You may be surprised to discover that there are lots of folks a phone call away who want to help you further your career –says Jaime Babbitt
Picture this: a nice-sized room (or porch, if weather permits) filled with anywhere from 30 to 100 attentive and supportive audience members enjoying snacks and beverages provided by their gracious host, and a couple of sets of awe-inspiring live music provided by… YOU.
Welcome to the wonderful world of house concerts, a way for independent original artists to make money singing their own songs.
How Money Works at House Concerts
House concerts are a wonderful alternative to playing in bars and clubs. In a nutshell, the hosts put on concerts in their homes and invite guests to come and listen to you, AKA awesome singer-songwriters.
These hosts will either pay you out of pocket or more commonly, ask for a “donation” at the door (this varies, but $15-$20 per person is the average). So, if 30 people attend and pay $15 each, that’s $450 before any merchandise gets sold. Not a bad payday, especially if you’re an hour or so from home.
If you start talking about flights, etc., then you’ll need to put together a string of tour dates or your profit margin will be marginal.
FYI: hosts don’t take a percentage of the door collection, and any proceeds from CD sales are yours to keep.
Hosts can also provide lodgings in their home for you and/or your partner, and may provide food, too. Sounds pretty darn good so far, doesn’t it?
What You Need to Make It Happen
House concerts are generally performed by solo or duo artists in the rock, alternative, folk, country, alt-country, Americana, jazz, blues, R&B and adult contemporary genres.
A love of the open road and a well-maintained vehicle is required
Travel is involved, so a love of the open road and a well-maintained vehicle is required (in the USA, please sign up with AAA; in the UK, go for AA!).
Also, you’ll probably need a portable PA system; some house concerts can be performed in a totally unplugged environment, but if you want or need amplification for keyboard, guitar, bass, etc., you’ll need to have your rig.
There are organizations you can align with, like concertsinyourhome.com and houseconcerts.com. They’ve got all kinds of info on maximizing your strategies, host contacts, etc. But you do have to ‘apply’ to them and be accepted. So, if you want to go this route, you’ll need an EPK, video clips, etc. Oh, and there are membership fees.
What You Have to Do to Succeed
Though house concerts seem low-pressure, don’t kid yourself; you’ve got to be a TOTAL pro, and you’ll have to have around two hours of material prepared. If you don’t have enough original tunes yet, don’t be discouraged; well-chosen cover tunes will certainly go over in this environment.
You can be quite the raconteur during a house concert, so get your stories and banter together. You’ll want to rehearse these, too, so write an outline of experiences you’d like to share and create one or two minute monologues about them; if you’ve got another band member, they can get in on it with you and you might just have a comedy team in the making.
Telling stories is great practice for you becoming more comfortable in front of audiences in general, so embrace this aspect of the house concert world and learn how to hold court!
The Big Advantage of Doing House Concerts
The wonderful thing about house concerts is that the folks in attendance are all yours for the night; it’s not like playing a gig at a local club where you’re just one artist on the evening’s bill.
House concert audience members may live in areas where going to see live music isn’t much of an option, or they may prefer socializing at a friend’s home rather than going out to a bar or club. They are psyched for an evening of great original music and are inclined to purchase merch in support of… YOU.
As my dad would say, use your noodle. Why not DIY, especially at first? You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that there are lots of folks a phone call away who’d want to help you further your career.
Look into areas not too far from you where people don’t have a lot of entertainment choices: small towns, rural areas, army bases, farm communities, etc. If you have friends or relatives there, all the better. See if anyone is willing to host you and help drum up an audience.
As I always tell my clients, it never hurts to ask for help, and then when you can, you pay it forward, right?