Why You Should Be Doing House Shows
Category: Live Performance
**Guest post written by Wade Sutton of Rocket to the Stars.
“When you take into consideration how many singers and musicians complain about the current state of artist-venue relationships, you would think most performers would jump at the opportunity to explore alternative methods of putting on shows and generating income. Stop for a moment and think about how often you have heard an artist, maybe even yourself, bitching about having to fight to get booked at a venue, venues not paying you what you think you deserve, or disagreements with venue operators over which party had a greater responsibility to promote a show, etc.
I’m here to tell you that there IS an alternative live show model, house shows, that many artists ARE having a great deal of success with. But what amazes me is that more artists aren’t doing them, mostly considering house shows take several disadvantages of the more common club/bar shows and tips them in the artists’ favor. So I reached out to somebody for answers…
…Meet Madalyn Sklar…
“Work smarter, not harder” is the saying etched on the keystone of everything Madalyn Sklar teaches her clients and followers. With an extensive background in social media and marketing, Madalyn is the creator of GoGirls Music, a web-based community designed to promote, support, and empower female artists throughout the United States and around the world. She also serves as a blogger, music business coach, and social media consultant (to artists of both genders). Oh…and Curve magazine named her one of the Ten Most Powerful Women in Music and she has moderated music panels at several events, including SXSW in Austin, Texas.
…Shows on the artists’ terms…
The idea of a house show is to take an artist’s live performance out of the more traditional club or bar setting and place it in a more intimate environment such as somebody’s house. No more haggling with venue owners. No more concerns about using the venue’s sound system (and possibly unreliable sound technician). No more competing for attention with that night’s playoff game airing on the televisions over the bar. The entire concept of the house show places in the hands of the artist nearly complete control of everything that goes on, according to Madalyn.
“You have a model where the artist books the house shows by finding super fans willing to host it,” Madalyn says. “And the artist can go so far as to create a checklist with everything on it from how to market the house show to how to set it up.”
The most common way house shows are being organized, at least at the moment, is having bands work through a “presenter”. The presenter runs point on everything with the show, addressing the needs of the artist and making sure the show is organized in a manner conducive to the artist’s wishes. While it is common to have a presenter be a fan of the artist or band, professional promoters are starting to add “house show presenter” services to their own offerings.
“Usually people coming to the show are asked to pay around $20,” Madalyn explained further. “And that is typically presented as a donation. The presenter of the show keeps a small percentage of the money to cover expenses like food and drinks but the artists also have their merchandise table set up. So they make money at the door and at the merchandise table.”
A business model like this SHOULD be extremely attractive to a lot of artists, particularly soloists looking to do more acoustic shows in an effort to build up their fan base and bring in some more money. Put it into perspective: A soloist does a one-hour house show attended by, say, thirty people. That is $600 at the door, most of which is pocketed by the artist. Put on a good show and mingle with people and maybe you move $100 in merchandise and half of those people sign up for your e-mail list. That means you walk away from a one-hour show with just shy of $700 and a handful of new e-mail subscribers whom not only can you now market to directly, but those new fans might also be future presenters for additional house shows later in the year.
And you do it all without the common stresses and aggravations typically brought on by performing at a bar or a club. So how much success are artists having with house shows?