Video is Your Agent

“As soon as we had a great video that showed us at our best, everything became easier – booking, promoting, getting showcases… you name it. It’s one of the best investments we’ve made in our career.” – Rory Cloud of Quiles and Cloud

LRFest w logo

In mid April we’ll start taking artist applications for the 2018 Listening Room Festival. We want you to be ready, with a couple of videos that will make hosts and venues fall in love with you and your music. These videos can serve you beyond the LRF application, but in booking concerts on your own as well as through services like ConcertsInYourHome. Think of it as a compelling reason to do it now.

Booking is hard work. We (Listening Room Network) are dedicated to making it easier, and more rewarding for you. That said, nothing makes it easier than a great video. This is especially true for house concerts. When you consider the time, effort, and investment that each host makes on your behalf, they can’t just enjoy what you do. They have to love it.

Creating a great video doesn’t have to be expensive, and most of the effort it requires is stuff you should be doing anyway. To get ready,

  • Pick your most loved song(s) – which ones consistently get the best reaction?
  • Develop your performance – are you just playing it accurately, or is your performance compelling to watch?
  • Record drafts of your performances with your phone, or anything that can show you what you are doing. Are you leaning in to parts of the song, making eye contact, etc.
  • Choose a setting that reflects the type of show you are trying to book… it doesn’t have to be a living room – but an intimate setting would be great.
  • Recruit some friends/fans to attend the shoot so that you can capture some interaction or at least some applause.

Then reach out to video people in your community. Who can help? What kind of budget will you need to do something cool and compelling? Put something together and try it. Learn from it. This is not your last your video, but it could be the best one yet.

Get it done. We can’t wait to see it.

How well do CIYH hosts respond to artist inquiries?

A few years ago we created an internal system so that we could track how well our hosts and artists were communicating. This allowed us to learn

  • which hosts were having trouble keeping up
  • how quickly they respond
  • how favorably they respond

It also allows us to send weekly reminders to hosts about pending inquiries so that artists don’t have to keep asking “did you get my email?”

Here are the all time results over the past few years.

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On average, almost half of our artist inquiries are answered within a week. Also, about one-third of the responses are favorable (yes or maybe). These numbers fluctuate a bit (January/February 2017 was pretty bad for response time) but tend to revert to the numbers shown.

What’s exciting now is that soon we’ll be able to show artists how their efforts compare to other artists on the site. Stay tuned!

 

 

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.

Context about our fees for artists.

A host shared with me that he feels we are taking advantage of artists, because our membership rates are too high. I am sharing my response with you. – Fran

Thanks for allowing me to respond.

Our fees can be stressful without the proper context. I don’t expect to change your mind, but I’d love the opportunity to share how we got to where we are. As of early 2017, we charge about $350 per year for artist memberships. Our membership rates allow us to deliver some key benefits.

Value

$350, on average, is what an artist typically makes from a single event (house concert) in our network. We don’t take commissions, so for the artists who book 4-40 shows per year via CIYH, it’s a great deal. I think Rupert Wates booked close to 50 shows last year – about $15,000 worth, and a fantastic return on his investment in our network.

Curation of a Viable Artist Community

Over ten years, we’ve consistently had artists who want to join who are

  1. not serious about touring,
  2. not ready to tour,
  3. not appreciative of the house concert concept and the efforts made by house concert hosts.

We’ve found that a higher price allows us to spend more time with artists who are professional, ready, and who see the value in not just house concerts, but a growing community of them. Also, it limits the number of artists so that our hosts are not overwhelmed with inquiries, and our artists actually have a good shot at getting work through their membership.

Innovation

Progress is slow, but we’ve invested a lot in creating tools for our community to grow. For example, we invested a lot of time and effort in OfficeConcerts.com, in hopes of creating a day-time network of opportunities for our artists, and to reach new listeners in an unconventional way. That effort failed.. as we couldn’t consistently get the “listening room environment” to be valued in an office setting.

What did work is our Listening Room Festival, which has made Florida one of the best places to tour. The Listening Room Network (for public listening rooms and soon, fans) is showing promise as well. Our innovative concepts like DinnerAndSong, DessertAndSong, and TenTen Concerts have created hundreds of additional shows for artists inside and outside of our network.

Sustainability

Over the past ten years, we’ve seen many house concert websites come and go because they couldn’t make enough money to justify the effort and/or hire competent, passionate people to share the load.

