TenTen Concerts – House Concerts Made Easy

TenTen Concerts
House concerts made easy: ten songs, for ten+ guests

[This is an excerpt from Fran Snyder’s forthcoming book, House Concerts and Modern Touring for Small Acts. Snyder is the founder of ConcertsInYourHome.com, which is the most active house concert community on the planet. Stats and opinions in this piece come from 8 years of watching and helping thousands of house concerts take place.]

Video version here.


You are the new music industry.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of house concerts, and how music fans are putting on living room shows with amazingly talented artists. These shows bring neighbors, co-workers, and friends together, and deepen the roots of communities. Plus, they can be a lot of fun!

The easiest and best way for new hosts to get started is with a house concert format we call TenTen. Ten Songs for Ten+ Guests.

TenTen Concerts are exclusive shows designed to achieve some wonderful stuff:

  • Get enough committed attendees by sending just one email.
  • Host a show with a minimum of effort and maximum fun.
  • Create a show on musician’s off-nights, and help them start an audience in a new town.
  • Give your friends a remarkably intimate concert experience – every seat is like a backstage pass.

New hosts are often stunned at the quality of talent that is available for these small shows. Touring artists spend a lot of time and money to develop an audience in a new town. Publicity, travel, hotel, flyers, ads, soundperson/system, and food make it incredibly difficult to tour sustainably when playing clubs and traditional venues that also take a big percentage of the revenue. House concert hosts take away all these expenses except the travel. Hosts are the heroes of the new music business.

The easy TenTen Concert format is designed for weeknights. Touring artists have to make more money on weekends (especially Saturday nights) so we encourage bigger events on those nights. But even if you’d like to host larger shows, the TenTen format allows you to build up to that gradually by hosting a succession of smaller shows to hook a few new friends each time.

Small Starts Can Have Big Endings

Here are a few things that can happen:

  • You might get excessive RSVPs and decide to do something bigger, like 20 or more. You still have that option!*
  • Some attendees may ask you to help them book a TenTen at their place because they saw how easy and cool it can be to do a small concert.
  • Some attendees may want to team up with you to host a bigger show next time.

*The key here is that you set an achievable goal for yourself, and set reasonable expectations for the artist. What you don’t want to do is tell an artist you can get 20 guests and only have 10 show up. We’ve seen this happen too many times.

The Numbers Fine-Tuned

“Ten Guests” is the target as well as a minimum expectation. We don’t count the host as part of the number of guests, so we’re really shooting for a minimum of  11-14 people depending on your household.

TenTen hosts understand there is a $100 guarantee (Ten Guests X $10), so they know that no-shows will cost them money. We don’t want to ask any professional artist to play for less than $100. That means you need to be diligent about collecting RSVPs, promoting early, creating a waiting list, and sending a reminder message two days before the show. CD and merch sales do not count towards the $100. Ideally, an artist will make $150-$250 from a TenTen Concert.

Since the successful host (with ten+ paying guests) is not expected to pay, anyone can afford to host a show. Some hosts like to buy a couple of pizzas and make a salad, but that’s totally optional. The point is to make it quick and easy for people to attend after work.

Another powerful aspect of having a finite guest list (e.g. ten people), is that it makes the event exclusive. For a host that wants to do these on a regular basis, they should invite enough people so that they are turning away at least as many as they are accepting. The only way to train people to RSVP and to commit to attending events is to turn them away when they don’t. If people don’t get turned away once in a while, they take the concerts for granted.

TenTen concerts are an opportunity for artists to fill off nights. One great way to find artists who are looking for shows in your area is the avails pages at ListeningRoomNetwork.com http://www.concertsinyourhome.com/avails.html. These pages are organized by regions (states, provinces, countries) and provide listings of artists and the most critical gaps in their touring schedules. Check out some music, and reach out to the acts that inspire you!

In music today, the power is in your hands. You get to decide which artists get a boost on their tours, and which artists get promoted to your friends. Best of all, you don’t need to be rich to have a significant impact on the artists you love.

