Salon concerts: external validation

Independent third party reviewers or previewers act as external validation which is great for publicity for house concerts and salon concerts.

Advertisements

House concerts, salon concerts, private concerts …. these are all live music gatherings in someone’s home which can be one-off, ad hoc, or occur at a regularity that can be labeled a concert series.

Over the years I have attended, performed, and produced many such events in the UK, Netherlands, and the USA. One topic I neglected to mention in my paper “House Concerts for Art Music” is external validation. In some ways external validation doubles up as publicity.

External validation, loosely defined, is having someone else put a stamp of approval on what you do. When I worked as a magazine editor, I received a lot of enquiries from new product vendors and service providers who wanted to tell me about their business. If I wrote something about it, I would be giving them publicity and a seal of approval. For this reason, concert reviewers are very important for performers and concert producers.

In my years of producing house concerts, I have never succeeded in getting a local newspaper to come and review a concert. In hindsight, these concerts, although open to the public, might have been too private for the space was small and the occasion “one-off.”

Publicity and public endorsement would make it easier to market the next concert. I wondered if other concert producers felt the same about the need for external validation. Short of getting a reviewer or previewer, I asked my guests to sign guestbooks and send in their comments which I could use to market the next concert.

Recently I read an article about Margaret Sewell’s Salon Concerts in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Although I have never met Margaret or attended her concerts, her invitations were so compelling that I decided to write about concert invitations in a blog post. Reading the article about her concert series made me even more curious — a different experience from visiting her lovely website.

Solution? Get to know journalists and writers who love to attend salon concerts. I am one of those. Unfortunately I am not independent enough to write about my own concerts for external validation.

Speed to market: how fast to get a gig?

How long does it take to get a concert? If you find the right person, it could be immediate. If you persist and if you have the right contacts … you can also get a full house if you’re not careful!

Musicians who can sightread, improvise, or have memorised works they can readily perform don’t need a lead time to prepare for a concert performance.  Yet concert engagements don’t happen overnight. There is a certain lead time to book a concert and a lead time to get the audience.

I interviewed a classical music aficionado last Friday about his house concert series as material to add to my ongoing research on house concerts and salon concerts. Towards the end of our phone conversation, I mentioned that classical guitarist Robert Bekkers was going to be in town. Would he care to organise a concert in his home?

His first reaction was very positive. Yes! He would love to. When I told him the date, he withdrew and said he could not manage to organise his schedule and home to make it happen. He would prefer a month to 6 weeks notice.

Indeed, if you have to turn your home into a concert venue, you do need time to clear up and clean up. If you have a full-time job, you do need to make space to organise a concert event in your free time.

Undeterred, I googled to find other candidates.

That Friday 11th February 2011, I e-mailed a non-profit organisation that had put on such intimate classical music concerts for raising funds for the cause they’re championing.

Before I went to bed, I noticed I had received an e-mail reply.

The very next morning, I was woken up by a call from the lady in charge. We spoke for over 40 minutes about the possibilities of collaborating. I told her that I was the gateway to some of the best musicians on the planet.

On Sunday, I sent her links and material she could use to convince the new board members about doing a concert.

On Monday, she had her board meeting.

On Tuesday, she e-mailed me to ask if the Mr Bekkers was available the following Wednesday to give a concert. She would get her real estate advisory council to find a suitable location.

On Wednesday, I replied that indeed he was available and happy to give a concert.

In less than 12 hours, she and the chairman of her real estate advisory council had not only found a venue but also managed to get half the tickets sold.

How’s that for speed to market? If everything is in place, a gig can happen overnight.

Robert Bekkers gives a solo concert in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday 23rd February 2011 at 7 pm.

Salon concerts: another name for house concerts

What is in a name? Home concert, house concert, salon concert, huisconcert, … does it make any difference if it’s established or not? How much can you charge and still get people to attend a concert in your home?

First I used “home concerts” for live foreground music that gets performed and heard in one’s home. In Dutch, home is “huis” — pronounced like house in English. When I moved to the Netherlands, I used “huisconcerten” or “house concerts” instead of “home concerts” to promote concerts in the home.

In the USA, I noticed people using “salon concerts” — and decided to investigate this further.

When I google “salon concerts” I get what looks like an established concert series called Salon Concerts. There is a link to a nice article called “Chamber music finds its modern home.” Scrolling down, I see that the ticket price begins at $40.

How much to charge for house concerts? This is the question many hosts and performers have asked. If Salon Concerts can charge $40 and get a full house, why can’t anyone charge $40? Instead, I’ve heard reactions such as

I can’t charge my friends.

I can’t expect people to pay more than $10.

The economy is bad. People won’t come if we charge more than $10.

Let’s make it free and ask people to donate.

How much do we charge to make sure we get a full house? If we charge too much, we get empty seats.

If we change the name of house concerts to salon concerts, create a professional website, get media attention, can we then charge more than $10 per person? Maybe then, it becomes affordable to run a concert series from the home.

Download the 14-page paper presented at the International Cultural Economic conference in Copenhagen, 2011: “House concerts for art music: multiple stakeholders, audience development, and sustainability