More and more movie fans are opting to wait a few months to stream a film at home, rather than making the trek to a theater. Live music enthusiasts don’t have quite the same options, but some do opt to host concerts in the comfort of their homes, rather than spending a late night out in a club. The creator of the new service HomeDitty hopes to open up home concert options for musicians and fans.
HomeDitty creator Katherine Byers and her husband, Jay, have hosted monthly concerts in their Des Moines home for the last two years. Des Moines acts like The Nadas, Christopher The Conquered and The Maytags have performed in their living room, along with touring acts Megan Jean & The KFB, The Suitcase Junket and Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts.
Byers first got the idea while attending the Folk Alliance International conference two years. At the Kansas City event, musicians perform intimate shows in hotel rooms, with attendees wandering from room to room to catch shows.
“I really fell in love with hearing music in that kind of setting,” Byers said. “The first concert we ever hosted were some musicians I met there. I had to Google ‘How to host a house concert.’ I loved it, and said I wanted to do it every month.”
Soon, Byers was getting more requests from musicians than she could host. She started helping friends set up concerts in their homes, passing on the knowledge she was accumulating to other music fans. She started to wish there was a centralized way to book shows, take reservations and accept donations and quickly realized it was something she could help make happen.
How HomeDitty works
Byers worked with Des Moines-based app developer Entrepreneurial Technologies to create the software behind HomeDitty. In February, the first concerts booked using HomeDitty were held in Des Moines homes.
Potential concert hosts create a profile using HomeDitty that allow musicians to contact them to set up a house concert. The hosts list how many guests their home can accommodate and average attendance at past concerts. If a band has a gap in their schedule, they can look to fill the date with a home concert.
So far, 47 hosts have signed up on HomeDitty in seven states. The Nashville group The Cerny Brothers are using HomeDitty to book a tour from Minnesota to New York.
Using HomeDitty to educate music fans
Byers said the biggest challenge is getting music fans to realize that having a band play in their living room won’t trash their house or break the bank.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about what it entails, or people think you are opening your house to the public, but that’s not true at all,” Byers said. “These are private events, not different than having a Christmas party and hiring musicians for that. These are sit-down listening concerts, not house parties.”
Bars and theaters have overhead that is factored into ticket prices. For shows Byers books, all the money goes to the musicians. Twenty dollar donations mean a house show for 20 to 40 people can be more lucrative than playing to a larger crowd at a public show. Donations go directly into a Stripe account, minus HomeDitty’s 10 percent fee.
“Hosting isn’t meant to be a commercial venture, it’s simply done for the love of music,” Byers said.
Booking down the road
Byers’ goal is to have 100 hosts signed up in the first year and to continue to grow that network. Looking ahead, she sees the potential for HomeDitty to be used for in-home performances by comedians, or artists looking to display their work and give gallery talks.
But Byers has something even bigger in mind for HomeDitty.
“I want this to be a new revenue stream, and hopefully help to create a middle class for musicians,” Byers said. “It all starts with planting that seed by hopefully getting at least one house concert in each state in the next year. For each house concert that occurs, I want at least one guest to say ‘That was awesome, I want to host a house concert,’ and have it grow organically from there.”
Joe Lawler is a freelance reporter based in Des Moines.