TenTen Concerts are one of several one-set formats promoted at ConcertsInYourHome.com

Fran Snyder is an artist and the founder of ConcertsInYourHome.com. In addition to these two roles, he’s also hosted many shows and written more on the subject of house concerts than anyone. Snyder is committed to solving the “touring problem,”  and has been featured in American Way Magazine, Billboard, and the New York Times. He continues to innovate different ways that artists can package their live show. Thanks to his work, many artists thrive on small successes, instead of starving until the big one. Read more at http://www.fransnyder.com.

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House Concert Tour Contest: And the winners are…

 

We're thrilled to announce the final results of the 2nd Annual 2010 CIYH Video/Tour Contest. This year's winner, from Etobicoke Ontario, is Suzie Vinnick !!
In a virtual tie for second place are the duo Barnaby Bright (Brooklyn NY) and the trio Big Wide Grin (Mill Valley CA). Photos above are linked to their CIYH profiles.

The final round highlights:

45 CIYH hosts viewed all 30 song submissions from our 10 finalists for the final round of judging. The results were very close. All contestants garnered praise from many judges for their songs.

As our contest winners, Suzie, Becky & Nathan (Barnaby Bright) and Elaine, Lawrence & Karl (Big Wide Grin) will receive 5 and 10 gig circuits in the U.S. or Canada during May 2011. Circuit locations will be selected by January 31. (See full list of prizes below.)

Want to host the winners?

We've set up this nice page, where you can

  • see 4 videos from each act
  • see a map of hosts who are already interested
  • and you can email jeff to add yourself as an interested host for a show in May.

Visit the link and hear these wonderful artists, then let Jeff know where you are!

Thank you

to all of our artist entrants who collectively brought 220 videos to the first round of judging. Similarly, we thank each of the 80 judges who worked with us over the course of the contest, tirelessly and (based on their gushing comments) quite enjoyably.
 
The judges saw remarkable new talent well beyond the finalists, and some have said they look forward to booking these artists in the future. Of course, we'd love to know when that happens.
 
Thanks to each of you–artists and judges–for making the 2nd annual contest a great success. 
 
Jeff and Fran

Tours and Prizes

 

  • Grand Prize: Suzie Vinnick
    Ten-day regional house concert tour
    $500 in merchandise from D'Addario & Planet Waves
    PLS Lighting System from Q-Lighting ($350 value)
    $100 cash.
  • Second place: Barnaby Bright
    Five-day tour
    $250 in merchandise from D'Addario & Planet Waves
    Maestro from Q-Lighting ($40 value)
    $100 cash.
  • Third place: Big Wide Grin
    Five-day tour
    $250 in merchandise from D'Addario & Planet Waves
    Maestro from Q-Lighting ($40 value)
    $100 cash.

See additional contest details.

See the finalist videos and mp3s.

Thanks to our kind sponsors, D'Addario, Planet Waves, and Q-Lighting. Check out the special offer from Q-Lighting in our latest newsletter. Offer ends November 30th, 2010.

 

Get Help. (with your House Concerts)

This is part of a how-to-series from ConcertsInYourHome.com, written by Fran Snyder.

"Get Help" is a popular mantra in the mental health industry. If you've developed the mental disorder called "house concert host," then I suggest you pay heed. It is necessary for your long term health and your enthusiasm. 8^)

CIYH CREW shirt

The most common mistake among new hosts is failing to ask for help. Hosting shows in your home is not rocket science, but it does pose a handful of challenges. To face these challenges, the more energy you have available, especially at the beginning, the greater the chance your house concert series will lift off.  People = Energy

What kind of help should I get? You can ask for and receive all kinds of help, including;

Booking

The success and the enjoyment you and your friends derive from your house concerts largely depends on the quality of performers you book. Frankly, many hosts (especially the new) have no idea of the vast quantity of world-class talent that is available. While it might be wonderful to support local artists you already know, it's important to consider the phenomenal touring artists who could be looking for opportunities in your area. You owe it to yourself to be choosy, and to only select artists who make you confident that they will leave your audiences enthralled.

