Callaghan’s Guide To House Tours

27 Jul 2015

Hot on the heels of her US tour, British singer songwriter Callaghan shares her insight and tips of her ‘house tour’ – now in its third year – and which Billboard has credited as helping reshape the business of touring, if not music consumption entirely

A truly independent, self-funding artist, the format for the tour was born out of the need to balance the excitement of getting out there to play to as many people as possible with the financial reality that touring had to make sense.  In the process it’s enabled her to retain financial and artistic control of her career, evidenced by her achieving over 10,000 albums in the US, and building a solid and loyal fan base.

The idea is simple if not unique: A fan or music enthusiast hosts a show at their home, they invite friends and fellow music lovers to come and hear the artist play, all the guests make a donation to keep the artist touring, at the end they sell merchandise and hang out with the audience.

Here are her thoughts about why house tours could be the way forward for emerging artists and some tips to make them as successful as possible:

 House shows can build your audience in new markets House shows beat the pants off social marketing platforms as a way to meaningfully reach new people.  At a house show one of your fans is telling their friends ‘please come and hear this artist I love’…it’s a wonderful recommendation, which people really notice.

 Your only overhead is petrol. I usually stay with the hosts of my house shows, so I don’t have any expenses for food or lodging – just the fuel to get there.  All the money people donate or spend on merch keeps me touring and making music.

 House shows are among the most intimate shows youll play.  You’ll find yourself playing all kinds of spaces, often with audience members literally an arm’s length away.  House shows have a relaxed pace, people ask questions and there’s plenty of time to chat with audience members once the show is done.

 House shows build your network of super fans.  People who enjoy your performance at a house show really feel that they have shared a special experience and connect with you.  These are the folks who become super fans and advocates for your music. If you’ve delivered a good show, the chances are some of your audience will ask how they can host one next time you come through.

 All your touring will benefit.  The fans you connect with at house shows will come out to your public shows.  From among hosts and guests at house shows I have formed many lasting friendships. As my touring continues I often stay with previous hosts – so I’ve got fewer and fewer hotel bills to worry about.

So if you’ve never done a house show how do you get started? The easiest thing to do is talk to your fans and find out who is interested then plan a show together.  You can find great resources on how to organise a house show at the US site

Here are some things Callaghan suggests to help make your house shows a great experience:

  • Start with your fans.  Put together a basic outline of how a house show works to share with your fans, pick some dates when you’ll be in a certain area, then ask your fans who wants to host.
  • Make things as easy as possible for your hosts.  Talk through the timetable and the lay out with your host so you have a shared vision of what the event will be like before you get there.  A typical event for me would be: 5pm arrive and set up, 7pm guests start arriving for a bite to eat and drink, 8pm first music set for 40 minutes, 9pm second music set. After that hanging out, chatting and signing CDs.
  • Provide a simple invitation and some copy with your picture on and links to your music which your hosts can share with their guests so people can check out your music before the event.
  • Get a simple PA system and know how to use it. Your fans are opening their homes and recommending you – you need to take charge of delivering a great sounding show.  You can pick up a great little PA for a few hundred pounds.  Many of your audience will not have seen you before, often most of them will never have been to a house show before – so make sure your production values are as high as you can deliver.
  • Travel with a buddy. I’m lucky because my husband is also my manager so he sets up the sound while I get ready for the show.  You need a friend, fellow musician or family member out there with you.  Otherwise loading in, setting up, chatting with guests before and after the show, setting up the merchandise AND delivering a great performance is a lot of work.
  • Agree a suggested donation and minimum guarantee.  On the invitation suggest a donation to artist so that folks have a guideline before they come.  Agree a minimum guarantee with your host so you can plan your tour with a base line of income.  On the evening be relaxed about the money.  More often than not audiences are really generous.  Not everyone will donate, maybe they are unable to at that particular moment, but everyone can enjoy the music and you’ll already know the minimum you’re going to earn.
  • Have a great time. If you like sharing your music and the stories behind the songs you perform, house shows are a wonderful way to tour.

Callaghan, July 2015

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