Shannon toured and gigged as a musician through college. She was able to fund her own tours by playing colleges, a venue that’s typically pretty well-paying. However, she wasn’t seeing the exponential growth she wanted – it was more of a very slow build.
During the summer of 2011, she got an email from a friend in San Diego inviting her to play at her house. Shannon’s thoughts were that at least she would make back the gas money. That hour long concert really flipped her thinking. It really presented the perfect performance scenario, free of distractions and full of opportunities to connect on a deeper level. At the end of the night, Shannon made way more than gas money. The light bulb went on.
The house concert outperformed the traditional gigs in every single way – they made more money, sold more merch, and collected more emails
Here are 5 of the main points behind Shannon’s house concert strategy.
1. Don’t get stuck in the box
When you think of gigging and touring, house concerts isn’t what comes to mind. We all have a traditional idea of a tour in our mind, and that kind of box can really hold you back. If Shannon hadn’t been willing to try an entirely house concert tour because it wasn’t the “normal” approach, she never would have stumbled on her model. (A model that has proved to work time and time again.)
2. Learn as you go
If you have a set plan before you and don’t adapt to the changing environment and opportunities that present themselves, you will only get so far in music. Shannon saw the results from the first tour and, on a whim, scheduled out more house concerts in between traditional gigs. If she hadn’t taken the time to notice the results of that initial house concert, she would still be in the traditional gig grind that so many musicians are stuck in.
3. This is a Concert not a Party
A house concert is not a house party. In a house party, the social encounters are the main event, and as a result the music gets ignored or pushed to the background. If you’re playing parties – like college parties or wedding receptions – looking for tips, you will find that you won’t be able to make enough to even cover your expenses. If, on the other hand, you set the event up like a concert – one where you are the main focus – you will see the effect on the bottom line.
This is a physical and atmospheric endeavour. Set chairs up like a concert hall, have a specific set length, a set start and stop time, a professional-looking merch set up, and a real tip bowl. You will find after one show that you’ll make more in donations. You are creating a controlled environment where people can really connect with you and your music, and that connection leads to donations and sales.
4. Start with what you have
Anyone can start with house concerts. Start with the community you have and it will build from there. Because the concerts are donation-based, it doesn’t have to cost hosts anything to host a house concert. All they need is a space and 20 friends to RSVP. If you don’t have much of a mailing list or following on social media, start with people you actually know – your friends and family.
Shannon has found that the process of finding hosts is almost viral. Every single night she gets approached by someone new asking her to play at their house. The number one key is to just take the leap, ditch your pride, and do your first house concert.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Donations
Shannon’s model is entirely based on donations, and the key is to keep the donations open. As soon as you put an expected donation, you alienate guests that may be going through tough financial times and you prevent the guests with means from providing a generous donation. It may seem easier to just sell tickets, but in the end you’ll be putting a HUGE limitation on your earning potential.
If you’re thinking of using house concerts to connect with your fans and make more money on the road, you can buy Shannon’s book here. She takes you step by step through her house concert strategy, laying it out so you can easily adapt it for your own career.