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What I learned from my first house concert tour
#1
I initially had 14 house concerts confirmed but 3 hosts canceled after I had already worked out my routing. I picked up a few bar gigs to fill the open dates. I ended up performing 11 house concerts and 3 bar gigs throughout NE, KS, IA, SD, MN and WI. I averaged $200 per show, donations and merch sales combined.

I would get pretty sweaty while loading in my equipment, so instead of arriving already dressed in my performance clothes, I learned to arrive in casual clothes and then excuse myself to the bathroom to dry off and change into nicer clothes before guests arrived.

On one show the host had designed and printed his own posters for the event. He offered them free to his guests. Although it's great that a host went to this extra effort, I feel that it hurt the sales of the tour posters that I was trying to sell at my merch table.

I ran into a few annoyances with backyard shows. The cicadas would occasionally get so loud it was hard to hear the music. During one show a neighbor started to mow their lawn in the middle of my set. Several people also brought dogs, which occasionally became a distraction. By the time I was ready to load-out my equipment it was dark and I needed a flashlight.

Sometimes a host would want to delay the start of the concert because they were waiting for a specific guest to arrive. Mostly it worked out fine, but a couple times it seemed to stretch the night a little too long and guests became restless.

On two shows the host insisted on having local support. Neither of them seemed to help turnout or donations. Having openers seemed to diminish the impact of my set.

One host had a video crew on hand to capture the show. The lights and cameras were positioned between me and the audience, which really seemed to eliminate the feeling of intimacy. 

I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you may have.
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#2
Brad, this is great! Super helpful. Thank you for sharing this. It will for sure be a lot of help to other people just getting started with this.

Also, congratulations on doing your first house concert tour. It sounds like it went a lot smoother than our first house concerts went. It may not feel like it, but I think you're off to a hugely promising start. Specific thoughts:

(23 Aug 2017, 10:03 AM)bradhoshaw wrote:  I initially had 14 house concerts confirmed but 3 hosts canceled after I had already worked out my routing. I picked up a few bar gigs to fill the open dates. I ended up performing 11 house concerts and 3 bar gigs throughout NE, KS, IA, SD, MN and WI. I averaged $200 per show, donations and merch sales combined.

That's a good average for your first time doing this. We averaged $200 also on our first house concert runs.

(23 Aug 2017, 10:03 AM)bradhoshaw wrote:  I would get pretty sweaty while loading in my equipment, so instead of arriving already dressed in my performance clothes, I learned to arrive in casual clothes and then excuse myself to the bathroom to dry off and change into nicer clothes before guests arrived.

GREAT suggestion.

(23 Aug 2017, 10:03 AM)bradhoshaw wrote:  On one show the host had designed and printed his own posters for the event. He offered them free to his guests. Although it's great that a host went to this extra effort, I feel that it hurt the sales of the tour posters that I was trying to sell at my merch table.

It probably did hurt poster sales on that one night. However, I wonder whether your host's obvious enthusiasm for the event will reap benefits for you when you come back to that community? I don't have a surefire answer here, just brainstorming.

(23 Aug 2017, 10:03 AM)bradhoshaw wrote:  I ran into a few annoyances with backyard shows. The cicadas would occasionally get so loud it was hard to hear the music. During one show a neighbor started to mow their lawn in the middle of my set. Several people also brought dogs, which occasionally became a distraction. By the time I was ready to load-out my equipment it was dark and I needed a flashlight.

Playing outdoors does for sure present its own idiosyncratic challenges. We had insanely loud cicadas ourselves just last night. Haha. Re loading out in the dark, go to an outdoors store and get a headlamp. Re pets, we treat them the same as kids - i.e., they're specifically not allowed at our concerts. This is in our advance materials from the moment we engage each host, and we require that they communicate this clearly in their invites. If someone ignores this and shows up with a kid (under 10) or a dog, I have the host ask the guest to deal with it, including having them leave before the show starts if that's what it takes. Your instinct is correct - you'll lose money if people are distracted, and dogs/kids are distracting. Because you're predicating your income on your ability to engage people and to build a magical bubble around them, you literally can't afford distracting influences.

(23 Aug 2017, 10:03 AM)bradhoshaw wrote:  Sometimes a host would want to delay the start of the concert because they were waiting for a specific guest to arrive. Mostly it worked out fine, but a couple times it seemed to stretch the night a little too long and guests became restless.

Your instinct here is spot-on also. The way I address this is that 15 minutes before showtime, I ask the host whether there's anyone they know is coming who's not there yet, and if so, I tell them to give them a all and get their ETA, and tell them that I'm willing to push start time 10 minutes to accommodate them – but that if they're going to be later than that, then we'll start on time.

(23 Aug 2017, 10:03 AM)bradhoshaw wrote:  On two shows the host insisted on having local support. Neither of them seemed to help turnout or donations. Having openers seemed to diminish the impact of my set.

It does. We have never accommodated a local support act, and indeed that's an essential part of our advancing. In order to maximize engagement and impact, you have to be the only one playing.

(23 Aug 2017, 10:03 AM)bradhoshaw wrote:  One host had a video crew on hand to capture the show. The lights and cameras were positioned between me and the audience, which really seemed to eliminate the feeling of intimacy. 

Absolutely. Anything between you and the audience is a barrier. We don't even let the host put decorative plants in between Shannon and the audience. The more we can remove any perceived separation between "us" and "them," the more it becomes "we," and the more support we get.

(23 Aug 2017, 10:03 AM)bradhoshaw wrote:  I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you may have.

Your instincts and insights are spot-on. Keep refining, keep influencing specifics to go more in your favor, and most of all keep going! Thanks for sharing this. Smile
-
jamie hill
producer / engineer / mixer
http://secretagentaudio.com/work
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