I’m currently in the middle of an on-going House Concert world tour – a tour that is shaped by invitations from all over the planet to play in homes like yours.
It’s partly the Irish/Celtic wanderlust thing and house concerts are a great way of fulfilling that.
So, if you’d like to share the experience by hosting or organizing a house concert then read on…
Here’s How To Host A Great House Concert In 3 Simple Steps.
Firstly What is a House Concert And How Does It Work?
A house concert is quite simply a live music performance in your home. You invite your friends and acquaintances over to watch a live show. Each of your friends donates a few bucks/pounds/euros (depends where you are) for the privilege. You then get live music in your home. Your friends get a unique, personalized, relaxed environment to experience great music. It’s a rapidly growing phenomenon.
In a New York Times front page article a number of years ago Dave Nachmanoff, a singer-songwriter from Southern California, said “Part of the reason for the boom of house concerts right now is people are so hungry for community but lacking in ways they can get together with other people in an intimate or friendly way that isn’t commercialized,”
OK, Here Is The Nitty-Gritty… A house concert is dirt simple to organize but there are some basics that you need to have in place to make it work.
- Find a place for the concert.
- Spread the word.
- Host the show.
1. Find a place for the concert. Well, it doesn’t get much simpler than this – we’ll do the show in your living room. Hence the name ‘house concerts’, right?
Attendance is usually between 25 and 50 at most house concerts, so if you have a good sized living room, say 12’x15′ or larger (about 650 sq. ft.), we’re in business. Move the furniture around and you can get a lot of bodies in a space that size.
It might be snug, but one of the charms of house concerts are their inherent intimacy. Often you can borrow stacking chairs from a local church or school, use patio chairs, or ask friends and neighbours to bring a chair or two. Your living room is too small?
Remember the organizer and the host need not be the same person. It is a long-standing and sensible tradition to guilt-trip a wealthier friend with a big living room into offering it for the occasion. Do not feel badly about this, but rather, think of it as a favour: I am told it is one of the things St. Peter looks for in rich people’s dossiers 😉
2. Spread the word. Start talking it up.
House concerts are still fairly rare in many places, so the idea of turning your home into a temporary concert hall will be a novel concept to a lot of people. Your audience (typically upwards of 90% of it) will be people you know or friends of theirs, so just start talking it up. Friends, relatives, people at church, people at work.
Invite your neighbours – anyone you come into contact with on a day-to-day basis whom you think might enjoy live music. Let them know someone’s going to come perform a concert right in your living room.Maybe you’ll want to have a potluck supper beforehand – you can even have some folks bring the food.
To help you spread the word my House Concert Promo Kit (below) contains a ready made invitation card template you can print out. Carry a few of these in your car and bag or purse and hand them out. You can also mail them out as invitations.
As far as time-lines go, here’s a general plan for moving things along:
A month before the event: Make up your postcards and start letting people know about the concert – the word of mouth thing and hand-outs. Do an initial email announcement.
Two weeks out: Do a postcard mailing if you like, put up flyers if that’s appropriate for the event. If you want to get really ambitious and you’re happy for the general public to come, especially if house concerts aren’t the norm in your community, maybe we can get in touch with the local newspaper or radio station and do an article timed to appear the week of the show.
Let me know if I can help you with anything you’ll need along those lines: postcard and flyer blanks, press releases, photos, etc. (most of these are included in the kit below). Post an updated email announcement and reminder.
The week of the show: Make a last round of phone calls to remind everyone to come out, one more email reminder, then give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Let’s Talk About The Money Thing. OK, let’s get the money out of the way straight off.
Even though I make my living partly through live performances like this I almost always play donation-based house concerts and encourage the host to tell guests “this is a donation based concert; please come prepared to make a donation to the artist after the show”.
- It means there’s is no financial cost for you, the host, to make the event happen
- It allows folks who may be experiencing lean times and who don’t have extra money for luxuries to come without the pressure of a set price.
- By not specifying a set donation amount allows those folks who are willing and able to be generous the freedom to decide what they want to contribute.
In most areas it’s important that you are not seen to be promoting a commercial enterprise from your home and for this reason house concerts are non-profit private events with the donations going to the artist. You can, if you wish, cover any personal costs for tea, coffee etc.
Every so often a host doesn’t want to ask their guests for donations and instead wants to pay a set fee for the event. That is, of course a perfectly fine arrangement too. If that’s the case we can talk and work something out.
3. Hosting The Show
House concerts typically consist of two sets of music of about 40-45 minutes each with a short break between – about 20 minutes – so that people can stretch their legs, chat, have refreshments, visit the facilities, purchase the artist’s CDs, etc. – more about this in a minute.
After people have assembled and settled in, you’ll welcome everyone and introduce the performer with something simple like: Good evening, everyone. Thanks for coming out. Tonight we’re fortunate to have with us a wonderful musician and performer, so let’s get started. Please welcome…
At the break you might want to have light refreshments on hand, things like coffee, tea, sodas, chips and dip, etc. You can also ask a few friends to bring home baked goodies as well. In fact, it’s a good idea to enlist a volunteer to oversee some or all this chore (remember – you don’t have to do it all yourself.)
What about CD Sales?
It’s very helpful if you can arrange in advance for someone to sell the CDs, during the break and after the concert. It’s next to impossible for musicians to sell their own CDs at the same time everyone wants to talk to them.
That’s pretty much it, but here are a few other considerations.
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS ACCOMMODATION – If I’m away from home I will need a place to stay while in town, whether with you or by arrangement with someone else. Think of me as a distant relative or old college acquaintance – a place in a spare room or on the couch in the den would be great.
SOUND AND LIGHTING – I normally bring sound equipment that I need (if any) and as for lighting, anything that creates a ‘soft’ relaxed ambience is great!
OTHER TECHNICAL ISSUES – What technical issues? Check that there is toilet paper 🙂 Seriously, I’d love to help you have a great gig in your home.
Download the House Concert Promo Kit here and let’s set a date!
I look forward to hearing from you.
Cheers – Andy
P.S. I’d like to give kudos to the following sources for this article: