I seem to do a lot of mentoring and coaching of other artists. This isn’t because I feel like I have this all figured out in building a music career, not even close. It’s mostly because I know how hard it is, first hand. I’ve been on this road for 17 years now. And, I also know how frustrating it can be to not have any help as an indie artist when you are trying to figure out the next step.

When I get asked questions from young artists, or artists new to Nashville, I can guarantee I will be asked at least one of these questions. So, I wanted to share the answers for those who might be wondering the same things. In fact, I might just send a link to this blog instead of sitting down for coffee with people from now on. 😉

1. I’ve written some lyrics, could you put them to music?

Usually about twice a month someone asks me to write music for lyrics they’ve written (or lyrics for music). The short answer is “no.” Why the answer is no is that I already have a great group of professional songwriters that I co-write with. We write some really good songs, and we also have some connections to further promote the songs we write- so it’s a win-win for us all. Yes, it is a harsh reality, but it’s also true for me too. For example, I haven’t had 20 #1 hits so I would never walk up to someone who has and ask them to write with me. It’s just one of the unwritten rules in Nashville.

Having said this, some professional songwriters will do paid co-writes with people who have never written a song. It’s one way they monetize their skill. I know a songwriter who does about five of these paid writes a month, and it’s a main source of income for them. And, you can also look for collaborators who are local to where you live too through local songwriting clubs like NSAI.

2. I’ve written a song that would be great for (insert famous person’s name here), how can I get it to them?

First of all, good for you! And, honestly, you have a very slim chance of even getting to the artist with that song and some MAJOR competition. The reason is that most artists write for themselves because they don’t want to lose money in songwriting and publishing royalties. Here’s the real deal…

On every given major artist’s country album, there are usually only about 2 songs that will come from outside the artist’s camp. The artist’s camp is comprised of their producer, publisher and songwriters they know. A good example of this is Luke Bryan. Luke has close-knit group of hit songwriting friends: Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip (known as the Peach Pickers) who write songs with and for him. Dallas and Luke were roommates when they moved to Nashville and have been friends forever. So, unless you are a Peach Picker or writing with one of them somehow, you have a very slim chance of getting Luke to record your song.

So what about the other two songs on the record that weren’t written by the artist or someone in the artist’s camp?

The first place the label is going to go is to their catalog. For example, if Brad Paisley is looking for songs he didn’t write, Sony will go to their publishing company Sony/ATV and they will look through literally thousands of songs they have. The reason is that they have invested money in those songs because they paid staff songwriters (songwriters with publishing deals at Sony) to write them. They want to make their money back, and it makes total business sense they would want to keep that money in the Sony family.

The last place the artist/label is going to look for songs is from a song plugger (someone paid to pitch your songs for you, like an agent) or another publisher. Let me just say that there are a lot of sharks in the water in this world. If you want to try this route and are just starting, use a service like TheSongTuner.com because they actually work with reputable song pluggers and you only pay if you really have a song that fits what are looking for instead of a monthly fee. They also give you constructive feedback on the song.

3. How do you get your songs into film and TV?

Read this blog to answer that one.

4.How do you make money in music?

Ah, the big one. There are lots of ways to make money, but making a living is a whole other story. Let me give you a couple of real examples from my career.

About six years ago, I had my first song cut and released to country radio as a single. The artist spent around $1,200 recording it and $8,000 to promote it, and we were all really excited. The song climbed the charts into the top 60 or so, and got airplay on hundreds of stations. People were sending me emails about how I had ‘arrived.’ It was awesome, and it still is! But, financially from that song, we all made about $30 each on the songwriter/publisher side. Yes, that is all.

Here’s another real-life one. In my experience, indie films pay about $200 to license a song. Recently, I placed a song in an indie film for $75. This was because one of my cowriters really wanted their first film credit, and the story/actors looked reputable. We spent $350 on the demo of that song; we lost $275.

I wish I could say I make a full living doing music. But, I don’t yet. I have a full time day job to fund my music career. And the reality is that most people in Nashville do as well, or they have a bread-winning spouse, parents or an investor. And these economic realities are not only at my career level. I had a friend who was nominated for a Grammy this year, and they couldn’t afford to go to LA to the awards. They are obviously at the top of their game as a Grammy nominee, and they are also someone who has to pay the bills. Just like the rest of us.

