Promoting Your House Concerts to People You Don’t Know

At ConcertsInYourHome we advocate for the safest practices, to protect the host and everyone in their home. The safest audience is a small one, exclusively with people you know well. Of course, that often runs contrary to your attendance goals. Below I’ll describe the safest ways we’ve found to grow your audience. Use these strategies to grow your mailing list – one that is full of people you trust to treat your home and your artists with respect.

You should consult with your attorney for legal advice. There is very little case law on house concerts, and zoning, permits and laws vary from city to city. Advice from ConcertsInYourHome is based on 10+ years of experience, to help hosts think about the pitfalls of inviting strangers into your home, and to explore creative solutions for those who want to quickly expand their audience and circle of friends.

Private vs. Public Events

For your safety, do not treat your home like a public venue.

Public venues need:

  • Business insurance
  • Zoning permits
  • Performing rights licenses

As a house concert host, you’ll invite friends, neighbors, co-workers, friends of friends… everyone in your home should be connected to you in some way. You’ll create a mailing list with these people, and expand the list with people you meet in person or online. For every show, you’ll make an RSVP list, which you will keep at the door for when your guests arrive.

The basics of safely growing your house concert mailing list.

Meet people ->  Invite them to join your mailing list

Getting started:

  • Create a mailing list of everyone you know
  • Encourage them to bring friends to your events, and invite these new friends to join your mailing list.
  • Be social in person and online and talk to people about your house concerts, get their email addresses if they’d like an invitation.

Now let’s cover how to safely promote your shows, how that applies to social media, and websites, and how you should limit promotion by your performers.

Facebook

Let’s cover a few principles, as they pertain to Facebook, and you can use the same logic to make your best judgement about other Social Media.

A few principles: Social media can be public OR private, based on the website you use and how you use them. For example:

As of May 2016, you can set your Facebook profile in several ways:

  • Public (anyone off or on Facebook can see it)
  • Friends (only your Facebook friends can see it)
  • Only Me (like a personal scrapbook)
  • Custom

Even individual posts and Facebook events can have their own privacy settings, so it’s a matter of choosing the best option for you. The important thing is to not choose Public when promoting a private event.

Meetup.com and Next Door App.

Whatever social media and apps that you use to grow your network, the same principles apply. It’s important to have a social exchange before inviting new people into your home.

How to have social exchanges before inviting them to a show:

  • Email – not just “here’s the address” but “what do you do?” and “have you been to a house concert before?” and “what are some of your favorite acts?”
  • Facebook friendship: you can learn a lot about someone this way, and maybe even create genuine friendships.
  • Coffee – safe and easy way to go beyond emails
  • Networking group – most social groups you belong to are a good source of people you can introduce to your house concerts.
  • ConcertsInYourHome and LRN – meeting other hosts in your region, and attending concerts at public listening rooms is another great way to meet like-minded people.
  • Introductions by friends – encourage your friends to talk about your concerts.
  • ConcertsInYourHome card – same size as a business card that you carry with you. “I host concerts in my home. If you’d like to be invited to one of my exclusive shows, send me an email at …. “

Performers

Performers by default are public figures, and that makes their websites and email list a public promotion. If your concert is listed on their website, it can be considered a public event. [This is a fact. Authorities have acted on information from artist websites, and most artists are unaware of this – they will list your info on their website unless you tell them not to.]

First, it is very common and tempting for hosts to want to have artists help fill seats. Artists are often happy to help (if they can) by emailing their fans in the area, because that can create a bigger show and earn more money. The challenge is they don’t personally know most people on their list, and inviting unknown fans to your home poses TWO types of risks – 1. making your event public, and 2. having complete strangers in your home.

It’s important to take a sober look at the risks you take when you have any gathering in your home. People can damage items, steal, or even fall and hurt themselves. These problems are rare and could even be trivial. But there is always a chance it could be serious. That’s why we advocate for the safest practices.

