Twin Kennedy
4:30 Amy Bishop
5PM The Young Novelists
5:30 Kevin Daniel
6PM Joy Ike

Performers:

Fran Snyder – festival founder, organizer, and St. Pete local, will be playing one set Saturday night and giving a little intro and history of the festival 15 minutes prior to the first act.

Joy Ike – performing live from Philadelphia, with her sister Peace Ike, on drums.

Kevin Miller – performing live from home in Brooklyn, NY.

Amy Bishop – performing live from home in Calgary, AB.

The Young Novelists – performing live at home from Toronto.

Twin Kennedy – performing live from their living room in Nashville, TN.

 

How to watch the livestreams:

Visit https://my.listeningroomnetwork.com/events/stream for the list of performances and links to each performance! Performances are technically free, but viewers will be encouraged to donate directly to the artists via paypal or other links.

 

Listening Room Festival’s in person, live events are rescheduled for November 11-15, 2020. Tickets available at http://www.ListeningRoomFestival.com

Sponsored by TrueFire.

LRF20postcardfront

Small events will lead the music recovery.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 12.12.47 PM

I want to share some of my thoughts regarding the future of LRN, and our independent artists who embrace house concerts and small events as vital to their careers. Of course, at this moment, all events, public and private have been severely hampered or stopped.

In the near term, many commercial venues are likely to go out of business – venues that are unable to weather the drastic and sustained interruption of their business. The ones that go under are unlikely to come back quickly.

However, as covid-19 gets under control, as a large percentage of people become immune to it, music events will make a resurgence. The venues that manage to survive will find themselves with a bit less competition, and a thrilled clientele eager to celebrate and participate in the live music experience again.

House concerts, due to their volunteer nature, don’t become business failures. Although many hosts will suffer financial set-backs, the reality is that house concerts don’t require more than a space, an audience, and a musician. These personal, home-based events will become more vital than ever to re-start the touring careers of independent artists.

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It’s also likely that small events will be the most advisable, due to lesser chance of viral transmission. Consequently, potluck dinners may need to stay off the music menu for a while. Hand-washing, elbow bumps, and electronic donations may also cement their place in our live music culture. I’d also bet that live-streaming these events will become the norm… pay little more to be there, chip in a bit less to watch online.

My message, of course, is that music isn’t going away. It’ll float online for a while, it’ll bring us together in small groups eventually, and house concerts will lead the way.

Stay tuned. Join us.We plan to be out front.

Fran Snyder

ListeningRoomNetwork.com