Why are house concerts so good for artists?

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Photo by Donna Green

The following is an excerpt from Fran Snyder’s upcoming book on house concerts. Subscribe to this blog for more content or to the monthly newsletter at ListeningRoomNetwork.com to be notified when the book is available!

Basically, it comes down to three things:

  • The Vibe
  • The Money
  • The Host/Volunteer Promotion

Major social and musical trends have raised the value of house concerts for artists at all levels of their careers. In short, there is an ever increasing number of options for people to spend their leisure time, and a growing number of empowered, independent artists vying for that shrinking live-music portion. Audiences are getting smaller, and house concerts allow you to make the most of that small audience.

When you talk with artists who enjoy the house concert format, the consensus is clear that the experience is consistently and significantly better than the clubs. House concerts require less promotional work and earn more money per show. Most of all, the audience is nicer, more attentive, and eager to connect with the performers.

The Vibe

House concerts are the emotional anchors of every tour. — Hans York

Touring artists build up a tolerance to feeling like a stranger. You do get an occasional friendly face, but when your introduction to a new town is a nod from a bartender cleaning the beer lines, it can get pretty bleak out there. After the show, if you aren’t surrounded by new or old friends, the exit can be unremarkable too.

By contrast, a house concert host typically treats you as guest of honor in their home. Hospitality varies, but most artists feel a strong sense of gratitude after a house concert. You get to bask in a successful night a little longer, you get to know people a little better, and the generosity lifts your soul as well as your pocketbook.

Some artists will tell you that the house concert atmosphere is even more valuable than the income. The ability to tell your stories and banter with the audience can make the show like a sweet conversation. For road warriors who occasionally have to play bar gigs, the respect and connection they feel at house concerts reaffirms why they play music in the first place – to connect.

Financially, the house concerts are an even bigger win.

The Money

Unless an act is well-funded, established, or gaining hordes of new fans with a viral video, they have to find a way to succeed with small events. Artists can sometimes profit from a house concert with as few as ten attendees.

Here’s why:

  • No overhead costs. Hosts contribute their home and refreshments for free.
  • No profit motive for the house. Hosts don’t get a percentage of the door/donations.
  • No promotional costs. Since house concerts are private (for legal, zoning and licensing reasons) there’s usually no need to advertise the show or print posters, etc. The host invites friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.
  • Due to the intimate presentation, house concerts usually yield more merchandise sales per attendee than public concerts.
  • Free lodging and food is traditionally offered to the artist. Two major expenses of being on the road, gone. Artists get a bed, a shower, dinner, and maybe even breakfast.

These perks can make small shows financially worthwhile.

The Host/Volunteer Promotion

Already mentioned, but it’s worth noting how this affects your bottom line. Even if you only value your time at $15/hour, the time you spend seeking lodging and attendees adds up. Having your lodging, food, and promotion provided by the host makes a significant difference in the value of the show.

Consider the alternatives for an act playing in a market where they don’t have a big following. The math makes it clear.

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For small shows while away from home, when you factor in the savings as well as the income, it’s clear that the house concert can easily provide many times the value that a public venue gig would. It’s probably more enjoyable, too.

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