LET’S HAVE A HOUSE CONCERT!
You might be wondering, “What’s a house concert?”
We hope this helps!
The quick & dirty:
A house concert is a concert hosted in a private space (a house, apartment or community room are all common venues) as opposed to being held in a normal public venue (a bar or coffeehouse). Beyond that broad distinction, there are no hard rules for what constitutes a house concert. It can be whatever we make it. What is consistent is that these events are fun, memorable and a growing national trend. American Airlines and CNN have both done stories about it. Aren’t you curious to learn more?
Watch the short video that people use to promote these great events to their friends: You’re Invited to a House Concert
I’d love to play for you and your friends, so please contact me if you are interested. We can compare calendars and decide when I can be in your area.
How much does it cost? Almost nothing! Read the free guide to find out how! Concerts In Your Home – House Concert Guide (PDF)
Depending on the available space (and comfort level of the host), house concerts vary quite a bit in size and scope, from a dozen people in a small living room, 30 people in a Yoga studio, 50 people in a basement, or 250 people in a large backyard. 40 people in a medium-to-large living room is about average.
You do want to make sure there is adequate seating for your guests – whether that means gathering all the chairs from around your house, renting or buying folding chairs, or asking guests to bring lawn chairs, cushions and blankets.
What do you do?
Often, house concerts are BYOB and involve a pot-luck dinner or hors d’oeuvres. There is usually 30-60 minutes between when doors open and when the music starts. This allows for quick catching up with friends, noshing, and pouring of wine!
When there is a critical mass in attendance, or when “start time” rolls around, the concert commences.
The music is sometimes completely acoustic: unplugged and unamplified. Depending on the space, once you start getting bigger than about 25 or 30 people, you need to think about having a small PA system to help supplement the natural acoustics. This is especially true for duos or groups, as certain instruments (for example, the Dobro is a naturally very loud instrument) can easily overpower vocals or another guitar. Also, some guests may have a hard time discerning lyrics in quieter songs without amplification. You’d be amazed how much sound can be absorbed in a comfy living room – or how an echo-y room without sound support can really muddle the words!
I usually play two 45-minute sets with a short potty and cookie break in the middle. But shorter or longer sets are easily accommodated, as well. And I’m happy to play whichever of my songs you’d like to hear most (provided I still remembers how to play them).
Here’s what’s wonderful and unique about house concerts — there’s no vast separation to divide the artist and the audience. We’re all sitting in a room together – sharing, listening, connecting. There are a bunch of songs that only work in this sort of setting, as well as a bunch of stories and song explanations we are only comfortable sharing in this intimate sort of setting.
In general, there’s something very real and tangible and human about the whole set up that can be very moving and touching, inspiring and invigorating. And that goes for us as performers as much as for any listener. Probably more so.
Getting People to Show Up
Enthusiastic word of mouth is by far the most affective way to get folks to come to a house concert you are hosting. Share CDs with your friends — talk it up big, and urge folks to visit the website to check out some more tunes. I have plenty of promotional materials available in the Press section of my site, and also some sample text I can send you to make sure we come up with an enticing invitation to send or e-mail to your friends and family and co-workers. If you’re excited about the house concert, spread that excitement among your friends. They’ll be intrigued, at least.
It’s our job to win them over once they’re there — it’s your job to make them curious enough to give the house concert experience a try.
One note: it’s important to make sure, in the promotional process, that your guests understand that this will be a house concert, not a house party that has some music going on in the background.
It’s usually a good idea to have an RSVP system in place to get some idea of how many folks to expect – especially if there’s a second tier of people you’d like to invite. Some folks use Evite.com or other invitation sites to keep track of their guest list. That seems to be a pretty good system.
Also, unless you’re uncomfortable with it, we will post the house concert date on our website schedule (we do not publish private street addresses unless given permission) and ask that people interested in attending contact the host via e-mail (or your preferred method of contact) for more specific details and to RSVP. This way, you maintain control over who you are opening your home to and how many people you’re inviting in.
$$$ Money Money Money $$$
Typically, the host collects a suggested donation from the guests, either at the door (upon entry), or during the break. Many house concerts require payment in advance – either at a previous concert or via paypal or a check in the mail. This helps when many people reserve a seat but don’t attend. The host and/or artist can’t be expected to fill those seats at the last moment – but they often would have been able to “sell the seats” if they weren’t already reserved. The suggested amount ranges from between $10 to $25 per person, with $15 or $20 being pretty typical. Once we pick a date, we can talk about what will work best for your community. Also - We will never begrudge any guests who are unable, or choose not to, contribute.
We know that at times, it can feel weird to have to be explicit with money with your guests. We’ve found it’s best to just be as up-front and clear as possible from the start – and everyone seems to receive it just fine.
For instance, state it from the beginning (in invitations, etc) that there’s an expectation that money will be involved in a more formal way than “passing the hat to help pay for gas.” Having the money basket at the door is a good idea, and it actually seems to make things less awkward. I’ve performed at several concerts were young adults were put in charge of collecting donations – this seems to ease some tension, and from what I’ve seen, they have fun doing it.
We don’t always ask house concert hosts for a guaranteed minimum, but we sometimes do – depending on travel or risk involved. In any case, it’s a really good idea to discuss with us if you think the attendance will be fewer than 15 people, as that may help us to decide what other gigs we may or may not need to accept on that leg of a tour.
WHEN YOU RECEIVE A CONTRACT from the agent, please don’t be intimidated! We have one standard contract that goes to all venues and/or hosts, whether it is a festival or a living room. Don’t be afraid to call or e-mail back, saying, “I’m happy to provide this part of the hospitality but not this other… or I don’t think I can provide these particular items on the technical rider…” etc. The contract is just a starting point for negotiation and to let you know what our normal expectations are. But we’re often flexible on many points!
Thank you for considering hosting a house concert. Whether you’re still interested (or not) or able to host one, we highly recommend that you keep your eyes open for house concerts of your favorite artists. Go attend some of them! We think you’ll enjoy the experience.
A big thanks to Danny Schmidt and Betty Soo, whose guidelines we borrowed from before making them our own.