Same Time Next Year? a.k.a. postpone, don’t cancel.

If you’re still dealing with having cancel or re-schedule dates, in many cases you can minimize the hassle by immediately choosing a new date a year later. Why?

  • Most hosts/venues aren’t booked 12 months out, even if they occasionally get to that point.
  • Typically if that month was good this year, it’ll be good next year.
  • It gives plenty of time to adjust, and reduces the chances that the show will have to be postponed a second time.

So rather than put it off, you can quickly pull your calendar, find the same time frame a year out, and choose the new date. Webflyers at LRN can easily be adjusted.

This way, you don’t have to repeat all the work of booking again, and trying to remember where you left off. Both parties decide, right away, to re-book. If the worst should happen and circumstances don’t improve, you’ll have plenty of time to make further adjustments if necessary.

Bottom line: it’s bad enough to postpone an event that both parties were looking forward to… why make re-booking harder than it has to be? It can take less than 5 minutes in most cases.

Even if the same exact month doesn’t work… in most cases it is still be better to re-book right away. Just get it done!

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.

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.

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.

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-11-13-50-pm

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

 

2019 Artists of the Year

Each year, we recognize three talented acts for their successful use of the site, and the reviews and recommendations we’ve received from our host community. Touring is a difficult sport, and these acts have demonstrated not just talent, but persistence, kindness, and a willingness to go where the opportunities are. Congrats!

Max Hatt / Edda Glass

The Rough & Tumble

The Whispering Tree

Honorable Mentions

These artists had a great year with us as well!

Rupert Wates, Danika & The Jeb, Escaping Pavement, Giulia Milanta, Missy Andersen & Her One Man Band, Dan Frechette & Laurel Thomsen,
Heidi Burson, and Jesse Terry.

Note: Artists of the Year are not eligible to win for the following four years.

How and why I turned my home into a live music venue.

First, I’m not the only one. “House concerts,” as they are commonly called, are popping up all over the world. To organize these shows, music fans invite small acts (often singer-songwriters with just an acoustic guitar) to perform in their living rooms, for appreciative friends and neighbors who all contribute a meaningful donation (usually $20) to the artist.

Why would you do this?

It turns out, people are often disappointed with the experience of going to commercial music venues. The list of reasons is extensive, but you can start with high ticket prices, service fees, urban traffic/parking, and the fact that (at least for major acts) you wind up far from the stage, looking through a sea of cellphones (if not your own) only to gaze at the jumbotron projection of the tiny artist on the stage.

But even for small, independent concerts, the shows often start late, and are put on by venues that care more about alcohol sales than the music. So even if you can see the stage, you’re likely to have some obnoxious people near you, chatting (or yelling) and making it very hard for you to connect with the music.

By contrast, house concerts bring people closer to the musicians. These intimate venues allow audiences to enjoy music without distractions, for reasonable money and at a reasonable time of day. You shouldn’t have to suffer the next day to enjoy yourself!

True, there are plenty of people who feel satisfied with background music, crazy-late nights, or the festival atmosphere where your attention is pulled in a multitude of directions at once. However, for music fans who want a deeper and more personal connection to the show, satisfaction only comes from house concerts and the rare listening room venue.

— Fran Snyder
Fran Snyder is the founder of Listening Room Network and ConcertsInYourHome.org

Quotes:

  1. “We genuinely love music and believe in live music with all our hearts. Opening our homes to musicians of all sorts is a privilege.” — Dani G., Host
  2. “Our experience from the website so far has been really fantastic. We have been finding a lot of great performance opportunities and have made much more money than we expected. Also, it has made our touring across the US and Europe much more interesting as we’re able to more easily connect the dots between shows and go to some places we otherwise probably never would. I love how it’s really a community. We’ve been making friends along the way.” — Sarah and Kenny, Artists
  3. “Thank you for all of the support. Between personal coaching from CIYH, the artist, and the website tools, things couldn’t have went better. We had a full house, people were very respectful and attentive, show was awesome, the artist made some money, and everyone had a great time. Most importantly, my girlfriend is now convinced this is something she loves and a lot of her apprehension about hosting has been put to rest. We’re so excited for the next show.” — Matt Hough, Host
  4. “Can’t believe we are now booked with monthly gigs through November – and such amazing musicians! Becoming involved with this has been a phenomenal experience — so inspirational to be a part of these artists experiences, their lives really inspire me and it feels so 100% positive … really, really amazing.” Elena D., Host

Stats:

  • Dozens of websites support this activity, including SofaConcerts.com in Germany, HomeRoutes.com in Canada, and HouseConcertsAustralia.com, and ListeningRoomNetwork.com (Global).
  • It’s estimated that more than 40,000 house concerts happen every year globally.*
  • House concerts vary in size from 10 to 80 attendees indoors, and 100+ in backyards.

*compiled stats from various sites and artist reports at Listening Room Network.

 

#1 House Concert Performance Tip from Fran Snyder.

#1 House Concert Performance Tip from Fran Snyder

I see a LOT of house concerts, and I have a compulsive need to give artists “notes” after I see them play. Here is the most common thing I suggest.

