I just returned from a weekend of house concerts a thousand or so miles from here. I had a wonderful time at all the homes and the people were very gracious, warm and accommodating to me.
My heartfelt thanks to these presenters who, put themselves out there and opened their homes, to allow me to play my music. It’s enormously generous and kind.
That being said there was a problem, and the problem was attendance. At two of the venues the attendance was under twenty people. Even with the artist getting all the donations that doesn’t come up to enough money to cover the expense of getting there.
One of the two lesser attended shows had been booked for almost a year; should be plenty of time to build some interest in an upcoming act. And the promoter also told me that his last show was SRO.
Made me feel great.
At the third venue, it was the host’s first house concert and they hustled and filled the room to standing room only.
None of her friends had heard of me (well, most had not), but she took it upon herself to contact me, take responsibility for putting a situation together and she made certain that it was filled with people who, incidentally, bought a lot of CD’s.
It was not my name, fame or talent that filled that room. It was that presenter putting the show together. In a house concert situation, that is what is required. The act cannot invite a bunch of strangers into the homes of the presenters…it must be the presenters friends and acquaintances.
The idea being, the presenter is so fond of this particular artist that they decide to introduce the music to all their friends and acquaintances and also get to spend some quality time with the artist after the show.
Now, for all three shows, I did roughly the same first set, followed by a completely extemporaneous second set. What I like to do is have the first set usually based upon one CD, while in the second set I tend to draw from all 26 CD’s that I have released.
I heard from several people who attended all three shows that the shows were some of the best of mine they had ever seen. I just want to establish that no matter the size of the audience, I do the very best show I can.
To my amazement, and for the first time in my career, at the two smaller shows, no one purchased a CD.
No one. That has never happened to me in my life. For the last eight years, I have seen half the room no matter what the size, go home with my music.
But no one?
I even had one fellow tell me that he was taking guitar lessons and that my playing was so good he was discouraged. I told him that I am also taking lessons and encouraged him as much as I knew how. Then he told me how great my songs were.
We walked over to the CD table and I said, “All of the songs I sang in the first set are on this CD”. He replied, “I don’t listen to CD’s”. And walked away.
I suspect his playing will be a long time developing.
I listened and still listen to everything. That’s how you learn, grow and become inspired.
But I digress.
Here are my suggestions to all presenters:
Make certain that the room is filled with people who actually pay for the concert. You do that by having a very large mailing list and expecting only five percent of them to come to any show. And you don’t do so very many shows a year that you fatigue your audience.
Also try to be consistent as to when during the week or month and hour you do the shows. That way your patrons can support you more easily.
As this is not a business, you cannot demand funds from people, but you can say that the capacity is limited and that you suggest that they get their donation in ahead of time to insure a seat.
This serves two purposes. It ascertains that, as they have already paid, they will probably come and two, that if they don’t come, the artist is not hurt by their bailing on the show and thereby impacting the income of the artist who came all that way…
One more thing, be sure and communicate to the artist you are bringing in, which night or nights you usually have concerts.
One of the presenters of the lesser attended shows told me that he never does shows on Saturday night (the night of our show), that he has only done them on Sunday’s or Thursday’s.
Not once during our conversations leading up to the booking did he mention that and all he suggested to me during that time were Saturday nights.
From now on, one of the first questions I will ask is, “which night do you usually have the best attendance for your house concerts?”
You live and you learn.