Billsville House Concerts just finished our 68th show. We’ve produced an average of one show every three weeks since April of 2011. It’s been awesome, we’ve hosted artists we love and shared music with our entire community while making lots of new friends. We’ve had so many nights that we’ll never forget that we’ve started to lose count.
One question we never get asked is “what does it feel like to have ‘made it’ as a venue?” Though it’s a fair question to ask a series that has hosted bands like Lake Street Dive, Lucius, PHOX, Hurray for the Riff Raff and Brown Bird the thought of Billsville House Concerts having “made it” is, to me, ridiculous.
Before I write another sentence, it’s important to note that our entire family feels fortunate to not be making a living on music – because that would be hard and we’ll leave that to the musicians. Having the opportunity to host these amazing bands is a dream come true but the idea of having “made it” doesn’t describe Billsville at all. We’re always “making it” and we occasionally bust our asses while still managing to lose an impressive amount of money. You’re welcome.
Being a house concert venue is a never-ending, rewarding, scary, high-loss small business. In order to get where we are today we had to make a multitude of investments. A sound system, lights, microphones, stands, white towels, lasagna recipes . . . the list goes on.
All of this equipment required an upfront investment from our family. We don’t have a bar lending us “alcohol sales support”. We put those purchases right on our credit cards – sometimes debit cards but hey, cash flow! We planned to make that all back in, well, we have no plan. What we do need to say is that we like to host both full bands and solo performers so we have to be ready (gear wise) to support everyone.
Here’s how our expenses broke down:
Sound and Production Gear (rough guesses) :
2 JBL PRX715 powered mains and 1 JBL PRX718 powered sub – $3000
7 Shure SM58 Vocal Mics – $700
4 Shure SM57 Instrument Mics – $400
2 Behringer some kind or other monitors that used to be mains – $300
2 Kustom monitors – $300
Allen & Heath 16 channel mixer – $600
15 Microphone Stands – $150
4 Instrument Mic Stands – $200
25-30 XLR Cables – $500 (probably more)
15-20 Instrument Cables – $200 (probably more)
DI’s – $200
Drive Rack EQ – $200
Chauvet Lights and Stands – $500
A bunch of stuff I didn’t list like a stage snake, extension cords, other mics and stuff we broke and replaced.
Total : $7250.00 – I’m sure I left some things out
Day of show expenses:
Arrival food “I just rolled out of the van and I’m hungry” – $25
Dinner “Often Lasagna, always vegetarian” – $65 (with salad!) – we use good organic ingredients, don’t get all “Prince Pasta” on us.
Drinks – $30 (average, sometimes more)
Total : $120 / show
Other expenses floating around:
Audio Engineer – $75 this number comes out of the bands end. Sometimes we need help and bring in two others at the same price for a total of $225.
Promotion – $20/show? We run Facebook ads to promote shows because we like it when they fill up. We print posters, we do the things promoters are supposed to do. Some shows sell out and we don’t spend much, other shows don’t.
Venue rental – $150 – $200 when we need to rent a place, if the show is at our house this is $0.
Fire Marshall – $160 when we need to rent a venue. There are laws!
Transportation – $50 you think hauling all that gear around to a non-permanent venue is free?
Billsville Gear Fund – People do contribute some money here are there. Over the years I’d say we’ve been given about $1000 to offset expenses by friends who love music and love what we do. The truth of this statement is that most of that money came from two people.
Sponsorship from Grain Audio. Thank goodness for Grain Audio! They gave us some great speakers to give away, one to keep for ourselves and an affiliate program that would pay us back 20% of all sales made through our marketing efforts. Our take to date? $0.00. Well, you could argue that we made the retail value of their excellent PWS system which would be $249.00.
The Bottom Line
Add it up and you get a $7,250 initial investment with a loss of ($120 × 68 shows) $8,160.00 so far. We’ve been given $1000 so . . .
Total losses $14,410. We lost more money than Pompmaloose!
But this isn’t a sob story. We knew it would be an expensive endeavor, and we still chose to make the investment. We could have just driven to a local venue and passively watched shows like everyone else but we had a drive, a determination, to bring in the kind of music we wanted to see and above all SUPPORT artists who struggle enough on their own.
We have not “made it.” Nor do we ever see a future of having it made. Maybe it’s a foolish expensive hobby but those nights when we’re in our house, watching music played by incredibly talented, giving musicians . . . . Well, I take it back. We’ve made it.
NOTE 1 : What about ticket sales? We give 100% of our money back to the bands for a true house show. Full disclosure, the bands pay our genius sound engineer out of their end. He’s fifteen years old so we think he deserves it. If we have to rent a venue with expenses we take those off the top and try to give as much back to the bands as possible. We have never made a profit from ticket sales. Have the bands been happy? We’re pretty sure they have, they talk to each other and they keep coming back. In general our payouts are better than most equivalent small clubs and the atmosphere, merchandise sales and hospitality are at another level all together.
NOTE 2 : This article is a well-disguised ad to help us fund our ultimate dream business, a permanent venue. That said we haven’t figured out how to monetize this thing yet. We’ll let you know when we do.
NOTE 3 :We’re glad that Pomplamoose wrote the original article. While we’re not interested in critiquing expenses or choices – it’s their career after all – it’s nice to get broad exposure for the “creative class” that shows that even relatively successful bands aren’t on easy street out there. Also, we totally copied Jack’s format when writing this #parody #fairuse #lazywriter.