By Mikey Wax
Hey TuneCore friends – My name is Mikey Wax, and I’m a singer/songwriter from Long Island, NY. I’ve released two full length albums, and have been successfully touring for the past few years. After releasing my first album at the end of ’08, I built a small but promising fan base through word-of-mouth on social media sites. From that, I was able to sign with a small booking agency at the time who got me on a couple tours, but the relationship wasn’t right and soon parted ways. That’s when I was forced to think outside-the-box and find other ways to gain more fans. It turns out that losing my agent was actually one of the best things for moving my career forward, as it was then that I came up with the idea of booking house concerts…
What is a house concert?
House concerts are intimate concerts between an artist and fan in the comfort of the fan’s home. They are an amazing way to develop lifelong fans, work on your live show, and sell your cds/merchandise.
Start for Free
The way I began doing house concerts was by telling my fan base I would come perform in their home for free if they could guarantee a minimum of 25 guests attending. 25 is a solid number because the living room usually feels packed, and it’s also not too difficult for the fan to gather that many people with a few weeks notice. “Play for free?” My system was to connect house show to house show as long as I could get from A to B on one tank of gas. Because the shows were free, the number of submissions were very high, even though my fan base wasn’t huge by any means. I was able to book a cross-country 60+ date house concert tour, often combining two shows in one day for those that lived close or in the same city.
The power of house concerts is the intimacy and “once in a lifetime” vibe they have. After a house concert, usually all guests in attendance will want to walk away with a CD or merchandise to remember the special nature of this type of concert. I was selling 2x or 3x as much merch at house concerts for 25 people than I would at a club venue of 100 people. And I didn’t have to promote once from my end to get those 25 people out—it’s all on the host. I found that by keeping my expenses low by playing shows only within a tank of gas from the previous house, the tour was very profitable from merch alone, even though I was playing for free. Create as much merch as possible–CDs, t-shirts, posters, sunglasses, beer koozies, whatever.
Executing a House Concert
Your fans will be so happy to have you in their home, they will often cook you dinner, bake you a cake, and occasionally ask you if you need a place to stay for the night. Eat all the home cooked food you’d like, but I’ve found it’s not in my best interest to overstay my welcome. What makes a house show so cool is your fans have a limited time of just you to themselves. It’s usually best to arrive an hour or half-hour before the show, perform an hour acoustic set, and stay for about an hour after your show to meet everyone, take photos, and sell your merchandise. Then, it’s best to leave everyone wanting more, which is what will get them out to your next venue show when you come back!
Asking for Money Down the Line
When you’ve reached a point where you feel comfortable charging fans for private shows, it can get a little tricky. Without an agent, I was the one directly booking the shows and asking for money. One of the most difficult/uncomfortable conversations for an artist to have with a fan is asking them for money since we’re so appreciative to have their support in the first place! Honesty is the best policy. The road over weeks can get expensive between gas, food, lodging, the occasional parking ticket. Tell your fans that as much as you’d like to play for free, there are expenses that need to be covered in addition to your time.
With house concerts, I always tend to lean on the low side because the merch sales are usually so strong, that just asking each guest to contribute $10-15 (25 guests = $250 – $400 per show) is a number that most people are comfortable with. Of course, you might have some fans willing to pay upward of $500+ for a private show, especially if they’re booking it far in advance, or if the location is a little farther than usual. Capitalize on any of those situations, but on average $250 is not overwhelmingly expensive, but still goes a long way when matched with a few hundred dollars in merch sales. Book 2-5 houses in the same city over the course of a couple days and your tour will be very profitable. You will need to charge more for repeat hosts since you may not have new merch to sell them and they already purchased everything previously.
At house concerts, it’s easy to leave each show with email addresses for all 25 of the guests. The following day, it’s a good idea to send an email to the entire group thanking them for coming and making you feel at home. Talk about any special/funny moments from the night, and that you plan to return again soon. Also, remind them to tag you in any pictures, etc on Facebook so the rest of your fans can see what you’re up to and how house concerts work.
That’s all! Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions. Contact info is below.
[Editor’s note: Make sure your music’s available online for all your new fans to buy once they hear you perform!]