Photo credit: Lindsay Duncan
This guest post was written by Laura Simpson, co-founder and CEO of Side Door, the world’s marketplace for artists, hosts and audiences.
I’m a music fan, first and foremost. When I had kids, it became harder to get out to shows, so we opened up our home to host concerts. It quickly became (and remains) one of the most enjoyable things I do in my life, which is why I co-founded Side Door with touring artist, Dan Mangan. I want you, dear artists, to help find more people like me to do more shows!
First of all, let’s get some basic questions out of the way:
Is a house concert or a DIY venue show a ‘real’ show?
If you consider a deep listening audience with a penchant for buying merch a ‘real’ show, then yes, definitely. Often hosts will have their own communities that you can enhance with your own followers.
Is it financially worth it?
Most of the time, your costs are lower for house concerts and DIY venues than regular shows, and the ticket prices can be higher. So even if you have fewer people in the room, you often can come away with more revenue.
Is it weird?
There are certainly some mental and physical challenges when you enter a personal space for a show or turn a business or community space into a stage. But some good communication, prep and setting expectations can really help increase your comfort level.
How do you even find hosts of house concerts or other DIY shows?
Let’s say you have a festival date booked. What if you want to pick up more shows on the way there? Booking gigs at traditional venues is harder than ever right now, as the backlog of rescheduled gigs is just now filling up nights for the next three years. So opening up more spaces is essential.
Finding hosts - especially those who are a good match for you - is hard to do. That’s essentially why we built Side Door - matching artists with hosts of homes, cafés, bookstores, barns, cowork spaces, community spaces - anywhere!
But you can start with your audience - writing your mailing list, posting on social media, or even just talking to people after your gigs or having a signup list for fans. There is bound to be someone in there who has a space they’re willing to open up for a show. Side Door has a simple way to turn fans into hosts with Show Calls. Try it out for no cost.
How do you make a fan into a host?
It’s one thing to be a fan of an artist, and it’s another to expect them to know exactly what you need to host a great show. If you want to invest in this DIY route of shows, it’s helpful to take some care to be clear about your needs, but also help the fan understand how they can help.
1. Are they paying a flat fee for the shows, or will it be ticketed? Or will there be ‘pass the hat at the end of the show’?
2. What time/date will the show be and how long will it be? One set or two? Setup time?
3. If it’s ticketed, what is the customer price, and what is the split (if the host is taking some revenue from the show)?
4. Decide how many people can fit comfortably in the space (including knowing if it will be seated or not).
5. Find out if they have a PA or if one needs to be rented. If there are technical requirements/setup - who is managing that?
6. Who is promoting and how can you both contribute to bringing the audience?
7. Agree on the language/photos/frequency/platforms of promotions.
Work with a partner:
Side Door operates as a marketplace for artists and hosts to find each other. And there are lots of great tools to use to find hosts and help them get ready for the show, including managing performance royalties, taxes, ticketing and payment. You may want to use a third party to help manage logistics and money to take that stress out of the planning.
There are a bunch of other partners to work with! Some will book the shows for you and you just show up to the space. Some will facilitate ways for you to meet potential hosts. There are also great festivals and conferences where folks who host regularly attend and you can meet them there.
These partners may or may not take a fee for the support they offer, so that’s a consideration to take in for what you need.
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Doing a show in an alternative space allows you to choose the space to suit the performance. Does it need to be super quiet? Try an art gallery. Do you sing about nature? Try a park. Do you want to have cute animals around? Try a house with a dog or a barn.
Collaborate with the host about how to light and decorate the space. Consider if you want to restrict photography/video if you want people to be extra focused. Maybe you want people to dance, so think about providing enough space for that freedom.
What will enhance your performance and the experience of the show for the audience? Getting creative about how to set this up is really important. And you don’t have to make up a new scheme for every show. Maybe it’s as simple as having a projection going on throughout the show and that’s something you bring along with you.
Assume the best when it comes to band merch. If you have the space to bring it with you, bring it. Often folks don’t have ways to contribute to artists they love and giving them a chance to buy something post-show as a way to remember the experience can be very fruitful. Not only do you earn extra revenue, but you can cement the fandom with that person!
Some of the best-selling items I’ve seen at shows are t-shirts, vinyl and unique items like scarves or hats. I’ve got a jacket full of band pins that is one of my most treasured items!
Shows should help you grow your audience, earn you revenue and be fun. Find those spaces and hosts who will help you create a great experience for you and the audience and keep everyone safe and happy.
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