Can performers help at all?

Here’s what we recommend:

If the artist wants to list your house concert on their website, tell them to list it like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 10.38.46 AM

Notice that the host’s email address, phone number, or street address are not publicly listed. The reader would have to use the email form on the artist website to ask for an introduction.

Now, the artists can vet (approve) the fan and introduce them to you the host, like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 10.42.56 AM

Of course, the decision to invite Ben is up to you. Friending him on Facebook or exchanging a few emails begins a relationship that takes it beyond “someone who just asked if they could come.” You’ve been introduced (by the band) and you’ve communicated, and you’ve added them to your guest list.

Again, there’s no case law on this, but doesn’t this sound safer than having musicians invite every bar patron they’ve played for?

Keeping Your People

One of the most important things you can do is put on great events. That includes booking great acts, but also adding your personal touch to make people feel welcome and wonderful in your home. Not everyone will come back. Some will be hooked. The majority of people, however, will make their decision to return based on the quality of the experience, and their confidence that they will have a great time – every time.

If you can keep people coming back, and inspire them to invite new friends, you won’t have to work very hard to grow your mailing list.

Setting the Right Expectations with Your Artists

It is important to make sure your act does not have expectations that are hard for you to deliver. If you offer your artists a financial guarantee that you are comfortable with, that can make things less stressful for both of you. But often, hosts set an audience target that is unrealistic and wind up disappointing themselves and the artist. Even if you think you can get 35 people, there’s no reason to make the artist expect that. Understate your numbers so that you can pleasantly surprise the artist. Otherwise you risk letting them down.

Grow Your Mailing List, and Keep Your Events Safe

Public venues are specifically designed and operated to deal with the public, and the responsibilities associated with dealing with strangers. Insurance, trained staff, observance of fire codes, and proper licensing are all required.

Don’t pretend that your home is a proper place for public events. There is no sin in having small events that are a good fit for your home and friends, as long as you are clear with your performers about the opportunity you offer. Through ConcertsInYourHome and beyond, you will find amazing artists who need house concerts to establish or enhance their fanbase in your city or town. If you can work with their schedule, and provide perks like lodging, food, and a respectful audience, you’ll find that many will appreciate your efforts and leave you and your audience delighted.

Listening Room Festival 2016 Recap/Video

Our sixth festival was our biggest ever. With 50+ performances, including 3 showcase nights, dozens of house concerts and office concerts. Our goal with each festival is to attract and inspire new hosts, new fans, and create an amazing experience for our artists. We’re delighted to again accomplish all of these.

In particular, the festival is designed to create a foothold audience for each of the performing acts, so they can return yearly for a profitable and enjoyable tour of Florida. The bonus is that they actually make money and have a great time while planting these seeds.

For our hosts and fans, it’s wonderful to bring everyone together once a year. Many hosts attend to make new friendships as well as hear great music. Join us for LRF17.

http://www.ListeningRoomFestival.com

Artist Applications close May 31.

Video by Donna Green.

Are you applying to the right festivals?

For artists who want to prospect for opportunities at festivals and conferences, there’s a lot of choices out there. When deciding whether or not to apply or attend, costs are often the deciding factor.

So let’s start with the costs of applying and attending.

Festival/Conference Expenses

  • Application Fee
  • Showcase Fee
  • Hotel/Camping Costs
  • Food Costs
  • Booth, Program, Printing/Marketing Costs
  • Travel Costs

Artists often pay $2000 or more to perform at festivals and conferences, going into debt for a chance at getting gigs to recoup over the following years.

Other factors and criteria

A lot of preparation often goes into these trips, and much of that centers around making your act stand out among dozens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of artists. Aside from getting invited, and getting there, you have to put extreme effort to get people to notice you and/or attend your showcase performances.

Results?

Results vary greatly. Most artists have to justify the trip with the intangible benefits of a fun and exciting weekend, because the resulting gigs are too few and too small to recoup their investment.