5. Have you written any songs I would know?

If you watched Hart of Dixie then the answer is ‘maybe’ because I had some songs on the show. But more than likely, no.

So are you depressed yet?!?! Please keep reading…

Look, I don’t want to give you or anyone else the reality smack down. At the same time, I really don’t want you to have wildly unrealistic expectations of the experience and the economics of pursuing a career in music.

If you truly love writing and performing, and are willing to face the realities above, then move here and do it! It’s like I always say, dreams are free but hustle (and hard work) is sold separately.

In May 2012 I played a gig at The Railway. I was supporting an artist and was expected to not only bring an audience but to sell and collect money from advanced tickets. For some artists this is the norm but for me with a very small “audience” it was pretty discouraging. I can’t remember how many or IF I sold any tickets. I do remember thinking that must be a better way to promote live music.

A few weeks later I came up with a plan: create a special night, hire a venue , get great artists to play (including me!) sell tickets and put on a great show. Simple eh? The idea was to create a regular show – a brand if you like – that people would buy into, that way they would come and see it again and again without needing to know who was playing. They would attend because they knew that it would be a great night.

So I set about finding artists that I thought people would like and planning how the show would work. I wanted the show to be properly compered and took on that role myself. I wanted the artists to play 2 short sets as opposed to just one each as experience had shown me that sometimes an audience can leave after their particular artists has performed. There would need to be an interval, there has to be a raffle, artists would get paid (a share of the profits) AND the most important part ARTISTS WOULD NOT SELL TICKETS. That for me was the most important element and was vital to my business plan.

I wanted to make sure that the audience bought their tickets from me, that way I could take their email addresses and let them know when the next show was and that way SELL THE BRAND.

I would like to say at this point that I AM NOT A PROMOTER, I am a full time musician.

After deciding to hire The Attic at The Railway and securing the artists for the first show, I printed small posters and put them up all over the place, contacted the local paper and found a few “What’s On” type websites to advertise on. I carried these little posters everywhere with me and gave them to everybody I met.

I sold advance tickets that I hand delivered personally. On the night I gathered email addresses of those who wanted to know about subsequent shows and the raffle was a great success.

People love a raffle and it’s a great way of making a bit more money (keeping me and the artists happy) as well as ensuring that folk stay until the close (keeping the bar and venue happy).

It was a bit stressful as I had to put up £120 of my own money to pay for the hire of the venue BUT I made a small profit and had a ball.

Apart from a few short breaks over the summer and a couple when I couldn’t book the venue, I was putting on shows each month right up to April last year.

  1. We had some great shows and the audiences were the best.
  2. I got to meet some great artists.
  3. I was able to put on acts from out of town. Dirty Proper came from Texas!
  4. I NEVER MADE A LOSS. Although I got very close, one month I made £5 profit!
  5. I was able to pay the artists MOST of the time. See above plus some nights weren’t that busy and sometimes the artists didn’t want the £2.50

What I did I did out of desperation and the belief that if THE PROMOTER actually promotes the BRAND and not the BAND people WILL COME. Yes I didn’t make a load of money but then I am not NOT a promoter.

I know there are loads of great promoters out there but I think that they need to stop looking for artists to sell tickets, generally they (artists) are rubbish at it. We have to sort out songs and equipment and travel and parking and merch and a myriad of other things AND actually perform.

Plus, if you continually use that tired old model of bands selling tickets, you are starting fresh every time you put on a night, it’s crazy. When you book acts GET THE AUDIENCE TO SIGN UP TO YOUR MAILING LIST and YOUR TWITTER FEED. That’s what the bands are doing and they are taking their audience, the one they played to at your venue, with them.

And before you poo poo the raffle, that raffle often made the difference between loss and profit. The prizes were generally naff and donated by the artists and once included a bag of bagels…with one missing….from Grant Sharkey!

You might be thinking that I just got lucky and that the time was right, I got the right venue/area/artists.

Well.

A year later I did the same thing with the old magistrates court in Eastleigh and used the same methods to put on four very successful shows. One show in particular I managed to pay the artists over £60 each and they all sold cds!

Lucky?

I have now decided to use what I have learned to plug my own solo shows as …. I’m not a promoter!!

