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.

 

Press Release: Listening Room Festival 2020

For Immediate Release

Florida “House Concert” Festival Connects Fans from All Over the World

LRF logo on white

The 9th Annual Listening Room Festival invites house concert presenters, artists and fans to join in this year’s festivities. Music-lovers from around the globe are traveling to St. Petersburg, FL to enjoy the house concerts, showcase, and planned group activities from March 25-29, 2020.

Five international contest winners will play the Festival Showcase (March 27) at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg, as well as house concerts in the surrounding region. This year’s artists are Joy Ike, Amy Bishop, Kevin Daniel, Twin Kennedy, and The Young Novelists. Reserved seats to the festival showcase are available ($25adv./$35 day of show) at the festival website http://www.ListeningRoomFestival.com

House concerts, the core of the festival, stem from a tradition that is hundreds of years old, but has seen a resurgence in the past few decades. Music fans volunteer to host living room concerts, and invite friends to attend an up-close-and-personal show by a professional touring artist. Attendees are asked to make a suggested donation of $15-20 per person directly to the performers.

The main showcase at the Palladium Theater features all five acts. In addition, this year’s festival includes group activities and workshops to educate and inspire fans to join the growing house concert movement.

2020 Festival Schedule

Schedule is subject to change.
Please register for the festival to receive updates and invitations to the private events.

  • March 25-29 — house concerts around the bay area.
  • Friday, March 27 — LRFest Showcase at Palladium Theater St. Pete
  • Saturday March 28 — House Concert Workshop, Meet & Greet at Staybridge Suites St. Petersburg. RSVP here. $5 in advance $10 at the door.

The festival is presented by the Listening Room Network. More information and tickets are available through ListeningRoomFestival.com.

About the Listening Room Network:

Listening Room Network (LRN) creates and nurtures opportunities that pay artists to perform in a listening environment while bringing communities together with a renewed passion for live music. LRN and its signature websites (ConcertsInYourHome.com, OfficeConcerts.com) are leading innovators in the live music industry.

Contact/Press Photos:

Fran Snyder 727-280-6208, fran@ListeningRoomNetwork.com

Website: www.ListeningRoomFestival.com

Free house concert guide: Download (Link to PDF)

HighRes Press photos: Festival Artists.

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What Should You Put in Your Booking Info?

This post is to help you (LRN hosts and venues) fill out your “Booking Information” in your LRN profile. Have a look at the examples below, and feel free to copy, paste, adapt anything you find helpful into your own profile.

(“<p>” just creates paragraph space.)

Example 1: (Style, banter, content)

We book based on mutual interest and availability. Please don’t be offended if we can’t accommodate your request, since there are always more amazing artists than there are available dates. We are focused on presenting a range of artists and would like to foster a diverse musical community.
<P>Things we’re hoping to see when we view your profile: videos of you performing live that include both your song and some amount of stage banter; a sense of humor (irreverence preferred); a modern and distinctive take on roots music; songwriting that appeals to an English major. A “No” is not a rejection of your talent, but just the awareness that your particular style doesn’t match our particular style.
<p>We do not host more than one event per month, so please check our schedule of upcoming events before making your request. Other things that may affect booking: local shows and festivals, extreme weather, Memphis Grizzlies play-off games.

Example 2:

Looking to book any dates from late April through mid October (warm months only), weekends preferred but not essential. Our barn venue is beyond description (in the best way).

Example 3: (Season, Best night of Week)

We welcome artists to perform between late May and early October. We do not host concerts between November and April–Heavy snow prevents guests from parking here in Tahoe.
<p>
Because we only host a maximum of 3 house concerts per year, we are very choosy because we want the artist to be successful.
<p>
We run all inquiries through our audience panel. Most of our guests are Celtic music lovers. They crave audience participation and gentle humor.
<p>
FYI–Our best-attended house concerts are on Friday nights.

Example 4: (Small, One-Set Format, Weeknights Available, Short Notice )

I ONLY BOOK 4-8 weeks out. It’s a great last minute filler gigs, often on Sunday or Monday. We host TenTen Concerts (1 set).
<p>
We prefer solo/duo acts with a well-honed show… not just a song-list. We also like at least 30% uptempo or groovy material… we want energy as well as poetry!

Example 5: (Family-friendly)

Singer/songwriters encouraged; country, bluegrass, folk solos and small bands; small family-friendly venue.