Is there another way?

I’ve been frustrated by this model for a long time, and six years ago I created something very different. Our Listening Room Festival was designed to create a profitable tour in addition to a showcase opportunity, in front of the largest gathering of house concert presenters in the world.

application_banner_2017 (2)

Here’s how It works.

  • One fee – the application.
  • Bonus for all applicants – Most judges are active house concert presenters – showcase or not, you get seen by people who can book you.

Listening Room Festival Acts get:

  • Bookings – at 2-4 house concerts and a powerful showcase.
  • Lodging – covered by volunteer hosts, some meals included.
  • Extra – free membership to ConcertsInYourHome.com * ($245 value)
  • Travel – not covered, but many acts use CIYH network to book house concerts to and from the festival.

Most importantly, most of the shows require very little promotion, and this may be the only festival or conference where there are more gigs/venues than artists.

We tweak this model every year, but we’re delighted with the results and the amazing talent we’ve attracted and served. Most of them plant enough seeds in one weekend to make Florida one of their favorite states to tour every year.

Now is the time to apply for LRFest18… application deadline is June 30, 2017.

*6 month membership awarded to artists who are not members of CIYH. Acts who are already members of CIYH are awarded 3 extra months to their membership.

Reviews/Recommendations – Enhance and Protect our Community

After each concert listed at CIYH, the host and artist receive an email asking for feedback about the show. They login and see two boxes. The first box is for a recommendation – only if they sincerely would recommend this act/host. The second box is for a review, usually constructive criticism about the show, which will only be seen by CIYH staff. This is how we take care of each other.

Or not.

A few years ago, I received a call from a disappointed act. They had driven some distance to go play a house concert. When they arrived, the host told them

  1. they didn’t know if anybody was coming, and
  2. it would be best to set up in the driveway, next to the big pile of dirt.

The act decided to pass on that opportunity, packed up and left. Once they told me the story, I checked with the artists who had played this house before. Turns out, the previous act had the same. exact. story. For some reason, they never felt it was important to tell us about it, so they failed to help us prevent an easily avoidable failure.

Sincere feedback benefits everyone in our community.

While the above case is obvious and rare, what is equally damaging is the number of cases where things don’t go well, and the artist/host fails to provide constructive feedback to CIYH. Or cases where “recommendations are exchanged” even if one of the participants would not make that recommendation if asked discreetly.

There is an understandable “fear of burning bridges,” especially among artists. After all, the hosts are volunteers, and sometimes put significant effort into their events even when they don’t go well. It can be a challenge for grateful artists to offer constructive criticism of a volunteer. But how else can a host learn and improve? Your feedback can also help CIYH develop better coaching for new members!

Similarly, hosts are sometimes asked by artists for their recommendations, unaware that the host was not that impressed with the show. Even the best acts can turn in a lackluster performance from time to time, and it can be damaging to their career to have everyone saying the show is great when it isn’t.

Reviews and recommendations are not social currency. The nicest thing is to tell the truth, and here’s how we make it easy for you at CIYH.

  • You can offer both a recommendation and a review if you feel the show was great except for that one thing.
  • Your review is only seen by CIYH staff, and if action is necessary, we will not act in a way that reveals you as the source without checking with you first. Most complaints are about one-time slip-ups and we tend to look for patterns of mistakes before contacting the host/artist.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 11.42.25 AM

If we want to have a great and safe community, we have to participate in the review/recommendation process. Of course, recommendations are great to have and fun to give. More importantly, they provide guidance for people who need reassurance to book a certain house concert or artist. Your recommendations actually help create more great shows.

Please help us maintain great standards for our community, and help us prevent future problems for your hosting or performing peers.

Thanks!

Your Most Important House Concert Volunteers

Which one is it?

  • Door Person
  • Food/Drinks Person
  • Furniture/Set-Up Person
  • Parking Person
  • Co-Promoter

Every house concert is different, and every host brings their own set of skills to the process of putting on an event. If there’s one thing that holds back the success of most house concerts, it’s the failure to recruit (ask for) volunteers.

