House concerts aren’t a new concept. In fact, I’ve talked with several musicians who tell me they were regularly performing house concerts back in the 70s. But house concerts have received a boost in popularity lately as DIY musicians explore new ways to reach their fans and increase their profits. Many have stumbled upon the fact that merchandise sales at a house concert far surpass any club venue they’ve played.
House concerts by their very nature are using some powerful psychological sales triggers that aren’t present at most club venues. If you can learn to harness and amplify these tactics, you’ll see a significant increase in your merch sales and fan engagement at house concert shows. Here are three of the best sales tactics to exploit for your benefit.
Your house concert host is going to invite over their family, friends, neighbors and work associates to hear you sing at their home. Many of these people won’t be familiar with you or your music. But your host has just given you one of the greatest gifts you can receive – a referral! The invitation to come to their house concert not only implies they like your music, it actually goes much farther than that. It implies that they like you as a person!
If I loved your music, but I thought you were a giant tool, I would never invite you into my home to perform. No matter how catchy your latest song is, I wouldn’t want to endorse and encourage your toolish behavior. My friends don’t need me to explicitly state this. They’re going to assume that if you’re performing in my home, I adore you. And they’d be right.
So knowing this, what would be your first instinct if I invited you over to my home to listen to someone you’ve never heard of? You’re probably going to think something like, “Jennine likes this guy. I wonder why. I’m going to check him out.” And then you’re off to iTunes, YouTube or whatever link I gave you to investigate my favorite independent artist. Add this reaction to the fact that I associate with people who have similar interests to me and you have a high probability that you’ve got a potential new fan for each invitation I send out.
Unlike a bar or coffee house venue, everyone is at a house concert to see you perform. They didn’t just happen to walk in to watch the ballgame. They came because they were invited for the sole purpose of seeing a show – your show. If your host sets the right expectation for their guests, everyone will know they’re going to see a concert. After all, it’s not called a house party. It’s a house concert.
This puts a lot of pressure on you. The pros to playing a house concert can easily become the cons if you’re not prepared. House concerts will bring out the flaws in your performance. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s just you and an audience. But assuming you’ve practiced and prepared, you’re in a unique situation to impress and connect with your new potential fans. Because just like you have nowhere to hide, they have nowhere to hide either. They are forced to pay attention and listen to your music and stories.
By entertaining and connecting with the audience over the next 60-90 minutes, you have the opportunity to demonstrate why your host invited you to their home. This is why it’s important that you bring the best show you can. Obviously play all your best songs; but don’t neglect the time between songs. This is actually more important than the music. It’s time you can use to show the audience why you’re so likable and human. Your stories give them a reason to connect and become a fan. I’ll even go so far as to say the audience will remember your stories long after they’ve forgotten your melodies.
The last trigger you can use to your advantage is an old marketing standby – reciprocity. It works on the emotions we tie to favors. I do something for you and you feel obligated to do something for me; to balance the scale of inequity in our relationship. In this new relationship with potential fans there’s really only a couple of ways you want them to balance the scale – get on your email list or buy merchandise.
After the show and during breaks, happily talk one-on-one with the audience, sign autographs and pose for pictures. During the conversation ask, “Did you get my new album yet?” You’re not asking them to buy the album. You’re just asking a simple question. But the power of reciprocity is kicking in. You’ve just put on a great show for them, spent time talking with them and signing pictures. Their subconscious doesn’t want to appear rude or ungrateful. Without you actively selling, you’ve just told them to buy your CD!
These one-on-one conversations are also a great time to ask them to sign up for your email list. Tossing a clipboard on a table at a house concert isn’t going to work any better than it does at a club. Very few people will voluntarily sign up for your list. So work it into your interactions. When they ask you to sign something for them make a game out of it: “I’ll sign yours if you sign mine!” or straight up ask fans for their email address. Don’t worry, you have the power of reciprocity on your side. Folks feel obligated to balance the scale for you. Be sure you let them.
Try it out! Happy house concerting…
Guest post: Jennine Kristianson is the owner of Only Sky Artist where she provides marketing resources for DIY independent artists as well as coaching and custom marketing services. She is also the author of House Concerts: build a fan base one living room at a time and its companion guide for fans The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a House Concert. She can be found at http://onlySKYartist.com or on Twitter @OnlySkyArtist.