If that sounds like a lot of work, it doesn't have to be. Our website contains nearly a thousand artists, many of whom have a long track record of being great performers AND house-guests. Please look for the number of  "recommendations" in their profiles to read comments from hosts who've had these performers in their home.

Also, you can work with Jeff Robertson, our friendly agent, who can hand-pick some of our best acts to get your series started with a bang.

"…beyond my expectations. I'm still in awe that musicians of this caliber are willing to travel here for our personal concert with our friends. Thanks Jeff!" –  B. Hofbauer, OH

If you really want to go for it, you can attend regional music conferences to hear, meet, and connect with touring artists who would love to schedule shows with you. Folk Alliance has several regional conferences with dedicated forums to enjoy artists in small, personal spaces. Highly recommended, and don't let the word "folk" throw you – many, many genres are represented.

Organizing/Promoting


One of the most common challenges is getting the word out, and inspiring enough people to RSVP and attend the show.
Will this be easy for you? Many hosts find themselves surprised that their friends don't understand how much fun this will be.

Though we continue to create free tools for our hosts (eflyers, calendars, videos, etc.) – nothing beats having a few more boots on the ground. Your circle of friends is surprisingly small when you compare it to the collective circles of a handful of people. Don't do this alone!

Chances are, at least one or a couple of your friends, if properly approached, would LOVE to get involved with promoting your event. Personally invite them to take part in the event… send them links to the artist and see if they get inspired by the music and/or videos. Would they email 10-20 of their friends a personal invitation? Would they pitch the idea to some friends at work? At house concerts, a turnout of 4-6 extra people can make the difference between an O.K. turnout and a full house!

Furniture/Equipment

Most artists can travel with a small sound system, or do without one if the room is small enough. However, it is great to have access to a small P.A. (microphone, amp, speaker, etc.) when the need arises. These systems can be bought for $300-$1000, but that's probably not a worthwhile investment unless you do many shows each year. Someone you know probably has one.

Chairs, especially bar-stools (great for the back row) are one of the best things you can borrow from your next door neighbors. They might also have a few extra folding chairs if you need them.

The Right Space

One of the most common reasons that people don't feel they can host house concerts is because they think their home is too small. The beauty of house concerts, is that even modest homes can pull off worthwhile events. That said, if you aren't comfortable with your space, why not recruit/inspire a friend or family member who has a better "performance space" to get involved? You book the shows, and help host the events at THEIR house. However, much care should be taken to make sure they understand what they are getting into.

Setting Up/Running the Event

I've seen my share of stressed out hosts before an event. Between getting the house clean, arranging the furniture, setting out snacks and beverages, and handling last minute details, it's easy to feel overwhelmed before the artist even arrives. In the end, they are always happy with the result, but why take on more stress and work than you have to?

Consider inviting at least 2 or 3 guests to come early to help you set up. You can thank your "crew" with some fun shirts, choice reserved seats, pre-show meet and greet with the artist, or almost anything else. Money is not a good reward for these tasks – it takes the romance and the community feel out of the event. People are happy to pitch in for worthwhile things.

Here are some fantastic tasks to delegate or get help with.

  • moving furniture, setting up chairs
  • collecting money/donations
  • setting up food
  • serving drinks (in moderation)
  • making announcements
  • parking guide (if necessary)

Financial/guarantees

Many artists are happy to book shows without requiring a financial guarantee, especially if the host is offering a free meal and place to stay. However, even a modest ($100-300) guarantee can go a long way to offer piece of mind to artists who are incurring travel costs to get to you. Hosts only need to make up the difference between the guarantee and what is collected from donations, so the cost is usually minimal, and often "$0" if 20 or more guests show up.

However, some hosts feel better when they can offer a strong financial guarantee, and sharing that (voluntary) responsibility with a few friends is certainly an option.

Important: Please do not feel compelled to offer more than what you can comfortably afford to spend.

