Tour on your Own Terms – House Concerts with Brian Vander Ark

Comments: 18

Microphone in front of house concert

In episode #43 of the Music Marketing Manifesto Podcast we chat with Brian Vander Ark – lead singer of the band The Verve Pipe – about how he has consistently made six figures per year from house concerts, and how you can too!

House concerts have long been one of the best ways for independent artists to generate a significant amount of revenue each year. That said, with all that is going on in the world, this is probably not the best time for any kind of touring, house concert or otherwise… However, with so many live venues closing down, and no real end of the pandemic in sight, musicians may need to start thinking ahead to a time when we can start touring again. Because for many, house concerts may be the best, if not only, option.

I could think of no one better to tackle this topic than Brian Vander Ark. Brian is the lead singer of the platinum selling rock band, The Verve Pipe. Years ago he embraced the 1000 true fan model and began doing house concerts across America for his existing fan base. The result was as much as six figures a year in revenue by performing backyards and living rooms for just a few months each year. In this interview he will explain exactly how he did it and how YOU can too!

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Do you have any experiences with house concerts? How did they work out for you? Post your story below in the comments. I’d love to hear from ya!

18 Comments

  • Tim Brandt says:

    I just wanted to circle back on this topic. I thought Brian’s idea of doing PWYW on CD sales was risky but interesting, so I decided to test it on a local coffee shop gig I did last weekend. My girlfriend (who attended) was skeptical, but I reasoned with her by saying a CD only costs me about a $1. Worst case scenario I might lose $5 if some people take a CD without paying anything but on the flip side, if just 1 person puts in a $20 it will make up for it, so the risk/reward was worth it. At any rate it was worth testing out. We put up a sign that said: “Music Available. Pay What You Will. Support The Arts!” We sold 3 CDs for $70 ($23.33 a piece), which is way more then we would have made by selling them for the “normal” price of $10. I just wanted to thank Brian for the awesome tip. We’re planning on doing much more PWYW on merch sales going forward!

    • John Oszajca says:

      That’s awesome Tim, pay what you want is something I’ve been doing for years with online promotions, but I haven’t personally tried it with live performances. It makes sense that it would work well because of the high level of reciprocity, and the social pressures that people feel one on one. Glad to hear it worked for you and the interview has lead to an increase in your bottom line. Good stuff!

  • daveman says:

    hi guys – i have been doing house concerts since 2005, and while i derived huge inspiration from brian’s first MMM interview about 8 years ago, there were quite a few snags that i encountered that weren’t said:

    (1) in my country (south africa), indie artists have to take ALL the risk. you don’t charge the host, you charge the guests (1 by 1) and you’re never going to know how many guests there are going to be until the afternoon before you play (or cancel?).

    (2) kevin kelly was right (to those that have, shall more be given)… brian’s fame through the verve pipe was his ticket – what’s yours ? if you can’t show some kind of mainstream acceptance (radio & tv etc) as proof, then getting audience is probably going to be hard.

    (3) unless you’re a singer-songwriter (solo artist with a guitar & a voice), expectations are often unrealistic … and relationships delicate & fragile… a trio requires space (can take up the whole lounge), noise from neighbours, standard setup&soundcheck stuff compounded by lack of infrastructure (no sound & lighting)…

    all this said, there’s no better way to connect in a deep & lasting way with fans, provided that you are seriously committed to working your ass off & troubleshooting in unchartered waters! good luck…

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Daveman,

      Glad to hear that you got inspiration from Brian’s interview. That’s interesting that house concerts are run differently in South Africa. The only point you make that I would argue is the fact that Brian’s fame was a necessary component to his success. While it certainly made it easier for him, it is not essential. I have had many MMM students with no fame whatsoever who have run successful house concert tours by selling to their list exactly as Brian subscribes. All that is really essential is that or fans value what we do enough to want to pay us to perform a private function. There are many different ways to generate that affinity with your base. This is discussed in the interview above.

  • Jeff Bihlman says:

    Hey John
    Great episode! I’ve recently been having a lot of interest in my weekly Quarantini Jam on FB live. 1.5 to 3k views. Having a hard time motivating people to buy anything though. I’ve garnered some weekly sponsors that pay well, but not much in the virtual tip jar. Without being able to take it on The road right now, not sure where to go from here. Thanks for MMM!

  • What is the 1000 fan base solution?

    Thank you Frank Coppola

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Frank,

      It’s an idea that has been floating around for the last decade or so that asserts that a musician doesn’t need millions of fans in order to make a living, but rather a musician can thrive by just cultivating a tribe of 1000 true fans who are willing to spend $50 or more with you per year on music, merch, tickets, etc. It’s what MMM was built upon.

      Thanks for listening.

  • Tim says:

    Great podcast. I love the tip about doing PWYW on CD/merch sales! I’m curious did he do all these shows solo or with the rest of his band? If they were solo, I wonder what that was like compared with doing a traditional gig with an entire band. Also, if he did them solo did he use backing tracks or looping or was it just him & his guitar?

  • Terrence C says:

    Thanks John, this was very informative and gave me a lot to think about. Very cool to hear that even artists like Brian are embracing the Direct to fan model. Makes me feel like I’m on the right path.

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