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 www.fransnyder.com.