How to Host a House Concert

THE OBVIOUS CHOICE What could be more natural? You love hearing live music.

I make my living playing music. Next time I come through your town, why don’t

we do a house concert? If you’ve ever hosted a New Year’s Eve party for friends,

organized a garage sale or thrown together a neighborhood potluck, you have

all the necessary skills required. This information is designed to cover all the

bases and outline the details step-by-step to take you from: “Where do I

begin?!” to “Let’s do it again!!”

WHAT IS A HOUSE CONCERT? A house concert is literally a concert in a living

room (or a basement, or a backyard…). They’re happening more and more

frequently all across the country as artists find that 25 to 50 people can fit into

a living room quite comfortably. It’s a great format where both audience and

artist alike get to experience an intimate concert in a ‘listening room’ setting

that is comfortable for all. This is not a party with background music. It is a

sit down concert in your home. Generally, the host will ask for donations or

“cover charges” to support the artist. Ticket prices can be whatever the artist

and presenter agree upon (usually a $10-20 suggested donation per

person). The main thing required from you is 1) having the space to host it,

and 2) inviting your friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, etc. The setting of

the show is up to you; it could either be just a concert, or you could choose to

provide food and drinks, or do a potluck. The options are really wide open

depending upon how you’d like to host it.

FINDING A PLACE Well, it doesn’t get much simpler than this – we’ll do the

show in your living room. That’s why they’re called house concerts, right?

Attendance usually runs between 25 and 50 at most house concerts, so if you

have a good sized living room, say 12′x15′ or larger, 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 is their inherent coziness.

Still, what if your place is just too small? Not to worry. There are all sorts of

non-house possibilities. These shows can take place in your backyard, garage,

music shops, public-library rooms, art galleries, school rooms, community halls,

church basements, barns, back patios – the informal character of house

concerts make them adaptable to any number of environments.

SPREAD THE WORD We are looking for a minimum of 25 people to get cozy in

your home, so start talking it up. House concerts are still fairly rare in many

areas of the country, so the idea of turning your home into a temporary

concert hall will be a novel concept to a lot of people. But once people

experience a concert in a home setting they usually become enthusiastic

converts. In fact, this might be the time for a cautionary disclaimer: You may

find your one-time foray into producing house concerts so enjoyable that it

evolves into a regular or semi-regular series. Worse things could happen.

Once you begin letting people know about the concert you’ll discover why

house concerts are so well suited for smaller, more closely connected

communities – most of your promotion will simply be word of mouth.

Your audience – and typically upwards of 90% of it – will be people you know or

friends of theirs. You may choose to keep the show completely private as well

and only have it open to your own invitees. The other option is to open it up to

my email list and make it public. That is completely up to you .

Make up some postcards or send out an Evite/Email/Facebook Event (or all of

the above) containing the relevant concert information: A description of the

music, date and time, how much the suggested donation will be (typically $10-

20 per person, we will discuss this), whether you’re planning a potluck, hors

d’oeuvres, etc. Include your phone number for reservations (more on this later)

and directions. If you’re internet proficient, put together a mailing list and

send out an email notice. The beauty of email is that you can send several

reminders regarding the show, reservations, etc. If the concert is being held in

a more neutral setting, you can do this broader job of advertising – post the

flyers around town and in your car’s windows – but you probably won’t need to

concern yourself with these if the concert is going to take place in your home.

If you’re like most people, you’re probably hesitant to throw open your home

to just anyone. In an alternative space you can comfortably go for a larger,

more diverse audience.

NO-SHOWS No-shows are an all-too-common fact of life, and can be the bane

of house concerts. Attrition rates of between 30%-60% are not at all unusual,

even if people have solemnly promised you under oath to assorted Dieties that

they’ll be there. Things come up. They have to work late. Kids get sick.

They’re just too tired. Whatever. It happens. And nothing is more disappointing

than to be expecting a full house and then have half or more of the chairs go

empty. It’s doubly worse when you’ve had to refuse people who wanted to

come because you thought you had a full house.

SET UP THE ROOM You might set up the room for the concert this way:

STAGE. Create a “stage” area for the performer in your concert room – in front

of the fireplace or french doors, in an open corner of the room – and arranging

the seating facing the stage.  SEATING. Let’s think about that a minute. Do you

have enough chairs of your own? If not, consider places you might obtain

loaners: school, church, the library, etc. You can even tell people to bring their own.

Or forget the chairs and arrange for people to lounge on the floor. Or do some

combination of all these. Of course, you can always rent folding chairs as a last

resort, but the idea is to keep production costs to a minimum.

HOSTING THE SHOW House concerts typically consist of a 1hr set of music or

two sets about 45 minutes each with a short break between – about 20 minutes

– so that people can stretch their legs, chat, have refreshments, visit the

bathroom, purchase CDs, etc. – more about this in a minute. 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 homebaked goodies

as well.

VOLUNTEERS It’s a usual perk to grant free admission to the people who help

out the night of the show, such as a refreshment coordinator and a person to

collect money at the door and handle CD sales for the artist.


The method that seems to work best (and it’s not the only way by any means)

is for the host to keep a list of reservations and to encourage as many folks as

possible to send in their donation BEFORE the show. Some hosts give their

guests incentives for “pre-donating” such as letting them have their pick of the

best seats, or entering their name into a drawing for a CD etc…

Since not everyone will send a check in advance, it’s best on the day of the

show to have a volunteer sitting strategically close to the entrance with the

guest list at hand. Then names can be checked off as donations are made.

Because it’s always possible for folks to slip through the cracks, it’s also a good

idea for the host to make an announcement regarding donations at the

beginning of the show and again after the break, making sure that everyone

is aware of where the CLEARLY MARKED donation jar/hat/basket is located.

You should also provide a place for the artist to sell their CDs and to have their

mailing list. A small table or piece of furniture in a location that allows for

traffic flow works well. After the concert, enjoy good food and conversation!

Encourage folks to buy CDs and get on the artist’s mailing list. And if you plan

to host more shows, have a mailing list of your own!