Guest post by Joy Ike
House concerts: everybody loves them, but most artists don’t know how to get them. They are the most-coveted type of gigs for singer/songwriters and acoustic bands. They don’t require a lot of promotional effort - which means less time behind your computer, and more time behind your instrument.
Yes, in the ecosystem of gigs, house concerts are king! So how do you book them? Here are some simple ways to make it happen!
1. Play out...a lot!
Public shows are your key to private ones. And house concerts are essentially private shows. The more you play out publicly, the more people know your music, and the more fans you have to pull from. More fans equals more potential house concert hosts.
If you do this right, 99% of your house concerts will come from people who already know you and have heard you perform live – not some house concert booking site that you have to pay to become a member. Playing out guarantees you’re getting your name out there and connecting with the very people who will ultimately book you in their homes.
2. Build Your Email List
Ok, so you’re playing out. What next? Well, take full advantage of the fact that these people are just sitting there listening to you for an hour, or two. Pass your newsletter around during your set. The following day, send an email welcoming new subscribers to the mailing list. Include a short paragraph at the end inviting people to consider hosting you for a house concert. You may not always get someone to bite, but you will get them thinking about it.
3. Just Ask.
Facebook! It’s where all your fans and friends are, right? Drop a note on your wall and let people know you’re currently in booking mode for your upcoming tour. Tell them you’re filling holes for a few dates on the road.
If you’re sticking close to home, make an announcement about playing fewer public shows and the fact that you’re trying to do more intimate acoustic events. If you’re not posting about house concerts on social media, you’re not using your most powerful marketing tool (second to your newsletter, of course).
4. Explain What A House Concert Is
This might sound unnecessary, but you need to explain what a house concert is. Some people have never been to one and have no idea what you’re even talking about when you say the words “house concert”. And people DO NOT like to step into unknown territory unless they know what they’re getting into.
Break it down and spell it out. One of the most frequented pages on my website is What Exactly Is A House Concert? (if you borrow any content from this link, please credit me with a link back to www.joyike.com). I stick a link in my welcome newsletter (for new subscribers) and in my monthly e-blast. I send it to anyone who tells me they’re considering hosting one. I send it to people who ask me questions that I’ve already answered on this page. This page comes in handy a lot.
5. Be Accommodating
People don’t think they can host a house concert unless they have a ’’reason’’ to. That’s not necessarily true, but for people who need a reason, let them know house concerts are great for birthday party gatherings, anniversary events, summer BBQs on the back deck, and even benefits concerts.
One of my all-time favorite concerts was put on by a group of 10 guys who wanted to give their wives a memorable and sentimental Mother’s Day. They cooked lunch for the women and hosted an afternoon concert in one of their homes.
Another memorable house concert was for a teacher in Washington D.C. who wanted to raise money for a program she was doing with her high school students. 50% of the funds raised went to her program. The other half went to me.
6. Talk About it From the Stage
“NEVER underestimate the power of suggestion.”
You don’t need to give a speech, but sharing a brief sentence or two (or three) about why you love house concerts will go a long way towards getting a few on your calendar. Having a page on your website to discuss the ins and outs is really helpful, but talking about it in person really helps fans to capture the essence of what a house show really is. NEVER underestimate the power of suggestion.
7. Create Postcards
Tag-team your on-stage pitch with a stack of postcards at your merch table. Spend $50, print a bunch of 4×6 handbills (front and back), and make them available.
This is the 3rd most effective thing I’ve done to generate house concerts. When your show attendee takes a handbill off the table, it usually means they want to sit on the idea and mull it over for a bit. They may even need to convince a fellow housemate or spouse of the idea. Handbills are a great visual reminder. They’re a tangible version of your speech from the stage. Here’s what mine looks like (front and back):
8. Ask Your Friendly Musician
Seriously, ask your friend. If you see your friend playing a house concert series, ask them to connect you with the host. This works best with established house concert series that are always scouting out new music to add to their lineup.
This does not necessarily work for a regular homeowner who only hosted your friend because they are his/her superfans. For them it was a one-off, not something they are looking to do monthly.
9. Recruit On-Site
People who are most likely to be house concert hosts are people who have been to one before. While you are at a house concert, take that opportunity to find your next host in that same city. It only takes a little effort. Example:
"If you’re having a good time tonight and would like to host something like this the next time I come through town, please let me know. I’ll be happy to take your contact and reach out next time I’m booking in this area."
If you want to take it one step further, you can create an email sign-up page specifically for people who want to be contacted about hosting.
10. Social Media
Last but not least, post, post post! Snap and post a photo of the Welcome sign at the front door – the one the host’s 4-year old made for your show. Or post a shot of the potluck spread before the show...or a photo of the awesome Victorian house you’re playing in. Or post a photo someone took from the audience perspective.
Again, don’t overdo it, but when you post about your host concerts, you begin to create an association between your name and the house concert concept. It’s called branding. And these posts will serve as tiny reminders to your social media followers – reminders that they can host you too. Here are some cool example posts I found on Instagram. I searched the #houseconcert hashtag.
The moral of the story is that house concerts are literally everywhere. And your fans really do want to host you if you’re willing to take the time to educate them, be accessible, and show them how much fun a house concert can be.
Joy Ike is a full-time singer/songwriter based out of Philadelphia, PA. She is also the founder and primary writer for Grassrootsy, one of the most-read music business blogs on the internet. She believes the greatest tragedy in the world is having a talent and keeping it to yourself.
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