How to turn your home into a music venue…for a night.
A couple months ago I got really motivated to travel. Not just “regular” motivated, but motivated like a SUPERWOMANWARRIOR who was ready to perform ANY FEAT in order to get out of the state of Kansas, quite literally. I’m a Sagittarius which apparently means my blood will boil in apathetic slime if I am not trekking around the globe with my bow and arrow (or, should I say, bow and fiddle). My last trip was to visit my dad in North Carlolina, but before that it had been 9 sad, long months since I’d last packed my bags. GASP!
In all seriousness, travel might be THE number one motivating factor for me to do anything in life. If there’s a possibility that I might get to go *somewhere* that I want to go (as in, OUT OF KANSAS), I will create new job opportunities for myself to make it happen. Being able to do this on the fly is one of the perks of being a freelance musician.
Now, contrary to popular belief, “freelance musician” does not mean “poor person without a job.” I suppose in some cases that’s true, but for me it means freedom to work or play in varying proportions depending on what my soul would like to do. Lately my soul has been really into the work (because, you know, I want to get the heck outa here.)
After trying to come up with ways to expand beyond my regular work I settled on an idea that I’d never tried before: I was going to host a public concert in my OWN house. My violin/cello duo “the Wires” had been on performing hiatus for an entire year due to various outside situations. We had forgotten much of our new material and we needed to begin the laborious process of resurrecting our tunes from the vaults of our phone recordings. The house concert would help launch us back into regular rehearsing. Our plan was to host it in my loft, serve some wine and snacks, and deliver an evening of original music with stories told in between songs.
All we had to do to launch this was set a date and post it on Facebook…. because once its posted on Facebook there is no turning back…..
Next we had to decide the price of the tickets. If you’re having the public over to your house you need to set a high enough price to keep most of the public from NOT showing up. It seems silly, writing that out loud, but the maximum number of seats we could comfortably put in was 40 and we didn’t want the room to feel uncomfortable. At $20 in advance and $25 at the door tickets started selling at a steady pace. We knew we were on the right track.
Next, we had to promote. I actually enjoy gorilla promotions (is that what they call it? Or, is it grassroots?). I like knowing where all the best bulletin boards in the city are. I take pride in my superb flyer-hanging skills. I like adding to email lists, advertising with $10 Facebook ads and using word-of-mouth as part of a great self-marketing experiment. Its fun to put stuff out to the world and then watch to see where everything falls. So, I got busy.
As I was promoting I realized I only had 10 chairs and 3 almost-chairs (i.e. stools, floor cushions, etc). The 3 almost-chairs got disqualified, because if you are charging $25 to get in you want your audience to be comfortable. My duo partner really liked the idea of dragging out my giant king sized bed and covering pillows for people to sit/lay on. I was vehemently opposed to this idea. Rule number 1: do not let the public onto your bed.
I was determined to get folding chairs. The average basic folding chair is $10 from a box store such as Target. These chairs will not have cushioned seats, but they WILL all match, if you are into that sort of thing. I’m not matchy matchy so my next step was to venture to thrift stores. Score! Thrift stores have folding chairs with an average price of $2.99 and you may luck out and get cushioned ones! For the remaining chairs, I just put the word out and borrowed some cool-colored Ikea ones from a friend. Rule Number 2: Just ask. People will help you.
Speaking of “ask and you shall receive:” My very good friends from Forever Focused photography http://www.forever-focused.com/ (shout out!) agreed to take professional pre-show and live pictures for free. What kindness! The other plus is that Jeff, the head photographer, is a comedian. Laughter is a good medicine for pre-performance jitters and when you are questioning whether or not you should have just dyed your hair bright red an hour before the concert. (OOOPS!) I also had my friend help out with the snack and beverage table –she was able to go back and forth into the kitchen if, say, the grapes ran out. The grapes did NOT run out however. If there’s one thing I have learned from creating spreads for people at music events its that most people are really mice; they go for the cheese. Rule number 3: Buy more cheese than fruit.
The hardest part of this whole preparation experience was setting up the space the day of. My husband and I tend to move a lot and each time we move we enjoy getting rid of more and more furniture often by barbarically throwing it gorilla style into a large dumpster. We just don’t have a lot of stuff, but it still took time and muscle to clear everything out into the bedroom, sweep the floors and set up the chairs. For ambience I lit candles and strung up white and blue Christmas lights on the ceiling. Its amazing how a little lighting can change the ambience from “someone lives here and its slightly creepy” to “music venue.” Rule number 4: Keep Christmas lights easily accessible all year round. I did risk my life trying to get the box done from a high up shelf.
Right before we performed the two of us hid behind a curtain in the hall leading to the kitchen, occasionally peaking out rather obviously to see who was showing up. Truth be told, everyone who came was someone that at least one of us knew. Most of the people had seen us previously and were already fans. A few people were brought as guests by those fans and other people hadn’t ever heard us before but had always wanted to. After the concert I concluded that yes, I would definitely do this again, but I would have spared the expense of time it took to put up all the posters. It was an intimate concert for people who already enjoyed our music and a great way to get our songs back under our fingers.
The money that we made after buying a few chairs, meager advertising expenses and providing wine, grapes and cheese was much more than I’ve made from playing an already established music venue. Without revealing a number I would say it was 4 times more than what we’d expect a medium sized venue to pay us. Granted, it was at least 4 times the work. Then again, I am totally liking my work right now. Its what I love and, it just might get me the heck out of Kansas.