Once in a while, we get a report that a house concert has had trouble with zoning violations. Zoning laws can cite various reasons why a house concert could be in violation – parking, noise, and commercial activity are the most common.
In the case of Crib Concerts, the complaint is about “Indoor Entertainment,” and specifically because it has been deemed a commercial activity by the local zoning Community Inspector. Unfortunately for Chris Devine, he lives and operates his concerts in a redevelopment district of Herndon that has even more restrictions than the city on property use.
The host is appealing to the city, and we have to give serious kudos to him for honoring the next 5 booked concerts. Since the issue will take months to resolve, Chris created a GoFundMe to cover the cost of the fines. That’s a fine example of commitment to artists, and engaging your community to rally for your cause.
One has to wonder how the complaint originated, but my money is always on someone like this guy.
I’m guessing Mr. Morningwood has never been to a house concert. What do you think?
House concerts need to be privately promoted. LRN provides exactly that.
Although we offer public listings for public venues, LRN has been rebuilt to enable better privacy for house concerts. Since house concerts typically take place in residences, it is important (for legal, safety, zoning, and insurance reasons) that they be private.
Previously, as we also did at ConcertsInYourHome, we offered the public the opportunity to “introduce themselves” to our hosts via our event calendars. This was to encourage conversation and connection instead of automatic, impersonal confirmations. We found that busy hosts found it tempting to just say “yes, please join us, here’s my address!”
Despite very few bad experiences, we know that casually inviting a lot of strangers into your home isn’t safe practice. We also know that getting to know your audience can provide great new friendships and opportunities.
You might think that our increased privacy would be detrimental to the promotion of house concerts, but here’s a surprising opportunity. Now that our network is truly private, we can promote more effectively to the people who care. In order to do this, at long last, we created FAN memberships!
Fan memberships are designed to increase engagement and attendance. People who attend a few house concerts per year will be able to attend a few house concerts per month. They’ll be able to spread the word more effectively by promoting our whole network to their friends and families.
And house concert hosts will be able to see the track record of these fans. Do they show up after they RSVP? Are they spreading the word in ways that should be rewarded? This is information that can be vital to growing a house concert audience.
An idea for House Concert Hosts and Listening Rooms
One of the challenges of booking talent is staying on top of artist inquiries. If you are open to inquiries all year long, it can create periods of frustration when you feel you don’t have time to give artists a good listen. On the other hand, closing off your booking channel (red booking light) can make you feel like you might miss out on a great opportunity.
One great solution is to book a season at a time. That can be once, twice, or up to 4 times per year, depending on how many shows you do. Here’s an example to illustrate.
Booking Quarterly Seasons – Once per quarter, we listen to all our inquiries and choose the next 2-3 shows, 6 months out or more.
- In January, we book July, August, and September shows.
- In April, we book October, November and December shows.
Of course, you can adapt this to your preferences. Maybe you prefer to book 8+ months out. Maybe you prefer to book 4 months at a time, like this:
Booking Three Times per Year
- In January, we book September, October, November, (December optional)
- In May, we book January, February, March, April of next year.
- In September, we book May, June, July (August optional!)
Some hosts and venues like to book their entire year in one shot.
What are the benefits?
- You can let artists know AHEAD of time that you won’t be responding until your next booking window, so you don’t have the constant pressure to answer inquiries as they come in.
- You can compare and listen to a full menu of options, and feel great about choosing your best options for the season ahead. You can get a real sense of which artists you want to keep in touch with, say, if dates don’t line up this time.
- You have flexibility. If your dream act reaches out for a show outside of your current booking window… book her! If there’s so much talent that you want to book an extra show, do it! List the show, and artists will see the dates/months that are no longer available.
- Promotion becomes easier and more effective when you can promote a whole season as well as individual shows. LRN webflyers contain links to your next 6 upcoming concerts.
Will this work for all hosts and venues? Of course not. But if a booking schedule or season appeals to you… try it!
How to adjust your profile at LRN for seasonal booking.
- Put up a yellow booking light.
- At the top of your booking info, describe your basic process in as few words as possible. “We book seasonally! In January, we will decide on our bookings for July, August and September.
- Choose the first month (July) of your booking window as your Target Month.
- Then follow your plan!
Booking seasonally? If you’d like to suspend the weekly reminders for pending inquiries, just let us know.
If enough of our hosts/venues adopt this type of plan, we can update the site to make it even easier. Thank you!
Visit http://www.ListeningRoomNetwork.com to join as a house concert host or listening room venue.
Follow Up Email
Important cultural events deserve a recap! Your guests also deserve a thank you and maybe even a preview of the next show. Don’t miss the opportunity to remind your friends what a great experience they had, and to make them look forward to the next one.
You might include:
- a picture or link to pictures
- story or compliment from the artist
- items left behind (clothing, dishware, etc.)
- details of your next show!
You can also ask for feedback. Ask them:
- if they took any great pics they want to share
- what was their favorite aspect of the concert
- what would they suggest to improve your events
Make your attendees feel like they are part of your series. They will return more often and bring friends.
Here are some excerpts and examples from our hosting community!
Dear Friends and Family,
Thank you so much for attending Nathan’s concert last evening! It was a memorable event! I am looking forward to greeting you in my home for JT’s concert and to my concerts in the future! I am proud of all of us for showing our support for independent music! 🎶
Next show is April 12th! [webflyer link]
Warm regards, Judy
What a show!
Thanks for joining us for another special concert. Here’s a [link] to view our pics or share one of your favorites from the show. Be sure to RSVP soon for our jazz concert – we only do jazz once per year and it’s always well attended. [Link]
Surveying Your Audience
Some hosts in our network send out an easy survey after each show to gather feedback from their audience. If you act on the best suggestions, it’s a great way to improve your series over time. Also, your audience will help you fine-tune your desire to invite performers to play again the following year… did they love the show as much as you did? A survey is a great way to find out.
There are great apps like SurveyMonkey to help you put together effective email surveys. Also you can create something decent (and free) with Google Docs, and many email services (Constant Contact, etc.) also have survey options that merge easily with your list of contacts.
Remember that clear, short, easy emails are effective and rarely frustrating to receive. Show genuine interest in your audience and you’ll find that many of them love to share their opinions.
And you, keep on sharing that music!
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.
A host asks…
Artists are willing to book fairly far out ahead of a date for a show. In the event of a modest life event such as a job change necessitating a move of a few hundred miles… what’s a reasonable duration ahead of time to cancel? I would certainly work to reschedule but might not have enough friends in the new area for some time.
The important thing is to create a few worthwhile or helpful options for the artist/group you have scheduled. Forced travel or relocations can happen to many hosts, so it can be helpful to plant seeds well in advance of this kind of rain. It’s never too early to get people involved in your series, especially as volunteers.
Consider some creative backup measures:
Is there an attendee of your shows that could be inspired to step up to help honor the show? Can the show be saved by scaling it down to a TenTen (ten songs for ten or more guests) if one of your friends would like to do it but can’t likely fit or get the numbers you anticipated?
Is there another host in your region that might consider taking over the show if you’ll help them promote it?
Can you supplement the alternative with a donation even if you’ve done your best to move/replace the show? Even if you didn’t promise a guarantee, you still have the option to make a generous gesture.
We count on you to do better than “Sorry guys, can’t do the show. Good luck.” We hope you care more than that.
What about beyond this show?
Since you are moving a few hundred miles away… what will happen to your audience? Do your people have another series in town that you’ll recommend they attend? You’ve spent considerable time and effort building an audience and community for music… please find a way to keep the torch lit in your area!
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?”
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.