 

Sleeping Quarters

One of the most significant travel expenses for artists is lodging. It's a tradition (but not required) for hosts to offer a free guest room or basement futon for artists who perform at their house concerts. If this is awkward (e.g. a single mom hosting a male performer, or families with newborns), it's certainly acceptable to get a nearby friend or neighbor who has a better situation to host your guests overnight. These co-hosts should be friendly and flexible, and should be cheerful about helping. Otherwise, it's best to offer a local hotel or let the artist know ahead of time that sleeping accommodations are not part of your house concerts.

These are some ways you can get help. You'll find that sharing not just the events, but their responsibilities will deepen your friendships, enrich your community, and provide memories you'll cherish for a lifetime.

To join our community of house concert hosts (for free), visit ConcertsInYourHome.com.

The Host in Control: Turning a crowd into an audience.

What should a host do to insure that they will be able to gather a respectful and attentive audience for a house concert? This is part of a how-to-series from ConcertsInYourHome.com, written by Fran Snyder.

Carnegie_Small_BLKBRD_540x2

Controlling the audience is an important skill for hosts as well as for performers. Imagine, making great effort to get your friends to your house so they can hear an artist you really love and want to support. Everyone arrives in good spirits, catching up with old friends, sharing funny stories, and getting lost in the normal get together stuff.

Then, despite your best efforts, when it's time for the show to start, you can't seem to get everyone seated and quiet. A few folks head outside for a smoke, a few guests have already had too much to drink, and some insist on standing in the back so they can "discreetly" keep chatting.
The smokers keep going in and out, the drunks are whispering louder than most people yell, and the guys in the back are just loud enough to annoy the people in front of them.

A nightmare. Might as well be a noisy club show, right?

Basics:

As a house concert host, it is your responsibility to educate your invitees, and to manage their expectations. This is especially true when you are first starting out, when you haven't built a core audience that will set the right example at every show.

You set the right expectations with the first email. You continue to establish control with every conversation and every invitation. It's part of the show's introduction, the intermission, and the closing goodbye. It's a CONCERT. Emphasize the word. Don't let anyone get the impression that it's a party with music.

If your house concert isn't promoted as a CONCERT,  getting your new attendees to behave like an audience will be an uphill battle. Remember, you'll want your invitees to bring their spouse or a friend, and they will most likely have to explain what a house concert is. If you aren't clear about it, you can bet they will not explain it well to others.


Consider:


Even the most seasoned performer can lose their spark when they have to work to get the crowd's attention.
Instead of playing music, being warm and comfortable, they start spotting problems and plotting solutions, and this lovely experience we call music starts to look and feel like a job. If that job necessitates announcements for people to shut up and be respectful, no one wins. The artist will not sell as many CDs, and your audience will have missed the opportunity for a truly inspiring experience. Some may not come back next time.

Tips:

  1. Make sure your flyers, invitations, and emails say "concert" and not "party." Even though house concerts can turn into very festive events (with certain performers) – let that be the surprise.
  2. As people arrive (or ahead of time) pull a few of your friends aside and ask them to take seats in the front row when the time comes. Unless the artist is well-known, new audience members have a tendency select seats like they are entering algebra class. Have a few "good students" set the example early.
  3. Twenty minutes before the show, make an announcement like this… "Hi Everyone, in about 10-15 minutes we'll need to have everyone seated before the concert starts. If you want to use the restroom, or refill your drink, please do that in the next few minutes."
  4. A few minutes before the show, make the next announcement. "O.K. everyone, please find a seat as we're about to start the show. The first set will be about 40 minutes, and then you'll have a break to stretch your legs, use the restroom or get a refill. Please help us keep distractions to a minimum, silence your phones, and get comfortable."
  5. Introduce the artist. There is no penalty for being brief. "Hi Everyone, thanks so much for joining us at our (first?) house concert. Tonight we're pleased to bring you, all the way from Lawrence, Kansas, Fran Snyder!"  Hopefully, you won't have to goad them for some applause.  8^)

The introduction is a great way for you to stall as the last few people settle in. But wait until they are quiet… make them uncomfortable with your silence if you have to, then smile. "Welcome everybody!…"

Options:

  1. Even if you are comfortable as a public speaker (OK – it's a living room), this is a great way to get some of your guests involved. If you sense that one of your friends would be good at (or even enjoy) the role of announcer – delegate! Give them 2 or 3 of the cues above so they are prepared, and share the spotlight. If you can, choose someone with a strong and clear voice, who can speak with some authority and a friendly vibe. Even if you reserve the artist introduction for yourself, it's best to have just one person be the other announcer. Having three different announcers would be weird.
  2. If you aren't up to the job, or forget to delegate it, or just can't find anyone willing, let the artist know at least one hour before the show. Share these tips with them if you like, but a professional artist should be willing to take charge of making an announcement or two. Yes, it's much better if they don't have to.

To join our community of house concert hosts (for free), visit ConcertsInYourHome.com.

House Concert Guide: Choosing a Location

SligoRagsAtRuss&Julies
This is part of a how-to-series from ConcertsInYourHome.com, written by Fran Snyder

Basics:

Although similar results can be achieved in different locations, a house concert takes place at a house. When the weather turns seasonally ideal, some hosts do patio, garden, backyard shows, but you always need a backup (inside) in case the weather doesn't cooperate. Indoors, the living room is usually the best choice, often providing a balance between cozy and the opportunity to stretch into an adjoining area. A window or fireplace can make a nice background scene for the performer.

Consider:

You'll most likely need to re-arrange some furniture, like removing coffee tables and pushing the couches to the side of the room. You'll most likely use every chair in the house (dining room chairs, bar stools, ottomans, office chairs, etc.) Your neighbors can be a great resource for free chairs (especially barstools – which make a great back row) as well as audience members. Don't feel obligated to overdo it. You don't have to create Carnegie Hall in your home.

Options:

Ask me about my house concert shirt

We feel there are few spaces more cozy than a living room. However, basements work too. If you live in an apartment or condo, there is often a clubhouse or common area that can be reserved at little or no expense. Some hosts, who aren't satisfied with their space recruit like-minded friends to co-host the shows in their homes. It can be terrific to work with a close friend as a partner in these events.

Tip:

Most people underestimate the number of guests they can comfortably fit in their living room. To get an idea, clear the middle of the room (coffee table, etc.) and move the couches to the side of the room if possible. Then, start arranging available chairs (dining room, kitchen, breakfast nook, office chairs) to get an idea of the number of people it could hold. Once you've set up a few rows, it's easy to imagine how the rest of it would fall into place. Remember to allow a 4' by 6' area for the performer -  more if it's a duo or group.

Choosing the date/day of your House Concert

Calendar

Basics:

If you choose the act first, then you'll need to collaborate with them to choose a date that works with their touring schedule. 

However, if you plan on hosting house concerts on a regular basis, it can be helpful to choose a consistent schedule that makes it easier to plan and build a strong repeat audience. For example, hosting events on the first thursday of every month, except for the winter months. That would give you 8 or 9 shows per year.

Consider:

Doing weekend shows (Saturdays are very popular) makes it easier to draw a larger crowd, and avoid having to pull things together quickly at the end of a long day at work. However, choosing other times (Sunday afternoon, thursday evenings) can give you a great edge for capturing amazing talent when they tour through your area. You will be astonished at the caliber of artists who would be grateful to fill a thursday night show for a modest crowd and a free place to stay. 

Options: 

  1. Find the artists you most want to play, and look at their touring schedules to see when they would most likely be willing to play in your home. Email them with potential dates that would also work for you. 
  2. Join the "weekend circuits" program at CIYH, and we'll help you tie in your concert dates with other hosts in your region. 
  3. Do both!

Tip: 

Be aware of local events and celebrations in your area that could interfere with the audience turnout of your event. Sporting events (especially playoffs) can wreak havoc on concert attendance. It's also very challenging to keep a concert/listening atmosphere if you combine your house concerts with birthday celebrations. It's best (at least until you have an established audience) to keep it about the music. 

Change your mind anytime:

These are guidelines, and there's nothing wrong with trying different methods at different times. It's your house concert series… do it the way you want!

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