As of 2016, no one at CIYH makes more than $17 per hour, and I will be thrilled when we get to a point that working with us could be deemed a career. I’m the only full time person, and I made about $2 per hour during the first few years of working the site. So it’s important to know that artists aren’t the only ones who make sacrifices.

 

I know that $300/400 sounds like a lot without the proper context. But it’s part of what makes us the only music website where there are more gigs than artists. We want to be the best and most helpful resource for small touring acts, and we have to charge a price that allows us to get there.

 

Under Threat – Funding for the Arts

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-7-37-36-pmTwo pillars of our thoughtful and cultural society are at risk of being privatized or eliminated by the Trump administration.

  • The National Endowment for the Arts
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Hope is not the answer anymore.

Please consider calling your Senator and Representative and ask them to protect federal funding for the arts! Also check out the Indivisible guide, written by former Congressional staffers, which outlines some great practical steps and pointers for directly engaging your representatives effectively!

https://www.indivisibleguide.com/download-the-guide

The Most Common Problems with Live Videos (for Booking House Concerts)

ConcertsInYourHome has a robust audition system that requires two live videos from artist applicants. Judges include industry professionals, but the majority are active house concert presenters. These hosts offer specific feedback to the artists regarding the materials presented.

We’ve seen thousands of video evaluations. Here are the most common problems they report to the artists about the videos. Here are the big three that have nothing to do with the songs selected.

  1. Not a listening audience. If you can’t command the respect of the audience in the video, why would we expect anything different when we see you?
  2. Different lineup than advertised. If you are booking yourself for house concerts as a solo act, we might enjoy seeing you with a violin player if we’re digging 5 and 6 videos deep into what you do. But the first two videos MUST be a good representation of what you are bringing to our house. Don’t make people imagine what you’d be like without the full drum kit and backline.
  3. Lip-sync, strum sync – keep it real, even if that means the audio won’t be pristine.

In addition, here are the most common problems with regarding the songs or performances.

  1. Long intro. Usually, the priority is the voice, and artists who strum their 4 chord intro* several times before getting to the vocal will lose the booker’s interest. Remember that people are busy, and your video could be in a long line of potential acts for that concert series. If you tell a story, tell it really well, make a point and be expressive.
  2. Not feeling any emotion – eye contact is often a factor here. You might be staring at lyrics/computer or just trying too hard and getting in your own way.
  3. Pitchy vocals or instruments. We don’t seek perfection in live video, but there are a lot of performances where pitch problems are relentless.
  4. Cover songs – the existing communities of house concert hosts tend to prefer original music, unless they book traditional, celtic, classical, and blues genres. Even though a couple of covers in a show is a welcome treat, it’s usually a mistake to introduce yourself with a video cover tune. Even if you love to play Cohen/Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” it doesn’t mean you play it in a remarkable way.

* Songwriting Tip: The intro to your song shouldn’t be a twenty second warm-up. It should get the same songwriting attention and care as the rest of the song. If the chords are no different than the verse, there better be something magical going on over it. If the intro is there simply out of songwriting habit, if it serves no purpose, get rid of it.

When you submit songs or videos to a judging process, keep in mind that the judges will be listening to many artists in a row. Find a way to get to the essence of your content and sound quickly.

$100 Discount for International Artists

We have wonderful house concerts in Canada, Europe, Australia/NZ, but 80% of the activity at ConcertsInYourHome is in the United States. To encourage more activity around the world, we’re offering an artist discount for new members who are based primarily outside the U.S.  Let’s offset those crazy U.S. visa fees, and create more cultural diversity in our global network!
There’s still an evaluation process, but international artists who are invited to join will receive $100 off a full year membership.
Tell someone you love. Coming to America just got a little easier.

Flying with Instruments – U.S. Law is now on your side.

Airlines have a long history of mistreating luggage, and our cherished, vital musical instruments are no exception to the rule. Even after pressure from musician’s unions, youtube videos, and written complaints, things have been slow to improve. Today airlines are at best inconsistent, often negligent, and sometimes downright malicious. (Look out the window as they load luggage when you can.)

The law is now on our side if we want to carry on our instruments, as long as we do the diligence of trying to board early. It’s not full-proof, but we encourage musicians to print this out and keep the law in their instrument case.

