Building Your Fanbase: How To Use House Concerts To Create Superfans

This is a guest post from Shannon Curtis, an independent musician, recording artist, and author based in Los Angeles. 
Shannon Curtis, ReverbNation artist

“If only …

… that one music supervisor could hear my new song, then …”

… that one label rep could catch one of my shows, then …”

… that one venue would return my email and give me a good time slot on a great bill, then …”

… then what?

Independent musicians, myself included, often think that there is one road to “success” when it comes to a career in music.

The reality is, being a career musician looks different for everyone…and the roads we each travel can be extremely varied. I believe I’ve discovered path to independent success for artists who want to build their fanbase, create a successful music career, and own 100% of the results. [Tweet This]

Last summer, I went on a 50-date house concert tour. On the road for a little over two months, I grossed $25,000. I booked the entire tour myself, and every show was hosted in the home of a fan who gathered friends to come see me perform. I earned money from donations and merch sales, added hundreds of names to my email list, and had the time of my life.

What follows is a crash course in everything I learned, presented with the hope that you can give it a try.

Partner With People Who Support You

A good house concert host is anyone who is a fan of you as an artist or as a person. [Tweet This] Think about your email list, social media followers, even friends and family. Anyone who will be excited to bring your music to more people in an innovative setting.

On the traditional house concert circuit, you can run into gatekeeper problems: well-established house concert venues function much like traditional venues with highly competitive booking.

But with the fan-powered model the “booking agent” already knows you and thinks you’re great. You’ll be surprised at how excited people are when you ask them to do something so unique with you.

Don’t Just Play A Show, Create An Experience

House concerts deliver an experience that’s likely to leave the crowd feeling more connected to you. And that can lead to big financial gains.

So you can’t just leave the experience to chance. You’ll want to influence the environment at the event, maximize the connectivity and achieve the proverbial “wow factor.”

Shannon Curtis, ReverbNation Artist

Shannon played to a crowd of fans on her 2013 House Concert Tour

Audience Size: In my experience you need at least 20 adults to come to each event. Any fewer than 20 and it won’t feel like an event. This will also increase your profit through donations.

My recommendation to reach quota: invite double the number of people you’d like to actually attend and require an RSVP. This will also create a feeling of exclusivity for guests. [Tweet This]

Performance Space: When you’re setting up your performance space it’s critical to remember that you’re not playing background music while people mill around at a party.

A few minutes before it’s time for the performance to start, have your host give the guests a five-minute warning to refill their drinks, use the bathroom, and find their seat for the show.

Make sure that everyone has a place to sit (not stand) for the entire performance, and are as close to the stage as possible. Be sure to go over this with your host, as they might be new to the world of house concerts.

Bring Your “A” Game: One of the things that makes this approach memorable is that there are no barriers between you and the audience. The audience gets a powerful and intimate connection with you and your music.

But being this vulnerable and open with your audience means that you have nothing to hide behind when performing. If you’re awkward and uncomfortable, your audience will be too. But if you play like you’re playing for 2,000 people, the audience will be thrilled to go on the journey with you from beginning to end. [Tweet This]

Invite Your Audience To Participate In Supporting You

Since you’ll be relying on donations to support your music and your tour, come up with a plan for asking attendees for donations. Make sure you stay true to your brand personality and convey your gratitude. If you’ve given a great performance, the audience will be thankful you were willing to share it with them and believe me, they’ll show you how much they appreciate it.

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You can also gain support from fans by posting and sharing info about your shows on social media sites.

The Viral Power Of Superfans

This last part is really the crux of the matter: if you can start with a small group of fans who feel deeply connected with you because of a shared, intimate experience, then you have the beginnings of a sustainable career. [Tweet This]

Now you have to stay in touch. It’s going to require a lot of hard work, but I know from firsthand experience that you can achieve genuine success as an independent artist with this model.

I’ve just barely scratched the surface here, but hopefully I’ve gotten your wheels turning. Leave questions in the comments below or through social media and I’ll be sure to continue the conversation!

Shannon Curtis is an independent musician and recording artist based in Los Angeles. Her new book, No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender: How I Made $25K On A 2-Month House Concert Tour (And How You Can Too), is available as both an eBook and paperback from Amazon and her website. 

If you want to snag a copy of Shannon’s book, visit her website and use the code: REVERB20 for a 20% off discount on the paperback version.

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