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New Artist Model member Shannon Curtis

New Artist Model member Shannon Curtis

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model
Turn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Ask singer songwriter Shannon Curtis about the key to her success as an independent musician, and she’ll tell you — literally — to hit the road.  She’ll encourage you to start touring with the help of your audience.

Shannon knows from experience that touring is the best way to interact with your audience and build your fanbase.  She also knows that performing live can bring in more money than recordings, publishing and merchandise combined.

Each summer, Shannon spends more than four months on the road performing house concerts.  In 2014, the Los Angeles-based artist performed at more than 70 homes around the country for audiences averaging 35 people.  

The idea for an annual house concert tour was born in 2011 when Shannon was struggling to attract new fans.  Her career growth had been “incremental” since she hit the scene in 2006, she says.  So to break through to new audiences, Shannon began working on booking a series of solo club dates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle.

Then something unexpected happened.  A fan called and asked if she would come and perform in her living room.  The gig would pay whatever audience members wanted to donate and her fan lived right in the middle of the circuit she was planning on covering.

Shannon said yes.  She had played the occasional house concert through the years, always booking them as “filler dates” between what she considered more important club engagements.  But this concert convinced her that she might have gotten things turned around.

“I had no idea what kind of success it would be,” Shannon says, adding that she didn’t use a microphone or amplifier.  “In a club you are always competing with noise from the bar or a latte machine or something.  But this show was 100 percent connection.  Someone started crying.  People’s reactions were palpable.”

Palpable and profitable.  By the end of the night, Shannon made more money and sold more merchandise than she would have at a Los Angeles club show. “It was way more than gas money. That was the lightbulb that went off for me.”

Shannon and her husband, music producer Jamie Hill who travels with her when she tours, worked up a financial analysis and realized she could win over more fans and make more money playing houses rather than clubs. Today, they use a simple system to create their annual summer tour.

Shannon typically announces the house tour on her website in March.  She encourages people who want to host a concert to apply on her site and in her emails.  “This year, 85 people signed up within 48 hours of the announcement” says Curtis.  

Requirements for hosting a concert are simple but specific.  Hosts must be able to guarantee an audience of at least 30 people and need to have a backyard, garage, living room or some other space big enough for a “focused listening event.”  “This isn’t a party where there is also some music,” Shannon says.

Once a request for a house concert is accepted, things can fall into place easily if you are organized, according to the artist.  People who host concerts don’t have to worry about having special insurance because their concerts are not open to the public.  Instead, they are gatherings of friends.  Hosts don’t receive any kind of financial compensation for providing the venue or bringing in the audience, Shannon says.  Most often, they simply enjoy the chance to have a fun event and get to know to know the artist better.

“We really leave the structure of things up to the hosts,” Shannon says.  “Lots of times they turn into potlucks.  Our shows become these really connective community events.”

Shannon brings all of her own equipment and only needs “one power source and an extension cord” to put on a show.  She is paid with donations from the audience and merchandise sales.  There are no tickets, no cover charge and no opening act.  Shannon and Jamie often take hosts up on their offer of overnight accommodations.  

“Every house we go to is a brand new market.  It is the living room Tupperware model of music marketing,”  Shannon says, adding that she is continually amazed by the support audiences offer.  “Most musicians feel self doubt sometimes.  But if you show up and give people a vulnerable performance – they are going to support you.  The moment you put down your shield is the moment you find victory.”

Growing her audience using house tours is helping Shannon break through in ways she never imagined possible.  

In 2015, Shannon released a music video for her song entitled “I Know, I Know” that went viral with more than 5 million hits.  Also in October of last year after being contacted by a promoter, she played two opening sets for Shawn Colvin — one at the Raven Theater in Healdsburg, California and the other in Folsom, California.  They were her first large scale public performances in 4 years.

“I definitely want to do more shows like that, Shannon says.  “But I am not ever interested in playing in a traditional club again.”

Shannon Curtis has launched 6 albums in 4 years and was a featured speaker at a TEDx event in Arlington, Va.   She has reached out to her community to successfully crowdfund albums and videos and produced a handbook on how to do house concerts.  Most important of all, Shannon says, she now supports herself one hundred percent with her music.

“I had a talk with myself years ago about what it would take for me to feel like a success as a musician.  It’s never been on my radar to be famous or on top 40 radio  I wanted to make a living making my music — and I’ve made it,” she says.

Shannon uses social media to stay in close touch with her community, noting that Facebook is her most active channel.  She also uses her email list and newsletters to let people know about her new music, crowdfunding projects, tours and more.  During her busy tour season, she contacts fans twice a week.  During quieter times of the year, twice a month.

“The most important skill I’ve learned in my career is to be able to spin a lot of plates all at the same,” Shannon says.  “I juggle a lot of things that require different skills — talking online, planning albums sales, doing business, writing songs.”

“The New Artist Model is such a valuable tool for me.  Before I spent years researching things like ASCAP and BMI on my own.  NAM explains all that we need to know about how to traverse these waters.  That alone is worth the price of admission,” Shannon says.

“When I first met Dave Kusek I expected that the program would be a lot of stuff that I had already learned, you know, the in and outs of building a career.  But I have been pleasantly surprised many times where something I read or a video I watched sparked a new idea for me.”

