8QS with a Silicon Prairie Founder: Katie Byers of HomeDitty

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Katie Byers is passionate about getting artists paid. Just because a songwriter like Soccer Mommy doesn’t have a billion downloads doesn’t mean she isn’t twice as talented and hardworking as Ariana Grande or three Mobys. Musicians should be compensated fairly for their work and have a chance to make a living.

That’s why Byers started HomeDitty, a house-concert platform that connects independent musicians with private hosts in cities and towns around the country. Artists play acoustic shows in the homes of willing hosts for an up-close audience of invited guests. The artists often tell stories and converse with audience members between songs. This provides for a richer, more intimate experience than a typical public performance can offer.

HomeDitty helps musicians cultivate new audiences without losing a ton of money to booking managers, show promoters, security staff, and all the other overhead costs of a traditional tour. Moreover, concerts organized through HomeDitty result in memorable, one-of-a-kind, private performances that hosts and their guests will remember for the rest of their lives.

How did you get started?

About five years ago, a friend asked us to host a house concert for some musicians who were coming to Des Moines and were looking for an additional gig while they were in town. At the time, I had never heard of a house concert. I literally had to Google ‘how to host a house concert’ before I responded to her that we would be willing to host a show.

My husband and I hosted our first show, and we were absolutely hooked! It was such an incredible experience for us and our guests that we committed to hosting a show every month to benefit local and touring musicians. Through hosting, I quickly learned how hard it was to earn a living as a musician and that there was a huge demand from musicians for more hosts, which is why I created my business, HomeDitty.

Is your job what you thought you would be doing when you were a child?

When I was a child, I wanted to be an artist, a dancer or a teacher. However, I became a lawyer in 1996 and practiced law for about 6 years prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom. My daughters are now teenagers, and I am no longer a practicing attorney. I run HomeDitty full-time.

I’ve found that the rewards for running a startup and helping musicians are far greater than practicing law, but the paycheck is currently much smaller! I ultimately decided that the world didn’t really need another lawyer, but I really wanted to solve a problem by helping independent musicians earn a living and bringing the joy of live music into people’s homes. My hope is that HomeDitty will create a lasting legacy.

What are you building right now? Why is it important to you?

As a Minimum Viable Product, the HomeDitty platform is a constant work in process. I am continually adding new software upgrades and features to improve the user experience and reduce any friction on the website. HomeDitty connects musicians with house concert hosts and automates the entire hosting process including booking musicians, inviting guests, and even collecting reservations and payments via credit card for the musicians. Hosts can even create a private crowdfund through the site to pay for the performance through guest contributions. It really simplifies hosting and makes it easy for anyone, anywhere to host a show!

HomeDitty is important to me because there is a huge need for this type of service to help musicians, and I’ve seen the joy that house concerts bring to hosts and guests. It is also important to me because house concerts provide a counter balance to the increasing disconnectedness that is happening in our society and provides an opportunity for people to connect in a very personal, intimate way through live music.

What is your favorite thing that you have ever built? Why was it your favorite?

The HomeDitty platform at www.homeditty.com wins hands down. It’s my favorite due to its unique and innovative solution that it provides for independent musicians as well as values the important work that musicians do.

If you could improve one thing about your job or the place that you live, what would the change be?

The one thing that I would change about my job would be having a small team to help me build the business and run the day to day operations. It is incredibly difficult running a business by yourself and wearing so many hats at one time. Having a bigger team would help HomeDitty grow even faster. I fortunately, however, have great software developers, other venders, and trusted mentors here in Des Moines.

Was there anything looking back that you would do differently?

I wish I had gone to school for computer programming. I’ve taught myself a little bit of coding, and I absolutely love it. I think I could have been a great coder, and I have so many ideas for other apps that I would love to build.

What could the SPN community do to help you succeed?

Please help spread the word about HomeDitty, the importance of house concerts to musicians, and encourage individuals to go to www.homeditty.com to sign up as a host and host a show! I guarantee that your friends will thank you for hosting, and it will be an unforgettable experience.

HomeDitty is committed to growing our house concert network. We currently have hosts in over 40 states but our biggest concentration of hosts is in the state of Iowa. This year, we are focusing on Omaha and Kansas City as key growth markets for us. You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you could ask these questions to anyone, who would it be?

If he were alive, it would be Prince Rogers Nelson. In my humble opinion, he is the greatest artist of all time and a true inspiration.

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If you’re an artist looking to tour, or someone with a house who can host a show, check out HomeDitty today!

 

Tom McCauley is digital content producer at AIM Institute, a good musician, and a terrible standup comedian. He has played or attended hundreds of house shows over the years.

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