The life of a touring musician can be rough, especially in Canada.
Long treks across featureless prairie, through narrow mountain passes or the notorious cold and desolation of the Canadian Shield. There are cheap motels and even cheaper meals, sometimes out of vending machines. And then there’s the cost of travel itself and the sometimes low payouts from venues.
In the past decade, Canadian independent musicians and fans began laying the groundwork for a sort of sharing economy for musicians. Fans would put up the band at their homes while the bands would play at the houses for house concerts, then share a home-cooked meal with their sponsors.
One of Canada’s biggest house show circuit coordinators has been Home Routes/Chemins Chez Nous, set up in 2007 in Winnipeg by the founders of the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
People willing to host musicians and the musicians themselves sign up on their website, and they do their best to match hosts with musicians.
The organization strives to get musicians on a tour that links up concerts on regular circuits through small and large towns alike. Each “season” involved 12 sets of shows, with a focus on roots, folk and worldbeat musicians.
The hosts gain the company of musicians and a chance to bring other lovers of music around a home setting for an intimate concert. The musician cuts down on costs by having a cheap place to stay, a cooked meal often provided with the accommodations, and an audience of enthusiastic listeners who truly want to be at the concert.
Home Routes is currently booking 10 regular circuits, ranging from northern Canada through the Territories, prairies, northern Ontario and Maritimes. The southern B.C. route includes a stop in Kamloops.
They are only one of the dozens of websites now working to link musicians with hosts. Most provide a listing of musicians and hosts and use a search engine to help musicians and hosts hook up with each other.
The punk scene has been doing this since before the internet, with bands often sleeping on couches and floors in fans houses and then playing in the same house or local venue to cut down on costs.
In Kamloops, we have our own small house concert circuit. Several backyard and house concerts can be found in the downtown core, in Westsyde and in Aberdeen.
Some churches have even taken to hosting a concert or two. The acts range from local musicians to touring artists.
Where there are fans, there will always be music. When the cost of a full venue tour is out of the spending range of an independent musician, there will be kind souls willing to open their doors to them to allow them to spread the joy of live music.
Steve Marlow is the program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to thex.ca.