Example 6: (Age, Cover Songs Appreciated)

We need a high proportion of upbeat music with some great covers. Our audience wants to have fun.
<p>
Our programs are always held on the Second Tuesday night of each month. This avoids most of the holiday travel problems.
<p>
Most of our crowd is 55+, and they very much appreciate a few recognizable cover tunes in each set. Several regional artists are repeated each season, so open dates are limited.

Example 7: (Genre)

Looking for a blues acts!

Example 8: (Frequency)

We are now accepting inquiries for our 2020 season of shows. We book one show per month.

Example 9: (Foreign Language)

We still have dates available for 2021. Best in spring or autumn. No one-man bands. Best 3-4 musicians, at least 2. Generally looking for upbeat, Americana/Roots… audience is both French + German + speak no or little English, so music and vibe must be emphasis. (Sophisticated lyrics are largely lost.)

Example 10: (Unamplified on Purpose, Must see you first)

We usually book 9 to 12 months in advance. And, to ensure that performers are a good fit for our audience, we will only book after seeing an artist perform live at least once.
<p>
If we like your video samples, we will make every effort to catch you at a live performance when you tour central Texas so that we can consider you for booking on your next tour through the area. <p>Note that our series is unamplified – no mics, no PA, no sound system – and we are committed to keeping it that way. If you must have a sound system, then we are not the right series for you. <p>We expect 2 sets of at least 45 minutes each with a break between the two sets during which our performers should mingle with our guests and may sell product. We provide free coffee, water, lemonade, and a desert, or light snack, during the break. <p>After the show, we have a song circle for local musicians (amateur and professional) and you are welcome to participate or listen but you are under no obligation to do either. During the song circle, we provide a simple dinner for our performers and all guests who stay for the song circle. We make every effort to accommodate your dietary needs. <p>Hopefully that covers everything in regard to our series but if I left something out, feel free to ask.

 

 

 

How to Choose Content for your LRN artist profile.

A new artist asks:

I was under the impression that it was important to post mp3s that are as close to how I would be performing as possible, but when I listened those of a few other artists, their mp3’s were very produced, with other instruments that I am certain they could not play all at once. Do you have advice for how to choose the best content for my LRN profile?

Great question!

Most of the time, a LRN host or host will go straight to video 1 in your profile. From there it’s anyone’s guess… video 2, audio 1, etc… we don’t know.

The way I think about it is… if they see a great representation of your “live, intimate concert” in video one, then that really opens up your options for the rest of your content. I want them to fall in love with a song, so I want to lead off my audio tracks with whatever recording has had the most success at hooking people — the song with most plays, most requests, most sales, etc.

They probably won’t get to your third mp3 if they don’t love at least one of the other two.

Best foot/feet forward… don’t worry about the shoes!

Testing 1, 2, 3

That said, there’s nothing like data to help you make decisions and adjust your profile over time. If you are having great success with your content – don’t change it! Have a look at this chart.

Host Responses to Booking Inquiries:

  • Yes… 13%
  • Maybe… 25%
  • Not Now… 41%
  • No… 21%

Yes/Maybe are italicized above, as we consider them “positive responses.” That means that 38% of host responses are favorable. If your positive responses are significantly lower than that, it could be worthwhile to change up your content before you make your next batch of inquiries.

Again, Video One in your profile is the most critical thing to update. (Changing your second mp3 is less likely to make a difference, unless it has a provocative title that people are likely to click on.)  [Note to self –  let’s see if we can get that data.. what are the most clicked items in an artist’s profile!]

It’s not just about content!

There are other important factors that can affect the responses you receive, including…

  1. are you pitching hosts who aren’t a good fit?
  2. are you not carefully reading their booking information and missing important cues?
  3. are you pitching dates without enough (or too much) lead time?
  4. are you not personalizing your inquiries in a meaningful way?

If you put little effort into your communications, you can’t expect a lot of effort in return.

Think. Guess. Track Results. Repeat!

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New feature: Remind me to make booking inquiry.

For artists and agents.

Let’s say you find a venue or host that is a good fit for you, but you decide it would be best to wait to contact them. Between the booking request and the dismiss buttons, there is now a “Remind Me” button.

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On a date you select, we’ll send you a reminder email with a link to the venue profile, and their updated booking info, like this:

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The sample text is blah… but you could add notes about why you want to reach out to that host, or what to check for next time you visit the profile.

No more missed opportunities. No more rushed contacts. Good timing can make significant difference in your success.

I hope you find this new feature helpful.

Note: Only one reminder per venue. This allows you to revisit and adjust the date if you wish.

#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.