Host a House Concert

I’ve played well over 100 house concerts over the past several years and no two are the same. I’ve played to audiences of anywhere from 3 to 80+ people. I’ve played big, lavish, 3-story houses and tiny A frames where I still have no idea how we squeezed in 20 people. Inside, outside, daytime, nighttime, rowdy, reverent… Here’s what they have in common though: there’s something about playing in someone’s home that fosters a deeper connection than a public venue can – both between me and the audience and between audience members themselves. It’s special. I wrote a blog about it! It's got video, dogs, wonder woman pajamas...click here for all that fun.

Already sold? Scroll on down to the form at the bottom and let's chat! Want more info first? Keep reading. :)


WHAT’S THE OVERALL DEAL?

Basic house concert premise: host secures an artist, picks a date, chooses a suggested donation amount (to go directly to artist), invites and confirms guests, guests pay donation amount, concert happens, everybody's happy. And there's usually food/drink in there somehow too, as well as lodging for the artist.

WHAT’S THE DEEPER DEAL?

House concerts are great for hosts and guests because they not only create a unique and intimate concert experience, but they also offer a clear and direct channel for hosts/guests to support an independent artist. House concerts are great for artists for those same reasons, and are usually a far more viable financial model than playing in clubs. Translation: house concerts go a long way toward keeping artists afloat.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE WE TALKING HERE?

My house concert audiences have ranged from as few as 10 people up to 80+. Smaller shows can happen during the week, but in order to keep the train on the tracks, weekend shows need to have a minimum audience of 25 people.

I DON’T KNOW IF I HAVE ROOM

You’d be surprised what you can pull off by moving some furniture around and bringing in kitchen chairs, etc. This 1 minute video shows how one host does it, and this 3+ minute video is a great intro to hosting that also addresses space concerns. (Space-in-your-house-for-a-concert space....not outer space....that's a whole other video channel.)

HOW DOES THE SCHEDULE WORK?

It's flexible, but usually it goes something like this: I’ll play 2 sets that are about 45 minutes each with a break in between (roughly 20 minutes). You’ll want to allow about 30-60 minutes before show time for guests to arrive, get a snack/drink, visit, make their donation and find a seat. Before that, I need time to arrive, set up my stuff, relax and prepare for concert before guests arrive. Starting times vary (afternoons, earlier evenings), but here’s an example of a schedule for an 8pm concert:

5:30-7:00 – artist arrival/load-in/set-up
7:00-8:00 – guests arrive/cocktail/snack hour
8:00-8:45 – Set 1
8:45-9:05 – break (snacks/drinks/CD sales/potty breaks)
9:05-9:40 – Set 2
9:40-10:00 – CD sales/smiles/hugs/farewells

HOW DOES THE MONEY WORK?

Basically, guests pay a suggested donation amount (agreed upon and “advertised” up front) that goes directly to the artist. I usually do a suggested donation amount of $20. The “eyes on the prize” goal is for me to gross $1000, but the minimum goal I’m aiming for is $500 - especially on a weekend night. There are plenty of factors that come into play that can move that number up or down. We’ll talk about it.

Going a little deeper, here are 3 scenarios regarding how the $ can work: 

1 - traditional house concert style - suggested donation is collected from attending guests, artist gets whatever’s collected at the end of the night
2 - traditional plus - same as above but with a minimum guarantee from the host
3 - private party style - host pays artist a flat performance fee and guests attend no charge

I've done all three, but 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 make sure the house is full of folks paying the suggested donation amount so the host doesn't have to cover it. ;) Overall I have found the concert experience to be more rewarding when guests pay a suggested donation (vs. just coming to a host-sponsored party) because everyone's frame of mind is that of a concert as opposed to a party with music in the background. People really connect with the music more when they know they're directly supporting the artist. 

If a host is not in a position to offer any kind of guarantee it's not necessarily a deal-breaker. It's nice for me to have one and know I at least won't leave without a certain amount in case there are a significant number of no-shows. But, again, it's not necessarily required. 

BOTTOM LINE

There are no rules around these, per se, only guidelines and what works for each situation. They are technically private events with donations going to the artist to stay away from any "business in the home" kind of line-crossing. Same basic model as a Tupperware party - host doesn't make any money, they just get some free stuff and support something or someone they like. That's about the only "rule" if you will. Only true cost is whatever food or drink the host decides to provide and there are dozens of ways that can go, including potluck or having a few friends go in on that with you.

I would love to chat with you if you think you might be interested. Inquiring doesn't equal obligation, happy to just answer questions. Nifty form below - have at it!

- Kira


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