Restaurants as Listening Rooms – have you seen it work?

Your thoughts about restaurants as listening rooms… have you seen any that work? Here’s my response to a restaurant wanting to join LRN.

Dear Paul,

Nice to hear from you. Can you tell me more about the venue? Restaurants are rarely a good fit for our network, but we have seen some exceptions.

One of the core values of our site is putting talented artists in front of a listening audience that is primarily there for the music. We emphasize a concert atmosphere and always try to avoid situations where our artists might become background music.

In most restaurants, the food is the main event, and artists are expected to play quietly so people can order, patrons and staff are constantly walking in between the artist and the audience, and many people choose to watch televisions or carry on conversations during the show. This is not a suitable environment for artists who expect an attentive audience.

Another core value is that we want artists to earn a living wage. For a touring artist, that would be a minimum of $250, and most of our venues exceed that standard. A lot of our venues also offer room and board for traveling artists.

If that makes sense to you, and feel you can meet the standards of what we call a “listening room,” then we’d be glad to support your restaurant, and connect you with our diverse and talented roster of touring artists. You can just go to Listening Room Network and join as a venue.

Fran Snyder,

founder, Listening Room Network

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Listening Rooms Reveal the True Fans

by Fran Snyder

Music is fantastic at supporting other activities. Put on your headphones and go jogging. Turn on the car stereo and drive across town. Watch a movie and feel how the music score transforms the experience.

But in each of those cases, music is not the primary goal. We use music to enhance other activities.

Let me take you back in time.

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, buying an album was part of a ritual centered around listening to music. I would run home, close my door, tear off the shrink wrap, and carefully place my new treasure on the turntable. A satisfying record would get 3-5 plays all the way through. The album would consume most of my day.

It kept me in my room. If I started looking at baseball cards or hanging up my clothes, these were secondary activities to consume my adolescent energy. I didn’t play the record to help me clean my room. I hung my shirts up because I was stuck in my room – the only place my record was playing.

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So when you listen to music, is it the primary activity, or the background to something else?

No one can avoid “secondary listening” in the modern world. Even if your car stereo is off, chances are you’ll hear someone else’s every time you stop at a traffic signal. Music is piped into our ears at the bank, at the grocery store, and through the ever-present din of televisions that hang from every vertical surface of society.

So the better question is, “do you ever choose music as your primary activity?” Of course, musicians do this all the time. But who else?

Concerts are a classic opportunity for us to make music our primary activity. If we can watch the musicians, and focus on the connection with the songs, then it’s clear why we are there – for the music.

Yet, it’s all too common to go to concerts to find ourselves surrounded by people who are distracted and or distracting. Maybe they don’t like the band. Maybe they are there to be with their friend. Or maybe, they’ve lost all ability to focus on anything that doesn’t glow in the palm of their hand.

But if you interrupt their conversation, and ask them, “are you a music fan?” they will finish their selfie and tell you “absolutely, yes!”

fan

What is a music fan?

I would argue that a music fan pays for music with their attention as well as their money.

A lot of people who think they are music fans are really “going out” fans. For them, music is meant to support what they really want. They want to dance, they want to feed off the kinetic energy created by the band onstage. If the music doesn’t fit what they really want to do (talk, dance, eat) there’s a good chance they won’t stick around.

If only that was always the case. Unfortunately, many of them do stick around. If the music is too loud, they’ll just talk louder. They won’t even notice that their behavior is ruining the experience for you.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of places where true music fans can go. These listening rooms can be dedicated clubs, theaters, and even the living rooms of other music fans. There is a growing worldwide community of people who (sometimes!) choose to be in a place where music is the main event. Listening rooms and house concerts provide that atmosphere, and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the finest independent touring artists today.

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And here’s the best news. You don’t have to be a music fan all the time. Dance your heart out at a party. Work that hula hoop at the festival. Music can be a wonderful background, and there are millions of places where you can talk over the music.

Just not in my listening room.

Fran Snyder is an artist, house concert host, and the founder of ListeningRoomNetwork.com

 

Listening Room Festival 2019 Lineup Announced!

Last night, 60 music fans from the Tampa Bay area gathered at the Hideaway Cafe (St. Petersburg FL) to get the first glimpse of the #LRFest lineup for 2019. Twenty of them booked a house concert for the festival!

Our goal is to book the remaining 10 concerts over the next few months for a total of 30 concerts during our festival week.

We’re excited that more music fans make a music vacation out of our festival each year. Hosts from Canada, France, and all around the U.S. come to St. Petersburg FL to meet their tribe and experience an amazing week (or long weekend) of intimate and remarkable performances.

We’ll update the Listening Room Festival site with more info soon.

Here is the lineup for 2019!

Please register at http://www.ListeningRoomFestival.com for more information, including hotel deals and more about the expanding festival schedule!

Don’t Support Live Music…

Relish it.

Savor it.

Share it.

Promote it.

Spend your day with it.

 

Of course, you should support live music. But that’s like saying you should eat. It’s not very inspiring.

