Friday, February 27, 2009

House Concerts: Be an "American Idol," One House at a Time

I'm a big fan of house concerts... when I go out on tour, about half the concerts I perform are in people's homes. There's nothing quite like it. I LOVE playing them. You meet so many great people on a one-to-one basis. You talk, you share, you play... and these folks love your music. So going in, you have that in common. Makes it easy to small talk.

You may scoff at the idea of playing a concert in a persons home because you are concerned about SIZE. The size of the audience doesn't matter. In fact, you will likely find, as I did, that playing a concert to a small audience in a home is much more effective and financially lucrative than playing in a "typical" venue.

How much money do you usually command when you play a show in a club? $100 bucks? $200? I typically ask $500 for a house concert. I know musicians who charge as much as $1500 for an intimate home show. Now, I don't do that, because personally I want my concerts to be affordable to the average person. Most people won't and can't justify paying $1500 for a concert. But if someone is a real fan of your music, they'll find a way to come up with $500 for a show custom tailored just for them - and they'll be even more stoked about if it you offer to play their favorite songs for them in their own home.

And what's even MORE fantastic about playing house concerts is how easy they are to do. All you have to do is show up and bring your instrument (if you are a pianist, as I am, you can play THEIR instrument. In that case, you just bring the clothes on your back and CDs to sell). Your concert host does all the promotion, bringing in their friends, family and coworkers to show off YOUR music - which is among their favorite music - to their personal network of friends.

So you have no promotion costs to worry about. Oh, and guess what? The host provides the food too. And they will probably even invite you stay the night to save you that hotel bill.

And how are CD sales? Ridiculous. At least, compared to playing a club.

When you play a club, how many fans are there to see YOU? Or do you play and do your thing while people mill about talking, eating and drinking and hardly take notice you? Maybe you sell a CD here and there, but are you selling DOZENS of them?

At a house concert, you have a totally attentive audience. You can engage them, telling stories about your songs, laughing together, crying together, sharing not only your music, but YOURSELF with them.

And if you're engaging, and if your storytelling and your music touches them, you'll sell CDs like candy.

When I play a house concert, I generally sell an average of 1 CD per person in the audience. There are those who don't buy, but those are made up for by those who buy multiple CDs.

So with one house concert to say 30 people (about 15 couples), which is about my average, I'll sell 30-40 CDs. Let's say 35. At a $12 per CD average, that's $420. Plus my $500 fee. That's $920 for 3 hours of playing and hanging out with people who love my music. Oh, and they provide me a meal and a place to stay. What's that worth? Another $120 bucks?

So when I play a house concert I come out ahead by $1,000 bucks a night. If you sell merchandise as well, you can do even better.

Now that's great money, and if you're in it for the money, then, well, there you go. But I'm not in it just for the money. House concerts are also a great way to develop relationships with your fans. And if your life and music are faith-based and ministry-based, as mine is, then there is no better way to connect with people and share your faith and testimony.

It's about meeting and touching REAL people with REAL lives. Encouraging people who love your music. Exhorting them. Lifting them up. Helping them to get back on their feet. Making a difference, one home at a time.

But back to the money, because I know that's an important factor. We all have to support our families and our art. None of us want to lose money on a tour.

I've played to house concert audiences as small as seven people. Guess what? I still made $500 bucks plus a few CD sales. On the other side of the spectrum, I've played house concerts to over a hundred people - and sold well over a hundred CDs at a show. Almost $2,000 for 3 hours of work? That buys a lot of groceries. My wife loves that.

And it goes beyond that. ANYTIME I play a house concert, I see lots of follow up sales through my web site. Fans invite their friends to the concert, their friends buy a CD, love it, then buy more music via my web site or iTunes. They tell their friends. They are excited they saw me live, in person, and actually met me. They are jazzed. And the next time I come to town, guess what? These new fans want their OWN concert. And they bring their friends, and now I'm playing to MORE people. Which leads to...

More OPPORTUNITY. Not only financially, but to build relationships that are lasting.

I talk about setting up house concerts in my book, How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet. If you haven't got that already, you might want to check that out.

In today's connected world, with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace being all the rage, setting up a house concert tour is easier than ever before.

Read the story of solo bassist Steve Lawson. You'll find his blog posting about his own house concert tour experience at . It's well worth reading.

Also recommended: Concerts in Your Home.

So the next time you're on tour and want to fill up those empty nights on your calendar, start talking with your fans in the area. Offer to play in their homes. You can ask your fee or even just ask for donations from the crowd. You might not make as much in donations, but playing a show in someone's home and making $200 from donations plus any CD sales you do is better than sitting at a hotel all by your lonesome eating pizza and watching American Idol.

Play house concerts and you can BE an American Idol, one house at a time.

David Nevue
The Music Biz Academy


Anonymous said...

I also play house concerts when I tour (and even sometimes when I'm home in New York City!). Just as you say, they are a fantastic way to connect with audience members, and I *love* doing them!

Anonymous said...

Ok, you sold me! I'd rather spend my energies and time ministering to people one-on-one. I'd love to see what a house concert looks like. I could host one in my own home to get started. :)

Andy Rogers said...

David I agree, House Concerts are a great part of the touring schedule. In fact they've taken me all over the planet - I've had so many other artists ask me how I book them that I ended up creating just to explain it and free up my time from repeating myself!

Cheers - Andy

Dustin Moore said...

Wow, that was a nice read! It makes me want to start playing again. In all seriousness, that was really helpful. I've never played, nor went to a house concert. It's now on mt list of things to do! Thanks for the read!