Attentive, engaged, and buying audience members. A cozy, intimate environment. A solid pay check, and maybe even food and accommodations for the night. All the marketing handled on your behalf.
Every artist has different dreams, but for some, the above describes the perfect gig.
If this sounds intriguing to you, you’ll be glad to know that this gig actually exists – it’s called a house concert.
The terms might be a little different depending on who books you, but in general, house concerts can make for great supplemental tour stops, and can even form the basis of an entire tour!
Here’s what you need to know to get booked for a house concert.
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Engage Your Fans At House Concerts
Arguably, the hardest part about being an independent musician is building a fan base. So we don’t mean to be nonchalant about this point.
But once you’ve done the hard work of building a strong fan base (it can be in the hundreds rather than the thousands), you’ll notice that a lot of new opportunities start presenting themselves.
One such opportunity is the chance for your fans to hold house concerts. If they love you and want to see you play in their backyard or living room, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be interested in helping you out.
And even better, they don’t need to draw a huge crowd. An audience of 20 to 30 is perfectly respectable, and can be quite profitable. For most people, that’s just a matter of inviting some friends over for a night of food, drink, and music.
Sadly, a lot of clubs, pubs, bars, and cafés take advantage of artists, which is why we instinctually think a turnout of 20 to 30 is a bad. Not so with house concerts, especially when you consider that most attendees will buy your merch and sign up for your email list. You also get to keep all donations from the door.
If you want to book a house concert circuit or tour, cooperate with your fans to make it happen. Give them all the information and promo material they need to book and host a successful house concert. Communicate with them regularly and make sure everything is running smoothly.
This might sound like a lot of work, but compared to the work it takes to engage gatekeepers and try to get booked into known venues (where you’ll likely make less money), this is a walk in the park.
Find House Concert Hosts To be Booked
Who better to book your next house concert than those who already have a history of having artists and groups in to perform in their home?
Take advantage of resources like Concerts In Your Home to find willing hosts. House concerts are on the rise, and it is likely that there are websites and resources dedicated to helping you book house concerts in your hometown (unless you live in a particularly small town). Use Google to find these sites (i.e. search for “house concerts + [city name]”).
Keep in mind that people like to work with those they know, like, and trust. If you don’t fit a particular mold, and the host doesn’t even know you, your chances of getting booked aren’t great. It all comes down to relationship at that point. Are you personable, respectful, and considerate? Do you play the kind of music they like?
Searching online directories and connecting with hosts is a good way to fill out your performance itinerary. But it’s a less viable way of booking entire house concert tours compared to asking your fans for help.
Building your fan base and getting out into public needs to be your top priority. If you want to be invited to play in someone’s home, first you need to be seen performing out in public.
Go back to the fundamentals of:
- Promoting the idea of house concerts – through your website, your social media, your email campaigns, and onstage too.
- Growing your social media following.
- Growing your email list.
- Keeping your website and social media up-to-date, and crafting an attractive EPK.
- Performing regularly.
Do Your Homework
If you want to go through online directories to book shows, not doing your research is a sure-fire way to get rejected by potential hosts.
You need to find out:
- What acts they’ve booked in the past, and what they sound like. This should give you a bit of an idea of whether or not they’d be interested in booking an act like yours.
- What their house rules are, and how they like to conduct house concerts (if different from the standard format).
- Whether or not they can accommodate an “electric” setup (most house concerts are acoustic shows).
- How many performers they can accommodate – most hosts only have solo, duo, or trio acts perform in their homes.
- Whether or not they welcome non-family-friendly material (references to drinking, drugs, swearing, etc.). Most house concerts are meant to be family-friendly.
Don’t take any of this personally. Just think about the kind of people you would like to have in your own home. If you can’t count on them to behave themselves, you wouldn’t let them in, or at the very least, you wouldn’t invite them back after too many infractions. So it is with anyone else.
And when you're reaching out to hosts, remember that people can tell whether or not you’re trying to connect with them or if you’re just pitching at them. So when you’re looking to establish contact with hosts, remember to treat them like human beings (it’s easy to forget when you’re interacting online).
House concerts are not a “hack” or a shortcut for building a successful, profitable music career. If you’re serious about playing house concerts, you’ll need to build a loyal, engaged fan base. Only then will they be willing to collaborate with you.
House concerts are not the right fit for every artist or band. Some acts sound best “plugged in”. Others make too many adult references to be invited into a home to perform. Ultimately, it’s about finding a path that’s right for you. Take a look at the bigger picture, and think carefully about where you fit in as an artist.