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Make money playing a house concert

Marketplace Staff Apr 11, 2008


Renita Jablonski: Musicians have to be creative when it comes to getting people to stop and listen. One way to get audience attention is to make the venue small. Many artists are staging shows in places like basements, living rooms, and backyards. That grassroots approach is paying off for some with corporate sponsorship. Lisa Chow has the story from New York.

Lisa Chow: You almost get the sense sometimes that musicians enjoy not making money. Violinist Joanna Frankel is a Juilliard graduate and has performed at Carnegie Hall.

Joanna Frankel: I mean, I guess to a fault, I’m not thinking about money, because this to me is something very pure, very honest.

Frankel and five other musicians recently performed in a grand apartment overlooking Central Park. They played for dozens of people, but they didn’t make a dime. Michael Reingold organized the event. He says he doesn’t charge guests because his main goal is getting people turned onto classical music. And that’s hard enough.

Frankel: When I package it with the social element, with the intimacy of it, the food, all these elements put together, it becomes more attractive.

At the other end of town, singer-songwriter Ruth Gerson has found a way to make house concerts pay. She used to play at clubs but switched to house concerts when she realized she could make more money that way.

Ruth Gerson: And the first person was like, OK, and got, whatever, 60 people in a living room and between CDs and people throwing something in, I did, you know, over a thousand dollars and I said, ”Oh, I can do this and make a living.”

Now, corporate interests are catching on. A marketing agency working with Pepsi approached Gerson last year about using her concerts to promote a new zero-calorie drink, Tava. Cassie Hughes is with Grow Marketing. She says house concerts are a perfect place to introduce Pepsi’s drink to consumers.


Cassie Gerson: The drink Tava is being targeted at someone who, you know, is in their mid-30s and older who loves to entertain at home.

Gerson says she doesn’t feel that she’s selling out.

Gerson: Making a living, making music involves thinking outside of the box — you know, being a creative business person.

Pepsi catered one of Gerson’s recent house concerts. The company laid on shrimp and sushi, and, a waist-high bin filled with Tava. Not everyone loved the drink. But it did get them talking about it.

In New York, I’m Lisa Chow for Marketplace.

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