Direct to Fan – The Art of the House Concert

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Article written by Fran Snyder and originally posted on The Future of Music blog.

You want a relationship with your fans? Why not go to their houses and play. No way to get to know people better than invading their homes and doing your thing right in the middle of their living rooms. Right?

The future is all about breaking new ground and combining that with solid business models that you can predict and work with. Here is a guest post from Fran Snyder on house concerts and what they should be a part of your future.

I encourage all of you to build on this model and create new experiences and interactions that create value and exchange between artists and their fans that cannot be digitized.

I would be very interested in your comments on this piece.

The Future of Music is Uncertain.
What we can confidently say, however, is that artists will benefit from increasing access to information, and systems/websites will develop to make that information useful, if not vital.

To find success with these new resources, I see two major limitations that artists must overcome. First, and almost instantly dismissed by today’s artists, is the need to focus on fundamentals – namely, the ability to play and write great songs. The tsunami of social media and music advice is a relentless force pushing musicians away from their instruments. Before the recording, radio and tour budgets get out of hand, let’s go back to the woodshed – the one with no internet, the one that provides the solitude needed for a true artist to discover and develop their gifts. There is no substitute for great art.

The second limitation is a tired and unproductive definition of success. Artistic success is a muddy thing…not the shiny superstar image we all secretly (or overtly) harbor from decades of media brainwashing. You can be important, you can be happy, you can be filled with meaning from your work as a recording and touring artist. Rich and famous is much harder to accomplish, and many stars will tell you it’s not nearly as satisfying as it looks. Dig into your work. What about it makes you most happy?

I’m convinced that becoming a superstar is harder than it ever has been. I’m also convinced that for artists who focus on a different goal, there is a rising tide of new opportunities, and more chances to succeed than ever before. Let’s start with touring.

Small is the new big, and why house concerts could save touring artists.

House Concerts – Mozart Was Onto Something.
Mozart was well known for performing “parlor concerts,” in the homes of rich patrons who would delight in the opportunity to show off their acquaintance with him. Things have changed, however, and you no longer need to be rich to have access to some of the finest talent available. Furthermore, many of these artists are genuinely interested in their fans, and enjoy an opportunity to connect in a way that rarely happens in traditional venues.

Breaking New Markets = Breaking the Bank

Most acts, regardless of talent, are lucky to draw 30-40 people when they play in a new area. The resources needed to get beyond those numbers are getting more expensive and less effective all the time. Publicity and radio promotion can cost many hundreds if not thousands of dollars per week, and these methods employ people to beg, bribe, or cajole overwhelmed media personnel (writers, DJs, music programmers) who can rarely make the returns worthwhile. Ask any act how many “butts in seats” result from a nice article in the paper. Few, if any. Likewise, airplay doesn’t yield much unless it is sustained. Posters and flyers? Don’t get me started.

It’s been universally accepted for years that touring is so important, that artists should be willing to do it at a financial loss. Furthermore, it’s often suggested that you play anywhere and everywhere, because you never know where a new fan (including one with some power to help in a significant way) will turn up. And if you return consistently, you’ll build an audience.

I say it’s nonsense.

Of course, if you are an artist on the road, not every gig is likely to be a part of your grand strategic plan. But it is wrong to start with the premise that you should play in rooms where people don’t pay attention, and where the financial prospects are gloomy at best. That mentality is a disservice not only to your music, but to professional artists everywhere.

Shame on us. For decades we’ve been teaching audiences that it’s perfectly O.K. to sit 5 feet away from a performer, and carry on conversations at the top of their lungs. Who started this? Has anyone built a lasting audience this way?

Play Rooms You Can Fill – Play Rooms Where You Can Connect.
Without a fat budget and a dedicated team of smart supporters, I believe the best way to build an audience is to play rooms you can fill, and that allow you to really connect in a personal or powerful way with the audience.

But where are the rooms you can sell out with 40 seats? Specifically, where are the ones that don’t have an espresso machine screaming during your ballads?

Shrinkage!

The potential audience for live music in traditional venues continues to shrink and fragment. People have more choices than ever for entertainment, and many of those choices increasingly keep them at home. Rentable and on-demand movies, xBox 360 and Wii, and the increasing variety and breadth of sports events and programming provide serious competition to the concert business.

In addition, despite the good they’ve done to society, stricter DUI laws have reduced the number of people who go out to listen to music, and smoking bans force “would-be listeners” out of the room during the show. We now have 200 capacity clubs who routinely have 50 people show up, and a majority of the audience spends half the night outside.

So venues have to diversify to stay in business. Continue reading on Future of Music…

Fran Snyder is a touring singer-songwriter, and founder of Concerts In Your Home.

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