Read books you don’t need, and listen to music you don’t love. Stretch.
Fran Snyder is a singer-songwriter who is passionate about changing the touring landscape for professional touring artists. The first step, in 2006, was creating ConcertsInYourHome.com, which now enables and inspires thousands of house concerts around the world. The next was DinnerAndSong.com, to inspire house concert hosts to do smaller events during the week, and to create meaningful opportunities (and free lodging) for artists in between the big gigs. The next step was ListeningRoomNetwork.com to provide similar support and inspiration for venues that are true “listening rooms” – where there are no distractions while performers play. This new site also enables fans of listening rooms and house concerts to share their experiences and connect with each other. In 2012 he’ll release his first CD in 7 years and tour Australia for the first time.
What are you working on right now?
A revolutionary festival/conference, where artists actually make money by participating, and save money by staying with hosts. ListeningRoomFestival.com will inspire and coordinate new fans to host small, private concerts in their homes. The first one takes place in Tampa Bay, FL, March 15-18. One hundred private concerts in one weekend!
Where did the idea for House Concerts and ListeningRoomFestival.com come from?
All our sites ConcertsInYourHome.com, DinnerAndSong.com, ListeningRoomNetwork.com, and now the festivals all serve the need to create small successes for artists, so they can stay on the road and grow their audience in a more enjoyable and profitable way. Most of the touring infrastructure was built during the peak of the music business, and is designed to serve the needs of artists who get substantial radio airplay and backing from record companies. Now without that support, artists have to find ways to make deeper connections with fewer fans, and create experiences where an audience of 20-50 people provides a memorable and profitable night. House concerts eliminate a substantial part of the overhead (hosts provide room and board for the night, and there’s no staff or soundman to pay.) Plus, they provide a unique, intimate atmosphere that is nearly impossible to create in a public venue.
What does your typical day look like?
- 8am – Read Seth Godin’s blog.
- 8:10 – linger and wonder how long I can put off getting out of bed
- 9:00 – Breakfast, email, FB, Google Reader, and start on the most pressing project by 10am.
- Afternoon – Errands – Appointments – Calls – Rehearsing
- Evening – usually on Skype to work on our latest website/project with my principle coder who lives in Germany
- Occasional running, yoga, and concerts.
- Usually up until midnight or 1am.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I get my best ideas on the road, usually while driving to a music conference or on tour. I dictate into my iPhone, then call someone to bounce the idea. Usually, I don’t really care if they validate the idea or not. I just like sharing the idea while I’m excited about it, and explaining it often brings up interesting questions and helps me hone in on the idea. Then I outline what I want it (usually a website, or new part of existing site) to do. I’ll sketch pages for possible layouts, and eventually create mockups (in Pages) to guide the coder. It can take weeks or months to launch. Then I pitch it to our network of hosts, artists, venues, and fans. Get feedback, adjust, repeat.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love that artists are embracing the idea of having a meaningful career that they control, without trading that opportunity for a slim shot a fame and riches.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Being a maudlin artist. I try not to be jealous of artists who figure out how to be great when they are young. I was good, and was able to stay on the road and work, but really felt like I was spinning my wheels without any real breakthroughs – for more than 10 years. I think I’m a lot better now. There is so much great art being made, so many fantastic performers. While it’s important to reference your own growth, if you are trying to make a living at it, you get the occasional reckoning. “These guys are kicking my ass. I have to do better.”
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I think all my “failures” have been useful. Without reaching too much in terms of spirituality and destiny, my experiences have put me in a position to really understand the challenges that artists face, and I’ve developed a conceptual gift to see meaningful and promising solutions. It’s a creative channel that many artists don’t have, and I’m grateful for it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read books you don’t need, and listen to music you don’t love. Stretch.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
VoyeurMusic.com – professional artists providing a live soundtrack in your bedroom. A married couple asked a friend of mine to do this (and he did) and I thought it was a brilliant idea. Spice up your love life, and create a fun, interesting gig for a musician. Light show available for additional fee. 8^)
Tell us a secret.
I’ve been afraid of success all my life. Nothing else could explain all my ill-timed laziness.
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
Facebook – it’s a great outlet for my personality, and a great way for me to connect with the growing circle of people who care about what I do. Plus, it was instrumental in my search for free and cheap places to stay (friends and friends of friends) during my full month in France last September.
Paypal – despite some early hiccups, it has been a reliable business solution. You have to value the site that provides 80% of your income. Square has been terrific for onsite sales.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Tribes by Seth Godin. Because marketing is dead. Mass market it a pipe dream for most businesses and ideas. Find a community/group that you can serve, then bring them together with a shared sense of purpose, then offer them solutions they didn’t even know they needed.
What’s on your playlist?
Listening to Sunny Day Real Estate “Rising Tide” at the moment. I hear so much great music through the artists at ConcertsInYourHome, it’s like I take all my friends (in CD form) with me when I go on road trips. Sarah McLachlan’s “Solace” has been a perennial favorite.
If you weren’t working on House Concerts and ListeningRoomFestival.com, what would you be doing?
It’s hard to say. As much as I love playing/touring/writing, I have diverse skills and interests. I think I could be more dedicated to my artistic side if I had a writing/touring partner… I really prefer working with people, but I do most of my work alone. That’s a challenge I’ve yet to solve.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Andy Borrowitz is the only person I pay attention to consistently on Twitter.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Today. One of my favorite things in this world is when a comedian makes another comedian laugh uncontrollably, like Tim Conway used to do to Harvey Corman on the Carol Burnett Show. So I was laughing and in tears watching old “Whose Line is it Anyway” clips on YouTube, especially during the reel that featured various clips of Ryan Styles losing it to Colin’s insanity. Probably spent 90 minutes on that stuff today. Couldn’t stop.
Who is your hero?
At the risk of sounding obsessive, Seth Godin. If you aren’t inspired and challenged by most of what he writes, there is no hope for you. Those jobs aren’t coming back. You need to create your next job if you want any peace and security in your life.
Is your job fun?
Usually no. But it’s fascinating and inspiring.