Many of us grit out the work. We do the dishes, the laundry, the taxes, the yard, and so on because it’s easier in the short run to grit it out instead of training, coaxing or paying someone else to do it well enough. Lucky for you, music and house concerts are inspiring! Why else would you be reading this?

Don’t miss the opportunity to inspire volunteers who can help you make your house concerts easier and more enjoyable for everyone. You might even offer perks like reserved seats, come early for dinner, or welcome their input when selecting future acts for your concerts.

For most hosts (asked at ConcertsInYourHome.com) the most important volunteer is the person at the door. 99% of artists would agree.

The Door

One of the biggest challenges when starting a house concert series is getting everyone to make the suggested donation. Paying money to enter a home is a new thing for most people, and it requires diligence on the part of the host to make sure no one is surprised by the “suggested donation” principle when they arrive.

We’ve found it’s best to have a suggested donation with an actual amount, even a range, and an encouragement to be generous if possible.

For example:

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 8.01.28 PM

This information should be in all invitations and emails about the show. In addition, that sign should be on a BIG GLASS JAR, next to a printout of your guest list, and all of this should be on a table by the entrance so that no one can miss it.

More signs for you here.

How the Door Volunteer Helps

If there’s a good-sized crowd, it can be nearly impossible for a host to watch the door and be a gracious host for the artists and guests.

When guests enter the home, there are several ways they can become distracted and miss the donation jar. They might recognize someone they know and immediately get pulled into a conversation and drift away. They might walk in with wine, food, or snacks and decide to go unload in the kitchen, and never make it back to the suggested donation. Finally, despite many reminders by the host “If you haven’t made your donation yet…” they might (wrongly) decide to buy a CD instead of making the donation. CDs are extra… and you don’t want to allow guests to take advantage of your artists this way.

All of these behaviors can be prevented by a door volunteer.

Your door-person greets guests, and asks them to cross their names off the guest list and make their suggested donation. If there’s a dish, the volunteer can bring it to the kitchen for them and quickly resume their post.

“Hello! Welcome to the house concert. Please cross your names off the guest list and make your suggested donation – be generous if you can. Here, let me take that dish to the counter for you.” [Or “here, let me hold that dish for you.”]

What is an acceptable “no-pay” percentage?

The easy answer is “0.” If all guests have been invited properly, with the suggested donation clearly stated, then all guests are expected to pay something, even if it’s not in the suggested range. That said, we rarely expect the hosts to pay unless they are covering a guarantee or making up for a few non-paying guests (usually family.)

Since you are operating with a suggested donation, and asking people to be generous if they can, those who underpay may be offset by those who give a little more. While it’s not the end of the world if a couple of people don’t pay, it sets a bad example going forward… do they get to NOT pay every time? How many people get this privilege?

Volunteers are expected to pay if possible. Try to reward them in some other way (preferred seats, pre-show dinner, etc.) unless you are happy to contribute for them. If you have a large number of attendees it may be OK to have a few volunteers not pay.

Your door person is there to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to pay, but the host should also make an announcement before and after the first set if it seems like there may have been a few who missed. If your door person does their job well, you can make a better pitch (talking less) for the purchase of CDs and souvenirs.

It’s rare that artists will make a fuss, but if the donations clearly don’t match the number of attendees, they will be disappointed. Remember, you aren’t asking people to volunteer to mow your lawn. This is a fun thing. Ask for help. People love to feel valued, and your volunteers can be the most effective promoters of your concerts.

I’ll cover the next most critical volunteer in the next post.

See also: Suggest vs Expected vs Enforced Donations

Your Most Important House Concert Volunteers

 

Your Most Important House Concert Volunteers

 

1. Door Person

2. Food/Drinks Person

3. Furniture/Set-Up Person

4. Parking Person

5. Co-Promoter

 

Every house concert is different, and every host brings their own set of skills to the process of putting on an event. If there’s one thing that holds back the success of most house concerts, it’s the failure to recruit (ask for) volunteers. 