Nick Tann is a British singer/songwriter who, three years ago, took the plunge by quitting his job and becoming a full-time musician. He books all his own gigs, publishes and releases his albums, builds and maintain his own websites, produces a quietly popular independent music podcast called “Is This Thing On” and does all his own publicity… He even wrote this! You can see what he is up to by following him on Twitter @Nick_Tann and checking out www.nicktann.co.uk where you can see what all the fuss is about

Nick Tann

New Official Video

www.isthisthingonpodcast.com

Finding a comfort zone while speaking to audiences between songs is something that has been problematic for MANY singers and musicians and one of the big reasons many clients have approached me for performance training and production of their live shows.

Unfortunately a lot of artists don’t see how negatively this sort of thing can impact their performances. Nevermind for a moment that not being able to speak well can make a show feel less polished and professional in the eyes of your fans.

It can also result in you making LESS MONEY and getting LESS E-MAIL SIGN-UPS…both of which are the life blood of today’s independent artists.

So I spent a large portion of time over the past year-and-a-half exploring this very issue and looking for ways artists can improve at this extremely important, yet often neglected, skill. Asking questions, experimenting, testing some of the ideas on my own clients.

And it was amazing because it brought to the surface several things that nobody in the music industry was really talking about. That resulted in me putting together a series of three videos exploring speaking skills during live shows. Each video, around 15-minutes in length, tackles key points ranging from the way artists rehearse their shows to the manner in which they structure their sentences when pitching e-mail sign-ups.

The first video was posted nearly a month ago and the responses I received via e-mail and social media were fantastic! One of my favorite comments came from an e-mail subscriber who applied some of the concepts to her own performances and said, “what had seemed awkward and slightly terrifying in the past was actually fun and fluid.”

Set aside 45-minutes of your time and…watch…these…videos. They WILL help you!

Video 1:

Video 2:

Video 3:

ABOUT WADE SUTTON

Wade Sutton has dedicated his life to helping artists ditch their day jobs in favor of careers in music.

Serving as a live music producer and performance coach, Wade teaches singers and musicians how to turn their live shows into a kick-ass experience resulting in fans buying more merchandise and increasing e-mail sign-ups.

He also puts to use nearly twenty years of professional journalism experience by creating biographies and electronic press kits for singers and musicians while advising them on matters related to the media, public relations, and obtaining sponsorships.

You can receive a free digital copy of Wade’s book by clicking HERE.

As the band was packing up, I brushed by and could hear the owner spouting his contorted excuses about why he couldn’t pay the guarantee. I’ve heard it all before and I’ve felt that crushing feeling of not knowing how I would make it to the next town because an owner or promoter let me down. I was glad it wasn’t me in that position that night.

That’s why it surprised me to see that Tony just nodded and smiled as he listened the news!

It all made sense twenty minutes later when I saw him packing up the merch booth. As he stuffed an impressive wad of cash into his guitar case, he gave me the most valuable piece of advice I ever heard on tour:

“Don’t rely on the promoters. As long as you put on a killer show and have killer merch, you’ll always have enough gas to make it to the next stop.”

The bottom line is that if you want to be a professional musician, you should have a solid merch setup and promote it effectively at your gigs. Because it might be the only money you make that night.

What constitutes a solid merch setup?

The first thing you need to consider when developing your merch strategy is who your fans are. It should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at some of the misdirected merch attempts I’ve seen. So make sure to offer items that your fans want.

Don’t assume you know. Ask them. Not only is it a great opportunity to engage with your fans, it’s a solid icebreaker topic if you’re shy about starting conversations with them.

The more you get your fans involved in the development of your merch the more eager they will be to buy it. In fact, fan-designed merch (especially t-shirts) almost invariably outsells everything else on the table.

The other thing you need to consider is who the purchaser or decision-maker is. A great example is children’s music. The kids may be the consumers, but the parents are the purchasers.

Although your shows may be filled with equal parts men and women, do the merch buyers tend to be from one group more than the other? Pay attention to that and provide merch that suits the buyers.

