Hosting House Concerts

Maybe interested in hosting a house concert?  The info below might give you some more idea of what a house concert is, and if you'd like to host one.

Space, Seating, Lighting:
Most commonly, your (or your friend's) living room is the place where the concert happens.  However, weather granting, we've done "yard concerts" too, which can often have a lot of people.   The number of people depends on the size of your space--on average 20-50 people in living rooms, more if yours is larger, and we've done some yard concerts of up to 400.   Some folks are able to make do with existing, re-arranged furniture or throw pillows, but usually people need to supplement with rented or borrowed chairs.  Most outdoor concerts we've done (and even some indoor) ask folks to BYOC--bring your own chair.  
Consider lighting.  Audiences tend to prefer to sit in low-light, or darker situations where they can be less self-conscious and tune in more to the music.  If you can create some kind of stage-like lighting, be it adjustable floor lamps or what have you, it can make a huge difference to the experience.

Have fun with it!  Do the kids want to make custom tickets for the guests? Maybe someone wants to do a song or two to open for us? Now's your chance to create a venue in your own home--it's actually really cool.

Music and Sound:
In most cases, I do house concerts with my husband and main accompanist, Sean Feder on dobro and banjo. He and I usually tour as a duo.  In some larger and more local situations it may be possible to bring along a bass player or other instruments.  However, I've found that most experienced presenters prefer a solo or duo arrangement for reasons of space and intimacy.  
In some cases, house concerts are done 100% acoustically.  However if you have a larger living room, or a good-sized crowd, or plan to hold the concert outdoors, or have hard-of-hearing friends, adding some sound reinforcement is an excellent idea. If I'm on tour and singing a couple hours a night, I unfortunately can't risk losing my voice by singing at twice my regular volume.  If you or your friends have some kind of sound system, great!  Alternatively, I can see if I can bring one vocal mic and a little guitar amp to help get my voice across. In rare cases, I can rent and bring one.  If we are far from home, we won't likely have it, but we could talk about that later.  

Format:
Often there's a half hour or so of folks arriving, maybe nibbling on snacks or getting a drink, chatting until the critical mass and seating is achieved (or start time has arrived) and the live music begins.  I'll do two 45-50 minutes sets, punctuated by a brief intermission for bathroom breaks and more snacking/drinking/chatting.  It's often nice to play a little of your favorite music softly in the background during this break (as well as before the concert.)  I'll likely try to sell a CD or two then (having a little table for that would be great.)

Food/Drink:
Most house concert hosts do like to have some drink or snack to help folks feel comfortable.  Often this is achieved by asking guests to bring drinks or finger food to share.  Some folks even do a potluck dinner beforehand--it's all totally up to you.  Sometimes hosts will be put a little "donations for refreshments" basket out, if they provide refreshments.

Audience and RSVP's:
Most house concert audiences are made up almost entirely of people you know and have invited personally. I'll advertise your email, if you choose, on my website, but typically that doesn't bring in more than a couple folks brave enough to attend a private house concert hosted by strangers.  I never advertise a home address--that's reserved for you to do, as you decide who to invite into your home.
That said, you'll need to make an invitation of some sort (probably email or Evite) for your friends.  I've got lots of promo material for you to use on my website, see "media-tools."   You'd send that out maybe a month ahead, and then again closer to the date, and take reservations.  Having folks RSVP will help you know how many to prepare for, will help ensure we've got an audience.  
If we start to book a show with you, we'll ask you how many people you think you can get in the door, and what amount you'll ask them to donate.  Typically, depending on what you charge, we need some assurance that you can get at least 25 or 30 people to come and pay.

Money:
I've found it's good to be clear up front about money in your invitation.  Most house concert hosts ask for a donation between $15.00 and $25.00 per person. Some people ask their guests to donate in advance, and some ask their guests to donate as they arrive. It's important that people realize that it's a concert vs. a party.  However, part of the beauty of a house concert is that these are probably your friends, and please, let no-one be turned away for lack of funds.  This is a suggested donation that goes directly to the musicians (vs. a door charge, which would make you look like a business.)  Any checks would be made to my name.

Lodging:
If we're far away from home, and you or your friends have space, it's customary, but not mandatory, for the host to offer lodging to the musicians.  Of course this all depends on your situation, as well as ours.  We'll often get a hotel as it works better for our plans and routing, or is simply the best option.

More Resources:
Here's an interesting resource for House Concert Hosts:
Concerts in Your Home --and I'll put up some more good ones when I find them.  
Go to a house concert!  Keep an ear out for house concerts in your area and attend one--there's usually never a bad seat in the house.

Thank You:
Thank you for considering, and let me know if you're still interested, after all that?  If you are out of my general area, I would ask my booking agent to save your contact for when I am touring in your area (and he will Not approach you about any of his other artists unless you ask--we respect your privacy and will not hound you.) Please feel free to contact me directly at
my email address with any ideas or questions, or my friendly booking agent John Laird (Americana Agency.)