 

Many of us are resigned to grit out the work. We do the dishes, the laundry, the taxes, the yard, and so on because it’s easier in the short run to grit it out instead of training, coaxing or paying someone else to do it well enough. Lucky for you, music and house concerts are inspiring! Why else would you be reading this?

 

Don’t miss the opportunity to inspire volunteers who can help you make your house concerts easier and more enjoyable for everyone. You might even offer perks like reserved seats, come early for dinner, or welcome their input when selecting future acts for your concerts.

 

For most hosts (asked at ConcertsInYourHome.com) the most important volunteer is the person at the door. 99% of artists would agree. 

 

The Door

 

One of the biggest challenges when starting a house concert series is getting everyone to make the suggested donation. Paying money to enter a home is a new thing for most people, and it requires diligence on the part of the host to make no one is surprised by the “suggested donation” principle when they arrive. 

 

We’ve found it’s best to have a suggested donation with an actual amount, even a range, and an encouragement to be generous if possible. 

 

For example: 

Suggested Donation: 

$15-20 per person. 

Be generous if you can – all donations go to the performers.

 

This information should be in all invitations and emails about the show. In addition, that sign should be on a BIG GLASS JAR, next to a printout of your guest list, and all of this should be on a table by the entrance so that no one can miss it.

 

 

 

How the Door Volunteer Helps

 

If there’s a good-sized crowd, it can be nearly impossible for a host to watch the door and be a gracious host for the artists and guests. 

 

When guests enter the home, there are several ways they can become distracted and miss the donation jar. They might recognize someone they know and immediately get pulled into a conversation and drift away. They might walk in with wine, food, or snacks and decide to go unload in the kitchen, and never make it back to the suggested donation. Finally, despite many reminders by the host “If you haven’t made your donation yet…” they might (wrongly) decide to buy a CD instead of making the donation. CDs are extra… and you don’t want to allow guests to take advantage of your artists this way. 

 

All of these behaviors can be prevented by a door volunteer.

 

Your door-person greets guests, and asks them to cross their names off the guest list and make their suggested donation. If there’s a dish, the volunteer can bring it to the kitchen for them and quickly resume their post. 

 

“Hello! Welcome to the house concert. Please cross your names off the guest list and make your suggested donation – be generous if you can. Here, let me take that dish to the counter for you.” [Or “here, let me hold that dish for you.”]

 

What is an acceptable “no-pay” percentage?

 

The easy answer is “0.” If all guests have been invited properly, with the suggested donation clearly stated, then all guests are expected to pay something, even if it’s not in the suggested range. That said, we rarely expect the hosts to pay (unless they are covering a guarantee or making up for a few non-paying guests (usually family.)

 

Since you are operating with a suggested donation, and asking people to be generous if they can, those who underpay may be offset by those who give a little more. While it’s not the end of the world if a couple of people don’t pay, it sets a bad example going forward… do they get to NOT pay every time? How many people get this privilege?

 

Volunteers are expected to pay if possible. Try to reward them in some other way (preferred seats, pre-show dinner, etc.) unless you are happy to contribute for them. If you have a large number of attendees it may be OK to have a few volunteers not pay. 

 

Your door person is there to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to pay, but the host should also make an announcement before and after the first set if it seems like there may have been a few who missed. If your door person does their job well, you can make a better pitch (talking less) for the purchase of CDs and souvenirs.

 

It’s rare that artists will make a fuss, but if the donations clearly don’t match the number of attendees, they will be disappointed. Remember, you aren’t asking people to volunteer to mow your lawn. This is a fun thing. Ask for help. People love to feel valued, and your volunteers can be the most effective promoters of your concerts. 

 

I’ll cover the next most critical volunteer in the next post.