Set up your merch booth professionally! Here are some quick guidelines to make sure people know you mean business:

  • Have an actual, packable, portable, merch table. It should be part of your regular gear and kept with your amps and guitars to that it’s with you wherever you go. Invest in a banner and tablecloth or whatever else you need to make it look nice. The investment in a professional quality merch table will pay for itself almost immediately.
  • Make sure it is well lit. I like to use flexible tube lights with a spattering of blinky buttons. The merch booth should be second only to the stage in spotlight coverage.
  • Position it in a spot that is visible when coming and going. As close to the smoke-break route as possible.
  • Have someone stationed at the table during the show. Placing an honor-system bucket on the table while you’re on stage is not nearly as effective as having an actual person there who is motivated to sell. A cut of the profits is a great way to motivate someone. Don’t take advantage of your friend’s kindness to run your table for free. Cut them in and you’ll feel the results in our wallet. Pay your money-maker. Don’t treat them like crappy promoters treat you.
  • When you’re not on stage, be at the booth. Make sure that is the area to party with the band. Not backstage. You don’t make money there. Backstage is where you get swarmed by groupies that drink your beer and distract you from the show. If you bring that party up front, some of those groupies will probably leave with t-shirts and CDs instead of (insert dirty groupie joke here).
  • The merch table should be the last thing you tear down. Not only do people hate carrying stuff around all night, it’s at the end of the night that they cash out at the bar and have their credit cards in hand. PS: Accept credit cards.
  • Pay attention to profit margins. Please don’t do mental math. Keep track of ALL costs (including paying you merch girl). Even if you don’t have an advanced understanding of accounting, by keeping track of all the numbers you will learn to understand and optimize your profit margins.
  • Don’t over order. The money you save by purchasing 1,000 CDs does you no good while those CDs sit in your garage. You might need that money to re-up on t-shirts or flasks or get your guitar fixed. The profit from having more variety in your merch will make up for missing out on that bulk discount. Use companies that provide fulfillment-as-you-go like Kunaki for CDs. Support local business (like screen printers) whenever you can and you’ll find they will return the favor.
  •  

    How do I promote my merch effectively at shows?

    Now that you have a bunch of great merch and an attractive table, what can you do to get that stuff off the table and into the fans’ hands?

    If you want to be a professional musician, you’ve got to get out there and do your job. As with any other business “do your job” refers to more than making music.

    You are responsible for all the activities associated with turning your music into money. That’s the difference between a professional and a hobbyist.

    This is why it’s crucial that instead of basking in your rockstardom with a herd of groupies or hiding in seclusion backstage, you need to be where the money is being made. The math is pretty basic: As the star of the show, people will gravitate toward you. So be where they will spend money.

    What makes people want to buy? Here are some quick tips to help you move that merch:

  • Rotate your merch. Having the same stuff all the time discourages repeat buying. So switching it up and offering limited edition merch will go a long way. Anyone with a business degree knows that it costs 6 times more to get a new customer than a repeat customer. Since you probably don’t have a business degree, I reckon that’s an important statistic for me to share with you;)
  • Announce from the stage that you have merch AT LEAST twice per show. Here’s an idea to try: “This next song is from our new album, ‘___’! And until we finish playing it, ANY of our CDs will be available for $5! Just go talk to Jason at the Merch table!”
  • Price individual items higher than you think you should so that you can offer discounted bundles. “CD’s are $15 or 2 for $20.” Yes, this can even work if you only have one CD. People still buy music as gifts. Maybe even have some pre-wrapped gift editions on display to “plant the seed” in their minds.
  • Design, commission, or otherwise achieve really good album covers. Those still make a difference, but there are some new considerations. This image should look good on an MP3 player. So crazy, intricate designs don’t do well for that.
  • Don’t skimp on the quality of your merch (especially t-shirts). Your merch represents your music very directly and very publicly. You should want the world to know that you provide quality products (music AND merch), not that your out to make a quick buck.
  • Have a cool shirt. Unless your logo is so cool that it stands alone (Rolling Stones, Misfits) you have to spruce it up. Lyrics on t-shirts sell well (let your fans pick the lyrics). Also fan-designed shirts, as I mentioned before.
  • Display your awesome shirt on the stage. Drape it over a speaker. Have hot chicks wear your shirts and sell them right off of their backs (LITTERALLY)! Get women’s t-shirts and onesies (both very neglected yet highly in-demand products).
  • If someone buys a t-shirt, thank them form the stage. Point them out. “Look how cool Jerry is in his new t-shirt!” Buy him a beer. That’s a MUCH BETTER use of your drink tickets than getting wasted and falling off the stage. In fact…
  • Use your drink tickets to sell merch, NOT to get drunk. Some places will even sell you additional drink tickets super cheap. You can get pretty creative with that. Or you can simply hang out at the merch booth, mingle with fans, and buy drinks for people that buy merch.
  • Put a stack of CDs at the bar or cashier and make arrangements with the staff so that they can buy a CD when the pay their tab.
  • Have change on hand. It really bites to lose a sale because you couldn’t break a $20.
  •  

