Photo Credit: Farah Sosa @farahstopLos-Angeles based Superhost Burt Blackarach has always excelled at identifying great opportunities. Growing up in a family of musicians and singers, he started running his parents’ music-publishing company at the age of 14. Since then, Burt’s musical career has spanned volumes, from sound engineering a Grammy-winning album and scoring a hit HBO series to composing music for commercials that have aired during the Super Bowl—and more recently, hosting a musical Experience on Airbnb.
We sat down with Burt to find out how he got started hosting an Experience, how that’s influenced the way he welcomes guests to his backyard cottage, and what he’s learned along the way. Here’s what he had to say.
Tell us about your Experience. What makes it unique?
My Experience is Be a DJ for a Day. I host small groups of people in my studio and teach them the basics of recording and mixing, how to pick music, what makes a good beat, all of that stuff. This was the first Experience like this on Airbnb and it hit a lane that nobody else was thinking about.
What made you focus on DJing as an Experience?
A lot of people want to learn to DJ because they think it looks easy, but there’s equipment and selecting music and understanding how it all goes together. It can get involved if you want your stuff to sound good.
I started learning DJing with my friends when I was in 8th grade, which really was the start of my music career. Then the producing and composing and everything else came after — I’ve been doing this for a really long time. So people who sign up for my Experience are getting three hours of hands-on guidance from an expert, but it’s fun and they don’t have to feel threatened. They can really get a lot out of it.
So how did you get started with Experiences?
Doing your thing on Airbnb is really like running your own business. But normally when you start a business, you have to get a business license or a loan, have some capital, and that can be limiting for a lot of people. But on Airbnb you can go in with an idea and ten dollars.
I had heard that Airbnb was doing Experiences, and it sounded pretty cool. I’m a huge fan of Airbnb so anything they do, I’m in 1000%. I wanted to create something that would use my musical background, since that’s my expertise. I submitted the idea and was invited to a meet-and-greet with some of the folks at Airbnb, and they worked with me to help me create my Experience.
At first, we had two components to the Experience. We’d spend time in the studio learning how to mix, and then we’d go to a nearby record store to shop for sounds. But I’ve refined it down to just the studio part since that’s what people are really there for, and it takes out some of the logistics. Just like managing a listing, you want to play with different things to figure out what will work.
You’re also a Superhost. How has that influenced your Experience hosting?
I learned a lot from hosting guests in our listing. We live right in the center of L.A., with everything 15 minutes away with no traffic, so at first I thought we could just throw up the listing and it would book itself. But my wife always went the extra mile, making sure the cottage was clean and nicely designed, with nice amenities.
Overall, I think we’ve had success with our listing by taking an approach of not short-changing people and making sure we treat them well. Seeing how that operated in getting us to the Superhost level, I applied the same thing toward being an Experience host.
What’s the best part about being an Experience host?
It’s really put new life and energy into my music career. It gives me an outlet to get out a lot of my creative juices. As an artist, you get frustrated if you don’t have a creative outlet. And this let’s me play a little bit and also share my skills with people. But it’s also opened up a lot of avenues for my work and I’ve gotten a lot of new projects. I’m even starting to do corporate events incorporating the DJing.
Any advice for other hosts thinking about creating an Experience?
First of all, you have to be knowledgeable in your field. If you’re an ice-cream maker, you need to be able to answer any question about making ice cream. And just like with a listing, be willing to play around with different elements to figure out what really works. But unlike a listing, where you’re changing around the pricing and stuff, you should try to keep the pricing firm with an Experience. It needs to exude value so price it high enough that it’s worthwhile but still accessible to people. They need to feel like they’re getting something special. And make sure they leave with something in their hands. My guests get to pick a few records from my collection so they walk away with something from the Experience.