“One of the things I am starting to learn about in the New Artist Model is sponsorships.  That inspired me to put together a sponsorship application.  I think there may be some companies that would be really interested.  Nothing has happened yet but it will in time — and I want to make sure I am the one who makes the rules.”

As Shannon gets ready for another summer on the road, she says she feels grateful for all the people who love her music enough to come along for the ride.

“I don’t call my supporters fans anymore.  I have a community.  It is a two way street and we support one another.”

 

Learn more about Shannon Curtis here:  http://shannoncurtis.net/

New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo. For more info on the New Artist Model visit http://newartistmodel.com

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

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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.

I hope you are enjoying my new Mini Series on the music business. It’s truly amazing how in the first video you saw New Artist Model students Steel Blossoms and Colin Huntley applying my strategies to turn their passions into a career.

These musicians are just like you. They started with a small following and have grown their audience and income by investing in strategies and success one step at a time.

In this second video of the free Mini Series, I reveal ways of creating amazing fan experiences they will crave and actually PAY you for. Discover unforgettable connections you can offer to your fans RIGHT NOW to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Watch this video and get your fans to fall in love and remember you forever:

creating rewarding musical fan experiences

You will meet Shannon Curtis, a recent New Artist Model member who has perfected the art of the house concert and put $25,000 in her bank account in just two months time. See first hand how she did it and exactly how you can do it too.

To get one step closer to your dream, click here.

 

AND PLEASE – If you know anyone else who might benefit from this Mini Series on the music business, please share this post with them.

ShannonMTT

In today’s music industry, there is a lot of hype around direct-to-fan models. You can talk with your fans directly on social media or through email, you can sell directly to your fans, and now many artists are applying direct-to-fan strategies to the live industry and taking concerts right to their fans’ houses.

Shannon Curtis is one notable artist who has been extremely successful in the house concert market. In fact, she’s developed a system that made her $25,000 in just 2 months! Shannon joined me in an incredible webinar where we show you just exactly how she did that, and more.

At first glance, planning a house concert tour may seem overwhelming, but as you’ll see in this article, it’s very manageable and can be very rewarding. If you want to see how to set up a house concert tour of your own, check out this free webinar where she discusses all her best tips and strategies.

1. You Bypass the Gatekeepers

The live music industry is full of gatekeepers, mainly because there are so many musicians competing for so few gigs. On top of that, being a physical establishment, venues have bottom lines to meet and therefore need to be very selective of the bands they choose.

Don’t wait for someone to open the door for you! Go past the gatekeepers and bring the show directly to your fans. In Shannon’s experience, anyone with any kind of fanbase can be successful with house concerts. The costs to you are mainly your travel expenses to get there. Check out the webinar to learn exactly how to make your house concert successful.

2. You Get a Bigger Piece of the Pie

When you play in a traditional venue or club, the money is split between you, the promoter, and the booking agent. As a result, you get a much smaller piece of the pie, and in many cases, no money at all.

When you do a house concert, the only person you need to worry about paying is yourself, and after travel expenses, all the money is yours to keep. With that in mind, house concerts can turn out to be much more profitable than traditional gigs.

3. Booking is Easier

If you’ve ever tried to book a gig, you know it can be painful jumping through all those hoops. You may need to email and call people five times before you can get anything rolling. Believe it or not, from Shannon Curtis’s experience, house concerts are actually much easier to organize.

When you ask some of your Super Fans to host a house concert, they will most likely be excited to host the concert and get into it, instead of ignoring you. This means that it will be easier to connect with them when you’re trying to organize things. Shannon’s had some hosts who really went above and beyond to put on a great event.

4. You Spend Less Time Promoting

As an independent artist, the job of promoting your gigs falls squarely into your own hands. You need to spend weeks getting the word out to your fans through social media and your email list, and even then you’re not always guaranteed a good turnout.

In Shannon Curtis’s house concert model, the host invites at least 20 of their friends and family to attend the concert, and apart from the occasional flop you’re pretty much guaranteed to be playing for a small but attentive crowd. The only promotion you need to do is to broadcast to your fans that you’re looking for house concert hosts at the beginning of the process.

5. You Reach More New Fans

We’ve all experienced the frustration of playing the same venue to the same group of fans over and over. It can feel like your career is stagnant and you’re not reaching the new people vital for growth. House concerts are one of the best ways to get your music in front of new people.

In the two month house concert tour we talked about earlier, Shannon added 500 new names to her email list! These are 500 additional people who may end up buying her albums, songs, merch, tickets or other products.

6. You Build Long-Term Relationships

In addition to just the numbers, house concerts provide the perfect environment for fostering long-term relationships with fans, and the chance to create some Super Fans. Guests are more likely to give your music a chance because the host is a trusted friend or family member. When you add in the distraction free space and the direct social interactions you’ll have with fans before and after the show, house concerts can be a fan-building powerhouse.

 

As you can see, there’s more to planning a truly successful house concert than you may think. House concerts can be extremely lucrative for anyone if you have the right strategy. To help you, Shannon Curtis takes you step by step through her strategy in this free webinar. She’ll be sharing some of the best tips she’s learned by doing hundreds of house concerts. 

If you are interested in learning more about how you have create a plan for success for your band or career, check out the New Artist Model, the alternative online business school for independent musicians, songwriters, producers, managers and new businesses.