    Ultimately, it’s important to note that marketing is not sales. Marketing is all the stuff you put into presenting your products professionally, and effectively engaging with your fans so that they want to buy. This should be part of your whole thought process and routine.

    If you absorb that into how you manage your business, you’ll never have to ask for the sale, which I know is the hardest part…

Hello,

Finally found the time to write a blog again! It’s been a while since I’ve been trying to find ways of making an income from my music. London is very expensive and it doesn’t forgive mistakes. Definitely one of the hardest cities to live in. People run like crazy all day including me and it takes (in average) about 3 hours to go to work and back…plus don’t let me even get started with how expensive the underground is..if you visited London..I’m sure you noticed.. 🙂

Anyway it’s me babbling again!!! heheh Got to stop this and get to the point! So…
I’ve been living in London for more than 3 and a half years now, I changed several jobs, worked everywhere (restaurants mostly) and I’ve been a part time Sales assistant in a jewelry shop too since 2012. Needless to say that as an Artist I hated the job and it killed my creativity. There was nothing wrong with the job itself..but it wasn’t for me. I was literally coming back home from work and there was no life in my eyes.
If you hate your job…you know what I’m talking about. Anyway…this thing couldn’t go on and on anymore. I’ve been there for too long…almost 3 years. So I started pushing myself to think of new ways to improve my life.

If you know me, then you know I am present on my social networks and I interact with all my fans…a lot. I appreciate these people. These people care about me..and I care about them. We established a wonderful relationship. Ahhh the magic of the internet! So I thought…well the best way of making an income from my art is to give the opportunity to my fans to support me financially and thanks to the universe that works in mysterious ways.. a friend of mine introduced me Patreon. Patreon is a platform that gives the chance to people to support their fav artist! AMAZING, RIGHT? He has one himself by the way…his name is Tommy Darker and this is his Patreon page if you want to support him!

www.patreon.com/tommydarker

I started working on my Patreon page in the end of January 2015…and I took the risk to quit the Sales Assistant job hoping that my fans will be there holding the net to catch me as I fall. And guess what! THEY DID! I love these people so much!!!! I started contacting people about my Patreon on the 7th of March and just a week later I raised $482 from 25 patrons so far! It’s going great! I believe more people will jump in in the future and that probably means I will be making at least a basic living from my art.

The Way Patreon Works:

You choose one of the rewards…there are several amounts…you go with what you want. Even $1 is appreciated! You DO NOT get charged right away. You get charged ONLY when I post a creation (new song, cover song, lyrics, video etc). So for example if I don’t post anything for 3 months…you do not get charged. If I post a creation once a month (which is my goal) then you get charged once a month. You can edit/cancel your pledge anytime you want! I love Patreon already and here’s to a great new beginning with more Art from me that I hope will enrich your lives and make you feel good when you listen to it!

Pledging on Patreon is a Win Win situation! You support an artist financially..and you get exclusive rewards back!

Support your favourite artists. It’s the only way for you to keep getting more of the Art you enjoy/like!! This is my Patreon page by the way if you want to support:

www.patreon.com/hellena

Many many thanks for reading this! I appreciate each and every one of you showing support.

With love and positivity,

Héllena.

Héllena is a Greek independent artist, currently residing in London, trying to make a sustainable living from her Art without having to sell out. If you want to contact her and exchange ideas here are few links where you can find her. Say hi, she won’t bite 😀

Website: www.hellenaofficial.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/theartisthellena

Twitter: www.twitter.com/helenamicy

We see it everywhere in the music biz: [Insert Artist Name here] has a new single!

But, what does that really mean?

