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FORUMS

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Some basic questions for you!
#1
Hi All --- I’m new to this forum and the idea of house concerts, so I have a few questions, mostly about the concept itself and its applicability to my particular situation.

First, it seems that the idea works well for solo or duo acts, and even possibly a trio or quartet. However, I lead a 6-piece group that plays the music of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, and which includes a drum kit, so we can take up a fair amount of room. Just wondering if there are any other similar medium-to-large groups out there that are doing house concerts, and how they are faring. And are you using houses or alternate larger venues?

I was intrigued by the house concert idea because we have tried the traditional coffeehouse—club--restaurant route for several years, and have been increasingly dissatisfied with the results. Many places are increasingly reluctant to pay a guaranteed fee, and we also found that “playing for the door” with a cover charge can be a tough situation. And of course, “playing for the door” also transfers all of the financial risk to band, while the house essentially gets a free evening’s entertainment.

My biggest concern/issue with the house concert idea is that when someone invites people into their home for a gathering, the invitees usually don’t expect to pay anything for the privilege. They may bring a bottle of wine or some candy as a gift, but that’s not required and is a lot different than asking them to come up with a $10 or $20+ bill --- even if they are told about the donation idea in advance. To me, it’s like the hosts are asking their guests to pay for their party, which seems a bit strange to me, regardless of how it’s phrased. And if I’m uncomfortable with the idea, then it’s going to be very difficult for me to try and sell it to someone else. I’d appreciate any thoughts that anyone has on this.

Actually, as I think about it, the donation idea isn’t that far removed from a “cover charge,” except that a cover is an accepted business concept and people aren’t surprised or put off by.  In a social situation, it’s a different story, at least in my opinion.  And in some ways, a house concert is also not that much different than busking, except that you’re dealing with invited guests and not strangers on the street, which is an improvement.  But you’re still asking for donations in either situation.

I know that house concerts have worked well for Shannon and many others, so I’m hoping that our group can use the same concept, too. I just need to wrap my head around the idea a little better! SETH
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#2
Hey Seth! 


I'll let someone else who has more experience doing house concerts with a larger group speak to that part of your question. I do think it's doable – perhaps more difficult logistically – but summer is approaching, and backyards typically have plenty of space for a larger setup.

To the other part of your question: if you approach house concerts as being one-to-one substitutes for venue shows, with an eye to replicating the dynamics there, then this won't work. House concerts in our model are their own thing. Whereas venue shows are transactional, capitalist exchanges, house concerts in our model are predicated on trust, openness, and vulnerability. They're exchanges of energy. They're you giving something of yourself first, in an unconditional way, and trusting the community in which you're performing to support and reward that act of vulnerability. It's a bit nerve-wracking! Shannon and I leave for a four-month tour each summer literally not having any idea how much money we'll make. It's a trust fall. Nothing about any part of it is guaranteed. It's very far outside of the traditional way to run a business.

I understand that this is scary. It's not for everyone! If you can give yourself completely to the idea of giving of yourself without expectation, and you can focus on how to use what you're doing to improve people's lives, and you can deliver something of extraordinary value, you will be compensated in an extraordinary way – both monetarily and non-monetarily. But it will require you letting go of the old way of doing things. Venue mentalities have no place in people's homes. The dynamics are completely different. They're also vastly superior, in my experience. But it's a different experience, and you need to approach it on its own terms, not try to make it be like a different kind of venue show. That won't work.

To your comment about "It's like hosts are asking their guests to pay for their party" – to make a house concert work, you have to realize that it's not a party, and the guests aren't paying for it. It's a collaboratively-sourced private art event, which the guests have the privilege of being able to help make happen. Being able to be a part of making art happen in the world is a big deal. Most everyone was an artist, when they were very young; but most people don't get to pursue that as adults. By giving people an opportunity to participate in bringing unusual, localized, community-based interactive art experiences into the world, you are giving them a profound gift. (This same theory is what undergirds the album fundraisers we do with our community each year, btw. We've done a $15,000+ album fundraiser each spring for the last four years by making this exact case to our people.)

I thought I'd address this particular point because I think it underscores fairly well the idea that, to make house concerts work in our model, some realignment of ideas and frames is necessary. You can generalize the above paragraph to the rest of the perspective shifts that will be necessary for you to make this work for you, if you decide that it's something you're interested in pursuing.

Figuring out how to share your music with people in a rewarding and sustainable way is incredibly hard. Good luck. We're rooting for you. Let us know if we can help.  Heart
-
jamie hill
producer / engineer / mixer
http://secretagentaudio.com/work
Reply
#3
Jamie – Thanks for your thoughtful and helpful reply.  Our problem, in my opinion, is finding our “niche.”  Our music appeals primarily to senior citizens and some younger folks who know about and appreciate the type of music we play. We seem to do well at public libraries, over-55 communities, and assisted-living places, but not bars or restaurants, which are looking for more “modern” music.

I see now that house concerts are a totally different animal, and will require us to adjust our thinking accordingly.  So in addition to putting my own thinking cap on, I’m going to peruse the rest of the BB’s and get an idea of what other folks are doing, and how they are doing it.  SETH
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#4
(24 May 2018, 03:44 PM)Sethb Wrote: Jamie – Thanks for your thoughtful and helpful reply.  Our problem, in my opinion, is finding our “niche.”  Our music appeals primarily to senior citizens and some younger folks who know about and appreciate the type of music we play. We seem to do well at public libraries, over-55 communities, and assisted-living places, but not bars or restaurants, which are looking for more “modern” music.

I see now that house concerts are a totally different animal, and will require us to adjust our thinking accordingly.  So in addition to putting my own thinking cap on, I’m going to peruse the rest of the BB’s and get an idea of what other folks are doing, and how they are doing it.  SETH

Hey Seth! You bet. 

Here's another encouragement: house concerts, in our experience, skew older. And, the older they skew, the more successful they are for us, financially and in terms of connection. 

Shannon makes grown-ass-woman music and her performances tend to appeal to people who are more comfortable with and hungry for intellectual and emotional stimulation – i.e., older people. I would guess that our average audience member's age on each summer's tour is 50 or so. 

And, this is great news: people who are 50 and older are in their financial prime! We do occasionally have a younger host who brings a younger crowd, and those are always and without exception our lowest-income nights. On nights where everyone is 50-60, on the other hand, we can and routinely do make $1,000+. If you can move someone sufficiently, and they have means, there's no upward limit to how generously they will thank you for the experience you've just given them.

And the benefits of older crowds aren't just financial. They tend to connect better on an emotional level, and be more willing to bring themselves to the experience, and to want to engage around it afterwards. There's a lot to be said for doing art with people who have had more of a chance to get comfortable in their own skin. It makes for profoundly rewarding experiences.

So if you're doing something that intrinsically appeals to older people, then you've already got a huge advantage. Wear nice clothes, make sure there's a black tablecloth on your merch table and your overall presentation is low-key classy, and go make some money. Smile 
-
jamie hill
producer / engineer / mixer
http://secretagentaudio.com/work
Reply


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