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Making Your Own Stage: The Lesser Known World of House Concerts

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Thank God artists have learned not to solely rely on the record business for their career development. With labels in such a state of confusion, it has become imperative for every artist to build a nest for their own future. The cradle to grave proposition that record companies promised forty years ago is long gone.

One of the most exciting and innovating ways artists continue to survive is by performing in house concerts. Often organized by a fan who hosts the event, friends and associates are invited to join the host for a private concert at his or her home.

A door fee is negotiated with the performer before hand, and the host is required to create a small quiet spot for the performer, with chairs for the patrons.

House concerts, otherwise called living room concerts, are a growing story in the current music business model, often led by do-it-yourself styled artists. If you think about it, the concept is centuries old, with performers consigned to entertain at the homes of wealthy patrons. Far more recently, contemporary musicians have discovered this very lucrative world of live performance.

It is a particularly good way to make money, if you are an emerging artist with developing name recognition. In the traditional business model, you might earn up to $400 a night performing at a local club.

With that income, chances are, you-d likely need to finance a rehearsal and pay for a band. By the end of the club night, you wouldn-t have earned anything, and in fact, might owe money.

With living room concerts, you can earn a lot more money. House concerts are most often acoustic, so usually there is no band to pay. Add to that, most artists carry their own cds and merchandising for sale after the show, and sales are usually better than at traditional clubs.

It-s not uncommon for a house concert to yield over $1000 a night, with 75 people paying $10 to see an artist, plus CD and merch sales.

There-s another major upside to playing living room concerts for most artists. The organizing is shouldered by the host, who is usually a fan of the artist. The host invites their friends, so an artist walks into a friendly room with an audience primed for them, and often familiar with their work. The atmosphere is always a bit more relaxed than a nightclub, as living rooms create a more intimate and personal feel. Performances aren-t always in a living room either. In fact, barns, decks, driveways and gardens have all been used for house concerts.

And house concerts breed more house concerts. Many attendees will go on to host their own house concerts and the network continues.

House concerts can yield far more money than performing on the traditional club circuit. However, one is not a substitute for the other and in fact, both are necessary for career development. Truth be told, this rarely discussed underground network is funding thousands of careers.

In fact, hundreds of house concerts around the country are taking place every month, from Alaska to Wyoming and every state in between. It-s a perfect way for artists to stay in their craft, earn a decent living and grow their audience.

This is Celia Hirschman for On the Beat on KCRW.

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