It’s a beautiful evening! Everyone is having a great time. You are performing one of your favorite songs in front of the fireplace looking out into your audience of smiles and bopping heads as they sway to your tunes. There are about 30 people all together. They are engaging with you as you banter between songs. They even sing along with you. After your set, they come to you one by one telling you how much they enjoyed your music and they want to buy a CD and a t-shirt. The night is so surreal, you thought you might have dreamt it.
This is what a House Concert is all about! It is like a dream. Each show is unique and will never happen again in the same way. House concerts are one of the most intimate shows you can do because you are literally in someone’s private home hanging out with their friends and family. Most of them will know each other and they will be comfortable together, which is the best recipe for a fun and engaging show.
When I first found out about house concerts, I was excited! I wanted to do them so bad. I reached out to my mailing list and asked but I got no response. I even tried to apply for a house concert network where you have access to house concert hosts who will book you, but I had no luck with that either. (More about that below.) It felt like an entire year went by before I could book a steady flow of house concerts on my calendar. Booking house concerts wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. I felt very discouraged and almost gave up on the idea all together.
Somehow I had gotten a second wind and tried again to book house concerts. I tried some different methods and this time it worked. I currently have a steady flow of house concerts on my calendar and it has helped meet my financial goals month by month.
In this post, I will tell you how I book my house concerts. Each artist may have a different approach based on what works for them, so you might be able to use some of these tactics and you might not.
Tactic 1: Educate Your Fans
So I came up with an idea to educate people on what a house concert is and what it might look like. (SIDE NOTE: I changed the name to Listening Party instead of House Concert because the term “house concert” did not resonate with my fans.) I created a video and a landing page for House Concerts on my website.
Here is the video:
The video is on the landing page, but I also use the video in my e-mails and on my social media when I’m telling my followers about house concerts. The video goes into detail about what a house concert is in a very informal way. I filmed it at an actual house concert, so it includes live performance footage from an actual house concert as well as testimonies from the hosts and guests describing what their experience was like. The video portrays a very fun, intimate atmosphere. I like the video because it shows exactly what a house concert is. I can write about it all day long but there is nothing like seeing it.
On the landing page on my website, I go into even more detail describing what it is like, how long it will take, what goes into hosting one, and what the costs are. Most seasoned and better-known artists ask for a guarantee from their hosts. Guarantees range from $150-$300 depending on the artist. They are paid to the artist by the host if the artist does not meet their financial goals for the evening. This incentivizes the host to ensure that people come and make their guests aware of the suggested donation and be ready to buy merchandise. As a newbie to house concerts, I decided that I would forego asking for a guarantee so I wouldn’t scare anyone off. I had a hard enough time simply educating them on what it was, I didn’t want to further complicate things by demanding they pay me a set amount if I don’t meet my financial goals. This has worked out in my favor, because I have learned to communicate with my hosts about what my goals are and since they want to support me anyway they normally do what they can to help me meet those goals. These two items alone, the video and the landing page, have gotten a great response. People have even gone on the landing page and pressed the button to schedule a house concert. Every so often I post the video and the landing page on my social media to keep the conversation going with fans and followers.
Tactic 2: Book your House Concerts at other shows
Nearly every show where it is appropriate, I pitch house concerts. I have booked several house concerts simply by announcing it as an option at my public shows. I even pass out sign-up cards as part of a giveaway drawing during my sets where I list the question on these cards. If they are interested in hosting a house concert, they mark “Yes” or “No” and if they mark “YES,” I have a space for them to include their phone number. While the cards are being passed out, I explain what a house concert is directly from the stage. I can see from their facial response that they are considering it, which is a good thing. Later when I get back home, I call or e-mail those that said they were interested in hosting. About half of the people that say they are interested actually follow-through and book a show.
Tactic 3: Book your House Concerts at House Concerts
Once you get a few house concerts in your books, you can use your current house concerts as a booking tool to book others. Make sure every one sitting in your audience knows that they can be a host as well and don’t forget to ask them. I have had the most success booking a house concert from another house concert because the people there already know what it is like and can better imagine doing it themselves. I use my sign-up sheets as a way to gauge interest and I follow-up with everyone at the show after my set as well as reach back out to them when I get home. This works so well and it’s my favorite way to book house concerts.
Tactic 4: Send out a “Booking House Concerts in Your Area” email to your subscribers
This works well if you are planning a tour but you don’t have to limit it to tour planning. Send an email to your subscribers saying “I will be in your area NEXT ____(you fill in the blank)___.” In this email you can list out the cities and dates you will be there and ask if they would like to book a special house concert performance with you. Tell them it’s a great way to enjoy a fun and unique evening with their friends and family while listening to live music. If you have a video or landing page, link to it. Have them reply by such and such date if they want to book you. Be strategic with your language. For example, don’t ask “Would you please host a house concert?” Instead say, “I will be in your area and I’m opening up my calendar just for my fans to have a special one-of-a-kind, intimate house concert. Which of these dates work best for you?” Did you see the difference? Instead of you asking them to help you, you are offering to help them have a very special event where they can show you off to their friends and family. As soon as I learned this subtle trick, I started getting a much better response rate.
Tactic 5: Sign up with or scout other resources
Currently, the main house concert resource available is Concerts in your Home founded by Fran Snyder. Fran is a great guy, excellent artist, and a seasoned house concert performer. He had a great idea to bring hosts and artists together in one community on a website. The website has taken off and there are lots of hosts and artists connecting all the time. This site has been instrumental in booking hundreds if not thousands of house concerts. As an artist, you will need to apply to be a part of the network and to be listed on their site. You will also have access to hosts from all over the country once you apply and get accepted. The only caveat is, the application process is very selective and the fees are more than $200 annually. When I first looked in to house concerts, I applied to be a part of their network. I was rejected in what seemed like seconds after I applied. They said my videos were not that great, they didn’t think I had enough original material to cover two sets at a house concert, and one reviewer said they just couldn’t “feel” my music. I was hurt and very upset by the comments. I sent Fran a nice email back with my best attempts to mask my negative emotions stating my objections to the reviewers’ comments. Ultimately I did not get in. This was years ago and after that rejection, I vowed to get in someday. As painful as it was, going through that experience challenged me to do it on my own. I’m not a part of Concerts in Your Home today for three reasons. 1) I chose not to re-apply based on the application fee, 2) the sheer volume of artists they currently have on their roster renders them over-saturated and might not be effective when trying to contact hosts (by the way they have become even more selective in the application process because of the amount of artists they already have) and 3) I just don’t think my music is a good fit for the type of host they attract. I present an acoustic soulful pop sound that is just different than what most of Concerts in Your Home hosts are used to. They like their country and folk. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if I’m going to pay $300 a year, it needs to be worthwhile. Anyways, I mention Fran and his website because it may prove useful for other artists and they really do have great resources when it comes to booking house concerts even if you are not “in”. Check out the website, http://www.concertsinyourhome.com.
Some other resources worth mentioning:
This is a website dedicated to the DIYers. It’s a collection of house concert hosts and bands who help each other out categorized by country, state, and city. I’ve booked a couple shows from this website. There are no fees or applications associated with using it. It’s pretty straight forward.
This website is a bit outdated, but some folks on here are still in operation. You may be able to find something here. It is a listing of house concerts by state which includes the hosts and the hosts’ contact information. These people like to book very far in advance, so plan accordingly.
It may take a year or it might only take a few months, but once you get a couple house concerts on your calendar, you will get moreBe patient and put these ideas to use. Hopefully they will work for you as well as they have worked for me.
Do you have any additional ideas? How do you get house concerts?