Please put two songs together without talking in between, at least once per set.

I have a theory that house concerts make some artists too comfortable, and they forget that people came for a show, not a fireside chat. The most frustrating thing is that they settle into a pattern – talk, play, talk, play, talk… and never break it.

Do you want to be that predictable?

The best opportunity is to pick your two most upbeat or groovy songs and string them together, without a word in between. Grooves and tempo build energy, and it’s a missed opportunity when you spend 5 minutes building energy and just let it fizzle out. Take the opportunity to build even more energy, take it up a notch and create the biggest moment of your set!

House concerts can make you tame. Don’t let yourself get spoiled by easy and attentive audiences who clap for everything you do. It’s lovely. It’s seductive. House concerts can make you think you’re much better than you are. Careful!

Stay on your toes and challenge yourself to make your show better each night. How big were the big moments? Was your performance pleasant or mesmerizing?

Again, the most common weakness (90% of shows I see) is the pattern of talk, play, talk, play, talk…

Build. Surprise. Delight!

Artist Websites – What does LRN look for?

Andrew asks,

– What are the most important things you want to see in an artist’s website?
– What is superfluous or unnecessary that too many artists include?
– Is a self-maintained page on a platform like SquareSpace sufficient?

Not sure how much consensus you’ll find on answers to your questions. What I can point out is the most common complaints that WE have or we SEE from our hosts.

Evidence of touring, especially with appearances key listening rooms like Passim, Eddie’s Attic, Living Room NYC, Hideaway Cafe St. Pete, etc.  Every region has some notable listening rooms. The less we can see in terms of upcoming shows, the more important it is to make past shows viewable/accessible.

History of recording: An act with fewer than 2 independent releases will require a lot of activity in terms of singles and digital releases. If you are on your first album, that’s not enough material for a normal 2 set house concert. A cover song or two can be a welcome addition to a set, but we want to see a lot of original stuff.

An interesting bio: artists rarely write well about themselves. Our most common complaint is “the bio doesn’t give me a clear sense of what makes this artist special or distinctive.”

More videos: Even if you give us two killer videos, we’ll probably dig for more.

Easy navigation (tabs) don’t send us to other sites (facebook, youtube, soundcloud, etc) for what we want. Each of these provide widgets that can be embedded on your website. That said – “Only your best belongs on your website.” There’s no need to put ALL your videos there, for example.

Pro Website: If we see a Wix or SquareSpace brand on your website, it tells us that you aren’t willing to spend a couple hundred bucks per year for a pro site. If you aren’t pro, it’s totally understandable. We understand economizing, and it can certainly be overcome with great content. But first impressions do count. There are a significant number of artists who “just make it” or “just miss” in our evaluation process.

Clear/concistent presentation/lineup: Another common complaint we have is an unclear presentation. Example.. website features full band but the artist is applying solo, or some other confusing aspect. Sometimes it can be a site that is heavy on “I do everything!” I teach, I play weddings, I instruct yoga, etc… While we recognize that an artist may have many talents, it’s important to have a central theme, and for us, we appreciate when the website matches the impression (lineup) we get in the videos.
Note: Our artist profiles are designed to showcase the “house concert” aspects of your act. So it’s not critical that your main website is 100% “house concert-y.” But the less you confuse us the better!

Thanks for the thoughtful questions. I hope my answers help.

Can/Should Artist Ask for a Guarantee from House Concerts?

We recognize that artists sometimes achieve a point in their career where they have to establish minimums, and Listening Room Network does not object to the practice of asking for minimums.

In general, setting a guarantee price can be tricky for artists. Set it too high and you can lose surprisingly fruitful opportunities, simply because a host isn’t willing to guarantee an amount that is still very likely to be delivered. Set your guarantee too low and you might create a weak impression.

In addition, guarantees in the house concert world require a little extra care.

Here are some important points to consider:

  1. Hosts are volunteers, and are not trying to make money off your performance.
  2. Hosts add value in many ways, including lodging, meals, and a listening audience of whatever size.
  3. Hosts belong to a wide spectrum of income levels – what sounds reasonable to one will make another blush.
  4. The capacity of the room and history of the host should be considered when asking for your guarantee. Do the math – unless the host is already a big fan of your music, they are unlikely to accept a guarantee that exceeds the potential of the room!

Note: Some artists have presented guarantees in terms of people, rather than dollars, softening (but maybe obscuring) the $ value it implies. Make sure your expectations are clear.

With the exercise of sensitivity, a minimum guarantee can prevent financial loss and some uncomfortable moments. It’s important to be clear and concise. Five-page riders can be an unreasonable expectation for all but the most experienced house concert hosts.

Most important: BE GRACIOUS AND ACCEPTING WHEN HOSTS REFUSE YOUR GUARANTEE. If you cannot politely offer a lower amount, thank them and move on. Negotiate your house concerts with care and empathy. Some hosts will have a financial situation that is not a good fit for your needs. That needs to be O.K.

Here’s what I recommend from the host point of view. https://livemusictribe.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/financial-guarantees-for-artistsperformers/