 

For several years, I’ve been wondering why it always irks me to see “support live music,” and “support local this or that.” For some reason, support doesn’t inspire me. It’s like giving someone on the street some spare change and wondering if I’m actually helping their day or just getting them to another momentary fix.

I need to be inspired. I want to make a difference that is noticeable. I want to contribute more than a token, more than the ante, and more than the suggested donation.

  • Will $5 more be noticed by anyone but me? Maybe. Maybe not. But I’ll know it.
  • Will bringing 2-4 friends to the show make a difference? At a house concert… very likely!
  • Will learning a few choruses of the upcoming show make a difference? If I sit up front and sing or mouth the words… you can bet the artist will notice, and be thrilled.

 

Support live music if that’s all you are inspired to do. But here’s your opportunity to take it up a notch. See you at a show.

Can the opener’s guest attend for free?

A performer asks,

“I am playing an opener set soon for a smallish long-established house concert series. We have been told the host “prefers” not to do any comped admission. I will be traveling with my partner, and I ain’t about to ask her to stand outside while I play. Nor do I find it appropriate to fork over a twenty out of my minimal fee so she can have a chair. ”

How do other hosts handle the occasional “guest of the performer” or comp requests; ie. what is reasonable to expect?”

 

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House concerts with opening acts tend to be the exception rather than the rule. The general feeling I have (and many agree) is that it usually creates a 3rd set and a second intermission, and stretches the night too long, even if it’s just 3-4 songs. If the main act is only playing one set, then openers makes more sense, but we find that to be unusual too.

Well established hosts are often deeply committed to maximizing revenue for the main act (that’s why they are so in demand). They also might be stretching themselves with a guarantee they might not fully cover with donations… in those cases, it would make sense to have a “no freebie” policy, since any unpaid guest might come out of their own pocket – especially if there’s an agent counting heads.

If the show will be completely full, then a freebie admission is either costing the main artist or the host. If there are plenty of open seats, then it comes down to principles.

  • If you feel honored to open this show, you have the opportunity to be gracious and pay (or offer to pay) for your spouse/guest.
  • If you don’t feel honored enough, you can always ask to “confirm if your spouse or +1” can attend as your free guest.
  • The third option is to buy her a shirt that says “crew,” “roadie,” or “guitar technician” and teach him/her how to tune guitars!

Gratitude seems to be a great way to approach things, especially if the relationship with the host is one you want to keep or improve.

How long should house concerts be?

I’ve noticed a lot of variety in the past 12 years, and learned a lot about what makes house concerts an enjoyable experience. I’m ready to promote a new slightly-tweaked standard for our listening room community. Artists and hosts are free to vary from this standard, but this is what we will promote going forward. Whatever format or set-structure you choose for your concerts, you should communicate that to your hosts/artists in your profile.

For a long time, the de-facto standard for house concerts has been two sets, of roughly 40-50 minutes in length. Whether the concert is one set or two, I am advocating for a shorter amount of time.

Here’s why.

Most people have trouble sitting still and concentrating for more than 30-40 minutes. Like it or not, technology and pop-culture have whittled away at our attention spans. In addition, house concert seats are rarely comfortable for a long length of time. When it comes to the end of a second long set, I think most encores are half-hearted.

The old saying of “leave them wanting more” applies here. Why not play shorter sets of your absolute best material and make people eager to hear more? Why not build to an enthusiastic encore every night?

It’s also becoming more common for artists to choose to play one longer set instead of having set breaks. The arguments for this are logical, especially if you previously played two long sets.

  • Some people leave during the break.
  • The break stops the momentum you have built, and it’s often hard to recapture the vibe you worked to achieve in the first set.
  • It makes for a longer night.

The advantages of two sets with a break include:

  • more sales during the break (two sales opportunities can make the lines shorter)
  • allowing people to stretch and re-fill, re-snack
  • the opportunity for two distinct acts (first act new stuff, second act previous hits/requests, a la James Lee Stanley)

Going forward, we will be promoting 70 minute formats for house concerts, whether you choose to play one set or two. For one-setters, it’s almost unkind to ask people to sit for more than 70 minutes – unless they ask you for more.

For two-set shows, we are recommending 40 minutes, then 30. The shorter second set leaves people primed for an enthusiastic encore, and it allows you to choose whether to play 1,2,3 or even 4 more songs if the energy is sustained. I would even suggest doing encores in pairs of songs. Play 2 and see if you get a second encore once in a while… that’s when you know your are having peak experience concerts.

We understand that not everyone will agree with or endorse this standard. It’s simply what we will promote.

TenTen Concerts

As a reminder, we developed the format of TenTen Concerts years ago to inspire short performances on weeknights – to make things easy for the host, for the audience, and for the artist. This format is unchanged – Ten Songs for Ten or more guests. Ten songs is roughly 45 minutes for most artists, and encores are a likely and welcome treat here as well. The suggested donation is reduced to (U.S.) $10-20 instead of $15-20.

More on TenTen here.