Host a house concert
The beautiful thing about house concerts is that no two shows are alike.
I’ve played to audiences of anywhere from 10 to 50+ people; Southern bed-and-breakfasts with a full PA set-up and cabaret seating to a cozy 28th-floor apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side; Basements, rooftops, backyards, living rooms with a fireplace backdrop; rowdy crowds and well-mannered dinner parties… the commonality is this: the experience of music in the warm, inviting setting of someone's home allows for an audience-artist connection that cannot be found anywhere else. Certainly not traditional venues. There's truly nothing like it.
Wanna give it a go? Scroll down for more details!
LIVING ROOMS MAY BE OUT, BUT BACKYARDS ARE IN!!!
What's a house concert?
Think about a house concert as a potluck with entertainment. Are you the type of person who likes to gather friends together for a good time? Is your house big enough to host a potluck or gathering for 20 or 30 friends? You may be surprised how many people fit in a small living room, artist’s loft, or backyard. Chances are, you've got the space to host.
House concerts are great for both hosts and guests because they not only offer a unique concert experience, but they also give hosts/guests a direct opportunity to engage with and support independent artists. House concerts are great for artists for those same reasons and are usually a far more viable financial model than playing in clubs.
How it works
In a nutshell, the host selects the artist, picks a date and time, chooses a suggested donation amount (to go directly to artist), invites and confirms guests, guests pay donation amount, artists perform and everybody's happy. There's also usually food/drink involved, and lodging for the artist.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE WE TALKING HERE?
I've played for audiences as few as 12 people up to 75+, so there's quite a range! But in general, to create the best possible scenario for the show it is ideal to have a minimum of 20-30 guests in attendance. There are two reasons for the minimum:
1) fewer than 20 guests and the show won't feel like the exciting event that it should be.
2) we'll be using a donation-based concert model, so 20 or more adults contributing to donations and purchasing merchandise is what makes these types of shows financially viable.
WHAT KIND OF SPACE DO YOU NEED?
The ideal space is where friends can all gather and enjoy the concert. Pre and post-concert mingling can of course spill into other rooms, but for concert time it will work best if everyone is gathered close and seated directly in front of where we'll be performing. You’d be surprised what you can pull off by moving some furniture around and bringing in kitchen chairs, etc! Additionally, backyard shows are great as well as long as there's a rain plan.
HOW DOES THE SCHEDULE WORK?
Each show varies, but It usually looks something like this:
5:00pm ish - Artist arrives and sets up
6:00pm - Guests arrive, shmooze and eat
7:00pm - Artist performs
8:00pm - Concert ends and people party for as long or as little as you like
The timing is flexible, but it works best to have guests arrive an hour before showtime so people can shmooze and settle in. Also, this can be as involved or un-involved as you like. You can choose to have a potluck, a dinner spread, or just snacks and drinks... Food and refreshments are not a requirement for hosting so this is your call. It would be best, however, if you ask your friends to RSVP. There will be a better turnout rate if they're asked to give you a definitive response as opposed to the “come by if you can” approach. Facebook invites and evites are always great!
HOW DOES THE MONEY WORK?
It depends on the show, but I typically use a donation-based model with a suggested donation amount (agreed upon and “advertised” up front) that goes directly to the artist. I usually do a suggested donation amount of $15 - $20. Full disclosure: my “eyes on the prize” goal is to gross $800, but the minimum goal I’m aiming for is $300 - especially on a weekend night. There's a science to the monetary success of these shows (which we can talk about more) and they vary based on the type of events, but here are three $ approaches to consider:
1 - Donation-based model - suggested donation is collected from attending guests with all profits going directly to artist at the end of the night (only ideal if there is a large audience.)
2 - Donation + - same as above but with a minimum guarantee from the host (If we set a goal of $300 but only make $220, the host pays the additional cost)
3 - Private party style - host pays artist a flat performance fee and guests attend, no charge
My first choice is scenario #2 for several reasons. It's obviously best for me to know I'll walk out with a certain amount of $ at the end of the night, especially when I'm traveling and it's a weekend night, or when I have other musicians to pay. A guarantee also sometimes helps motivate hosts to pack the house with donation-paying guests so the host doesn't have to cover it. ;) In general, I have found the concert experience to be more rewarding when guests pay a suggested donation (vs. a host-sponsored party) because guests tend to treat the performance as a concert rather than a party with background music. People tend to connect with the music more when they know they're directly supporting the artist.
Guarantees are helpful but not a dealbreaker. It gives me some monetary assurance in case there are a significant number of no-shows, but, again, it's not necessarily required.
AT THE END OF THE DAY...
There are no REAL rules, only guidelines. House concerts are technically private events with donations going to the artist; the same model as a Tupperware party where the host doesn't make money, they just get free shwag and support something or someone they like.
If you think you might be interested, I'm happy to chat with you more! Conversation does not = obligation, so let's talk about it!