Please share this with musicians you love, and board early!

https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-issues-final-rule-regarding-air-travel-musical

The Difference Between Listening Rooms (LR) and House Concerts (HC)

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We’re proud to re-launch ListeningRoomNetwork.com. LRN allows us to serve listening rooms of all types, in much the same way we’ve inspired and helped house concerts around the world. Also, it allows our member artists to connect with all of them through one platform, instead of bouncing back and forth from CIYH and LRN.
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Which begs the question, at Listening Room Network, what’s the difference between LR venues and house concerts?
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(HC) House concerts must
  1. be private events, not open to the public
  2. give 100% of door to the artists. Door is a suggested donation, not a charge/ticket.
  3. (OK should) be in a house, clubhouse or residential looking space.
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(LR) venues may
  1. be public or private
  2. charge an admission fee or sell advance tickets
  3. keep a percentage
  4. be located just about anywhere, but probably not a house.
It’s important to note that we are not trying to cater to all venues. Our mission is to put talented artists in front of listening audiences, and to help touring musicians earn a living wage. Mileage will vary, but we appreciate your input if you find one of our venues is not a good fit.

House Concert Checklist for Hosts

Even the most experienced pilots have a checklist they use to make sure they take all necessary steps for a safe trip. The checklist not only makes clear what needs to be done, but also describes the best order or timing for effectiveness and efficiency. Use this checklist to save yourself time and to help your house concert series take off!

[PS – this is a first draft, to be revised for Fran Snyder’s upcoming book on house concerts. Send suggestions for improvement to fran@listeningroomnetwork.com

House Concert Checklist for Hosts

Booking Details

  • Are there other house concerts or events that compete with your proposed/tentative date? Sports playoffs, music festivals, birthdays, holidays, spring breaks, etc.
  • Format – TenTen, traditional – which is best house concert format for this day of the week, this artist/act, and your schedule?
  • Suggested donation, lodging, meal, guarantee, cancelation – all terms agreed?

Artist/Agent communications

  • Confirmation Email sent? Address, Numbers, Arrival Time Window, Lodging, Pets, etc.
  • Food and Smoking Allergies?
  • Optional Info to Include: 1. Local resources: nearby restaurants, grocery and music stores 2. Regional resources: music venues/contacts that might help them find other concerts.

Invitations

  • Use date and day, choose time to open doors and show time.
  • Food and beverage… basic plan and suggestion for invitees.
  • Webflyer and email look great? Spell check? test send and proofread twice. (resources?)
  • Mailing list updated? (Bounced emails and notes from last time?)

Volunteers and backup plans

  • Do you have at least one volunteer to help with the door, setup, food/beverage, etc, so that you can be a gracious host?
  • Do you have a plan for what to do if the weather goes bad or if you get horrendously ill?

Promoting

  • Update and increase mailing list
  • Schedule invitation emails… 4 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week.
  • Send confirmation emails with address as guests RSVP.
  • Send 3 day reminder to RSVP list.
  • Waiting list needed?
  • Additional efforts if needed to fill room – charity, VIPs

Setting Up, Day(s) Before

  • Basic cleaning inside and out… think safety and visibility from the road.
  • Print signage (donation, entry, food, etc.)
  • Confirm artist arrival time, dinner plans, sound system, extension cord?

Setting Up, Day of Show

  • Spruce up cleaning if necessary.
  • Donations Jar with Sign
  • Guest List Printed
  • Green room
  • Concert room
  • Merch Table
  • Kitchen/Food area
  • Keep back row handy but not set up (or reserved)

Artist Arrival

  • Where to load in, park, put merch and gear?
  • Where to relax and warm up?
  • Snacks or beverages?
  • Outlets/extension available?
  • Expectations of access – is artist expected to mingle before the show? (some like this, some don’t, timing is also issue)

Guest arrival

  • Volunteer/greeter in place
  • Encourage folks to pick their seats, especially down front.

Show start

  • Give 5-10 minute warning for everyone to use restrooms and find their seats.
  • Take the stage and welcome folks.
  • Make short announcements.
  • Describe format… encourage folks to stay in their seats during the show. Try to wait for a break or the end of the show.
  • Introduce artist. Short, warm, personal.

Break

  • Praise artist, encourage CD/merch purchases.
  • Remind about suggested donations if any were missed.
  • Check restrooms if possible.
  • Give 5 minute warning
  • Announce beginning of next set. Please welcome back…name!

End

  • Rave about show.
  • Encourage CD sales
  • Check for over-drinkers
  • Settle up with artist money… donations on-target?

Follow Up

Thank you email, promo next show.

Again, your feedback is welcome!