Well, to break it down, there are SINGLES, Singles and singles…

The SINGLE- AKA Major Label Release or the Times Square Billboard

When a major label artist releases a single, it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal because it means the label is investing tens of thousands of dollars (yes, that much) in advertising and promotion to get that single out there in the market. They literally have teams of people calling up individual program directors on a daily basis to get them to play the single on their radio station. This involves both relationships and favors. For example, a label radio promoter might ‘sweeten the deal’ with a program director by offering free tickets to a big name artist show in exchange for spinning a lesser known artist’s single. It happens all the time. Major labels pretty much own the content that gets played on major radio stations, which is why you hear the same playlists over and over.

And, just so you know, a #1 song in the country market will make a million dollars. So, if all the promotion works, it pays off big for the label, the artist, the publishers and the songwriters.

The Single- AKA Legit Indie Release or the Highway Sign

When a legit indie label or indie artist releases a single, they can hire radio promoters to work their single at radio for a fee or they can run a professional DIY campaign.

Now depending on the charts they are targeting, fees vary widely from a few thousand for the ‘life’ of the single – or however long it is still moving up the charts – or a few thousand a month. In country radio, for example, major label artists typically release and promote to Billboard charts and up-and-coming artists generally release to secondary charts (Music Row, Billboard Indicator). Even these secondary charts come at a pretty hefty price tag, and artists I know have spent $20,000-$30,000 on promoting one single. Because of royalty rates, don’t expect to earn a bunch of money back either. A few years ago, I was a writer on a song that reached the top 60 on the Music Row charts and it paid a whopping $30.

For myself as an indie artist, I’ve found a great option in radio promotion in the UK and Ireland. I partner with KEMC Global; they are reasonably priced, and they get results that turn into actual revenue because the royalty rates are so different there.

If you do hire someone to help you promote your music, make sure they have a track record of working with artists in your genre. And, as always, ask around to see what other successful indies are doing.

The single- AKA I’m Saying it’s a Single or the Yard Sign

This brings us to the last type of single. This is basically when you say you have a single, but what it really means is that you put it on iTunes and maybe your hometown radio station is playing it. It’s sounds cool, yeah, but it’s just not the same as the two types of singles described above. At the very least, if you’re serious about your career, consider trying a DIY campaign around a new single or album, or clarifying your release as an iTunes Single release.

The Closing Thought

So, there you have it. There are SINGLES, Singles and singles. While we can’t all be major label artists, the good news is that you do have options to run legitimate single promotions with an investment of time and money. And, remember if you want to be legit, then you have to work on getting your music on legit music industry charts,; ReverbNation doesn’t count.

Have any questions about radio promotions? Hit me- I’ll answer whatever I can!

2843701Let’s face it. Being an indie artist is hard work.

For many of us, it means we serve as our own booking agents, music publishers, record labels, publicists/marketers, distributors and accountants. We have to get creative, roll up our sleeves and make things happen in our careers often with very little support or funding. How many times have you searched for resources online, ask friends for advice or just jumped in and learned by doing?

Lately I’ve been working on a new record Ghosts in the Field, and I’ve been thinking about the complex process of releasing a record as an indie artist. And it is a process—one full of planning and a lot of moving parts.

To help bring it all together, I’ve created the Ultimate Indie Album Release Roadmap for you! And, because I’ve been blogging for a few years, I included bonus how-to resource links (dashed line boxes indicate links) on topics such as lyric videos, radio promotion, media tips, pitching to film and TV and more. (Note that the same concepts would work if you were releasing EPs or even singles).

Have I missed anything? What would you find helpful to add to the mix? Share your comments below!

indiereleaseroadmap
Click the Roadmap to Download it

About a month ago, I got home from a 60-show summer tour, on which I didn’t set foot in a single music venue or club. Every show took place in the living room or backyard of someone who supports my music. We did shows in 19 US states and one province of Canada. We drove around in our VW Jetta (335,000 miles on the odometer and going strong), and we had the time of our lives.

This is the third summer that we’ve done a summer house concert tour, and just like the previous two years, this year’s tour exceeded our projections and expectations. I think it’s safe to say at this point in time that this is my jam. I love house concert touring, and I’m never looking back.

Why? I could probably go on for longer than you likely want to read, so I’ll distill down to 3 reasons why house concerts have been so powerful for me.

1) I can make real money at house concerts.

