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/

 

How to Avoid Panic Promotion

Occasionally I get emails from house concert presenters who have an upcoming show with a shortage of RSVPs. They are looking for help or advice for a last minute promotional push to get their numbers up for a healthy turnout.

Note that these following suggestions are even MORE helpful if you don’t wait until a few days out.

Let’s make sure your emails are persuasive.

What makes this artist special? What do you love most? Have you communicated that in an email to your list?

A lot of hosts fall into the habit of “just the facts” when announcing their shows. I find it makes a difference to give them a sentence or two about why this show might be special.

Example: “Aaron’s CD has been the most played music in my car for the past six months. I think you’ll really appreciate the lyrical depth and musical groovy-ness of his music. It reminds me of Peter Gabriel.”

THEN give them the details and how to RSVP.

Brainstorm to get a few more names and emails on your list.

Not everyone picks up the habit of collecting email addresses and interest from people they meet. Is your dentist on your list? Who else have you met lately?

If you don’t have the habit of adding to your list each time you meet new folks, then schedule a regular brainstorm session every month or so. OR, wait til just before you get into panic mode on your concert with light RSVPs. 8^)

Personal calls and emails to key folks.

Remember that some of the people on your list are actual friends that you care (or used to care!) about. Maybe pick up the phone? “Hey I was about to invite you to this special concert I’m hosting, but I figured I’d give you a call and catch up first. How are you?” Re-kindle the friendship, THEN offer to send the invite email. You might even confirm the email address if they’ve been unresponsive in the past. “Is this your best email?”

Ask for help!

Your existing RSVPs can be nudged to invite some friends.

Don’t beg and plead (yet)… people actually like to be helpful. And NEVER be a downer about your numbers. You want to inspire people to attend, and you want them to look forward to future emails. If you establish a pattern of panic and sadness, people will start to tune you out.

So include a special note in your reminder email “we have a few open seats left for this show… is there someone you know that might enjoy joining you for this special concert?”

At Listening Room Network, we help venues and house concerts promote their events to each other, as well as our private community of fans. You can join us and list your events at www.ListeningRoomNetwork.com

What is some advice you’d give to a host who wants to add some last minute RSVPs? Send them to support@listeningroomnetwork.com and we’ll update this post.

And remember, don’t just announce… persuade!

“This concert is a special one because…”

 

Your Cultural Legacy as a Music Fan

Did you just go to shows, or did it mean something? — Fran Snyder

You can be in the music business.
Best of all, you don’t have to pretend it’s your job.

What do I mean?

Until you make it to the top of the corporate music business ladder, you’re poor. You’re overworked. It’s a rough lifestyle.

The best way to be in the music business is as a hobby. It’s easy as

  1. Volunteer
  2. Play a limited role that you enjoy.
  3. Watch the impact that you make on the lives of your friends, and the careers of independent artists you admire.

You can make a difference as a fan, organizer, promoter, or house concert host. Stay at it long enough, and you create your own cultural legacy.

Let us show you how.

Join Us.

franrussfa2014
Russ (right) and his wife Julie have hosted 200+ shows in their home over the past 15 years. What a legacy!