|San Francisco-based singer/songwriter Garrin Benfield performs at a house party in Berkeley, CA.
Sometimes it can take convincing to get your
friends and fans out to hear you in an 11 p.m.
slot at the club downtown; you’ll draw out
those with evening jobs and those who love
the nightlife, but your early-to-rise fans will
likely wait for an earlier show to be posted to
your mailing list. And solo performers might
be looking for an alternative to the café gig,
playing for tips to the backing track of hissing
cappuccinos. Off the grid, you’ll find the house
concert—an engagement that is both profitable
and intimate, where the audience comes to listen,
socialize, and get to know you as an artist.
For singer-songwriters, house concerts
are an absolute dream: You perform for a captive
audience, who’s hanging on every word.
For bands, they can be a great way to perform
acoustic versions of your songs for a truly
unique evening for your fans.
Ian Crombie, executive director of the West
Coast Songwriters organization (westcoastsongwriters.org), suggests that house concerts
are ideal shows to book in this challenging economy.
“The audience you’ll get at a house concert
is totally different. Even though they might not
go to a show at a club, they are happy to donate $20 and watch you at their neighbor’s house,
drink wine, visit and hear all about you, and not
worry about driving home. Guests are happy to
take home a CD or merch item as a memento.
If this kind of gig sounds like something
you would be interested in adding to your calendar,
consider a few tips from San Francisco-based
house concert promoter KC Turner. He
has built a strong brand for house concerts, KC
Turner Presents (kcturnerpresents.com), featuring
talent of his choice, both national and
local. Turner offers a few tips for artists interested
in booking a house concert:
Go to your fanbase first Rather than pitching
yourself directly to promoters of house
concerts (who are typically picking the
talent based on their own tastes), reach out
to your fans. See who might be interested in
hosting you for a concert. Then work out the
details of production. Tips on hosting concerts
are available on Concerts in Your Home:
Understand production needs “In planning
your show, think about how to make it successful and interesting from the audience
perspective. It’s important to schedule time
for BREAKs for stretching, socializing, and
getting to know the artist, whether there are
ten or 80 folks in the audience,” says Turner.
With his shows, he advances all of the production,
including pre-production, sound,
scheduling, introductions, and so forth. If
you are working with a new host, KC recommends
he or she watch the videos on hosting
to optimize the experience. Be sure to confirm
that the host understands that donations
will be accepted; otherwise it should be set up
as a private party.
Be ready for high interaction with fans
Turner adds that artists should plan to bring
more energy to a house concert than they
might for a venue, as they will be expected to
interact with every fan that attends. “You’ll be
making personal connections with everyone
before the show—connect with every attendee,
and have the energy to really embrace the people
who are there,” he says. “Make this concert
as special as possible.”
Turner adds that house concerts are great
shows to fill in dates on tours. Reaching out to
your fans via your email list and social media,
you may find you can fill in dates that otherwise
were maxed out in markets on the road.
For a recent tour he booked for artist Megan Slankard (meganslankard.com), they successfully
notched 80 shows in 90 days—filling in
club dates with house concerts from her fan
base, and often turning the profit in these intimate
shows. Often, hosts and bookers will
want to see clips of your live shows before
committing, so get started by hitting up the
open mics and have a friend video you—and/
or perform for a few friends in your own living
room. You might consider adding a “house
concert” tab to your website as well, letting
your fans know that you are available to offer
Try another angle: Host a house concert
at your own home, for an exclusive fan experience.
You could pick your top ten fans and
host a show sharing your brand-new songs
and get their feedback—or perhaps host a
show in connection to your next album
fundraiser. I hosted an industry-only concert
after my album was released and found my
peers in the industry were thrilled to have
the social time together and also hear music
in this intimate space.
Dig Deeper: Web Resources
Check out these online performer resources and a few examples of successful
See Sean Hayes’ KC Turner Presents House Concert performance of “Powerful
Stuff,” which was featured in a Suburu commercial. (youtube.com/
Watch John Craigie’s performance—complete with audience sing-along—of
“Chuck Norris’ Tears Cure Cancer; Too Bad He Never Cries.” (youtube.com/
Visit KC Turner Presents (kcturnerpresents.com) to review some of the artists he
has booked, as well as his approach to promoting house concerts in your city.
Visit Megan Slankard’s website (meganslankard.com) for an example of a way to
engage your fanbase in house concerts.
Check out West Coast Songwriters (westcoastsongwriters.org) for insights on
advancing your career as a songwriter.
Kaitlin McGaw is a freelance writer and
musician, who can be found rocking for
kids with her hip-hop group Alphabet
Rockers, or behind the piano composing as
a singer-songwriter. For more information,