I’ve done countless shows at traditional music venues over the years, and one thing that was constantly frustrating for me was that even though I would do a whole bunch of promotion and get people to come out, I would often leave with not much more in my pocket than gas money to and from the show. That’s because there were always other people to take a cut of the money that came in at the door – the bouncer, the bartender, the booker, the other artists on the bill.

In my house concert model, there is no one else to take a cut of the money made at the event, and so 100% of the proceeds from the night come directly to me. And since the experience for the audience at a house concert is so intimate and connective, guests at the shows seem eager to show their appreciation in a generous way (in the form of donations and merch purchases), especially when they know that everything they give goes directly to benefit the artist.

When I say “real money,” here’s what I mean specifically: the title of my book about my house concert method includes the phrase “How I Made $25K On A 2-Month House Concert Tour” – that’s the amount I earned in the 50 house concerts I did on my 2013 summer house concert tour. If you do the math, that’s an average of $500 per night of guest donations and merch sales. I don’t know about you, but that blows away any average earnings I’ve had on any other kind of touring. And that was 2013; this year was significantly better.

2) I make a lot of new fans at house concerts.

Every house concert I do is hosted by someone who supports and loves my music. The guests at the show are people the host has invited because she/he wants to share my music with them. This results in two important things that add up to more fans: 1) every person at the show has been given an endorsement of me and my music by their trusted friend, the host, so I’m set up for success in winning over the crowd before I even play a note of music; and 2) each show is populated with an entirely new group of people I never would have encountered if I weren’t in this particular host’s home. I essentially create a new market for my music at each house I play.

There is also no other performance experience I’ve had that is as intimate and connective as a house concert. What this means on a practical level is that there is a much greater chance that the people in the audience will form a bond with me and my music than they might at a traditional venue. At a venue, there can be a lot of distractions – noise from the bar, a coffee grinder buzzing behind the counter, inattentive chatter. And the physical infrastructure between the performer and audience in a venue can create an emotional barrier – I’m talking here about things like a stage, a big sound system, and bright stage lighting. At a house concert it’s just me, the music, and the audience, all in the same intimate space.

As an example from my 2013 tour (which is the tour on which I based all the figures in my book), I added 500 new names to my email list over the course of those 50 shows. That’s a much better email list signup rate than I’ve ever had in traditional venue shows.

3) The deep connection I make with people at house concerts creates a community of supporters who will support me and my music for years to come.

I keep hearing people talking about how if an independent artist can create a solid group of superfans, that she/he can sustain a career over the course of years from that kind of hyper-dedicated support. I’m here to tell you that it’s true, and I can’t think of a better way to develop that community than at house concerts.

The connections I make with people at these shows go way beyond the casual fan-performer interaction in most traditional venues. The bonds forged here result in relationships that, when nurtured, become part of an ever-growing community that supports me in everything I do as an artist. They’re the ones hosting house concerts for their friends, buying every album I release, and supporting my crowdfunding campaigns for new projects.

Sound interesting? Want to know how to get started?

Start with the people you know. I believe that the power of this model is that every artist can create their own market through connections within their own community. Maybe you already have a budding email list of fans, or maybe you just have some good friends and family members who support the music you’re making – reach out to those people and ask who is interested in creating a fun, unique, and memorable night with you in their home. In my model, all they need to become a host is a place to gather and a minimum of 20 adults to come to the show. It’s a low enough bar for entry that you should be able to get some nibbles.

The cool thing I’ve experienced about house concerts is that they can be viral. At nearly every show, a guest approaches me and says how much they’d love to host a show at their own house the next time we tour. We’ve gone from 1 show in Houston to 3 shows in Houston. We’ve gone from 2 or 3 shows in the Seattle area to 7 or 8 shows in the Seattle area each time we come through.

As for all the essential details of how to run a successful house concert, I’ve been educated by a lot of trial and error over the last 3 years, and I’ve written down everything I’ve learned in a how-to book I created for artists who want to learn from my model. It’s a great place to start if you think this is something you want to try, and the cool part is that you can tweak it to match your own style and your own community of supporters.

But I think some of the best news of all is that you don’t have to wait for anyone to get started. Unlike so much else in the music industry, where there are gatekeepers who let only a few people in to the game, this model is completely in your own hands, on your own terms, and totally within your ability to achieve once you decide to do it. The only question that remains is, “What are you waiting for?”