There’s a buzzword I see popping up a lot lately in articles about how to become a career artist: superfans. The idea is that if you have a subset of your fans who will support everything you do – buy every album you release, go to all your shows, buy all your merch – then you can build a sustainable career with the support of these hyper-dedicated fans.
As someone who has made a career as an independent artist, I have found no better way to build a collection of superfans than partnering with existing fans to put on deeply connective concerts in their homes. The remarkable success I’ve experienced with this model has led me to abandon traditional club touring, instead performing almost 150 house concerts in the last 2 years.
House concerts are the most connective, fulfilling, and rewarding performance experiences I’ve had as an artist. I’ve built relationships with fans at house concerts that have turned into meaningful friendships. And those connections go both ways; it’s not surprising to hear a guest at a house concert say, “I’ve never been to anything like this before and it’s the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time!”
I’ve thought a lot about why house concerts are so good at turning audience members into committed fans. I think it comes down to intimacy, exclusivity, and connection.
Intimacy: Listening to someone perform music in a comfortable space where there are no barriers between the audience and performer can be a disarming and penetrating experience. An audience member is way more likely to connect deeply with an artist and their music in this intimate setting than in a club.
Exclusivity: Since in our house concert model every guest is there at the personal invitation of the host, they feel as though they’ve been a part of something special and unique.
Connection: A house concert distills the live music experience down to its essential parts: a performer and an audience occupying a space together to share music. And in those magical shared spaces, I’ve found my core group of career-sustaining superfans.
Here are six tips for maximizing the magic in order to get everyone at a house concert on your team:
Pick house concert hosts who are big fans and who are excited to share you with their friends. In the model we use, each house concert is populated with the friends of the host, so there is always a crop of potential new fans ready for the picking. And because of the endorsement your host has given you, everyone in attendance is already expecting you to be great. You can’t lose!
Ask your host to make sure that they get a minimum of 20 people to show up.Fewer than 20 and it can feel a little awkward. Once you hit 20 people, though, it starts to feel like an exciting event.
Set up the space so that everyone has a place to sit for the entire show.Remember that you’re playing a house concert, not a house party or background music. Arrange the seating ahead of time so that when it’s showtime, everyone will know to come sit and relax and enjoy your performance.
Make it an adults-only show. I love kids – so much – but when they’re at a house concert, they distract the audience. Think of the house concert environment as being like a little magical bubble that you create around you and the audience for an hour. Anything that breaks the bubble will diminish the guests’ experience and their engagement with you. If some guests must bring kids along, ask the host if they’ll hire a babysitter to take them to a separate space during show time.
Let the guests participate in supporting you. We do all of our house concerts on a donation basis. Immediately after the performance, our host gets up and asks their guests to donate as an expression of their appreciation. Not only are the donations how you make money, they are a way for guests to feel that they are participants in a cool experience. This is a way for them to express and deepen their connection with you!
Play your heart out. Some of us performers can get more nervous playing in front of a small, intimate crowd than for a larger crowd in a dimly-lit club. This isn’t the time to indulge your insecurities. The more you believe, the more the audience will believe in you.
If this were all described as a math equation, I imagine it would look something like this:
Partnership with fans + an intimate house concert experience = long-lasting relationships with hyper-dedicated fans.
But don’t take my word for it – go do the math for yourself!
Shannon Curtis is an independent musician and recording artist based in Los Angeles. Her new eBook, No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender: How I Made $25K On A 2-Month House Concert Tour (And How You Can Too), is available from all major eBook retailers. She will be participating in a Reddit AMA on Wednesday, March 19 at 12pm ET/9am PT.