Hosting House ConcertsMaybe 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 and Seating:
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 20-40 people in living rooms, more if yours is larger, and we've done some yard concerts of up to 200. Some folks are able to make do with exisiting, re-arranged furniture or throw pillows, and some folks decide 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.
Have fun with it! Any interesting lighting you can think of? Do the kids want to make tickets for the guests? Maybe they want 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 pretty cool.
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 bass or other instruments. However, I've found that most experienced presenters prefer a solo or duo arrangment for reasons of space and intimacy.
In most cases house concerts are done 100% acoustically. However if you have hard of hearing folks, or a larger living room, I might see if I can bring one vocal mic and a little guitar amp to help get my voice across. If we are far from home, we won't likely have it, but we could talk about that later.
Often there's a half hour or so of folks arriving, maybe nibbling on snacks or getting a drink, chatting until the critical mass 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 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.
First of all, you don't have to do it. However, 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 provided all the refreshments.
Audience and RSVP's:
Though I'll usually ask if I may advertise only your email address "for more info" for the scheduled date, most house concert audiences are made up almost entirely of people you know and have invited personally. 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 get to make an invitation of some sort (probably email) for your friends--I've got lots of promo material on my website, see "media-tools." You'd send that out when you feel it's right, and hopefully take some reservations. Having folks RSVP for a reservation 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.
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 $10.00 and $25.00 per person. When I last hosted one for a couple friends, I asked for a sliding scale $15.00-$20.00. I placed a basket with a sign "suggested donation, $15-20" very visibly by the door where people entered, and it's helpful to have a list of names, where you or they can cross of their name when they've arrived and donated. It's important that people realize it won't be just a "pass the hat" kind of deal, and 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 has to be a suggested donation that goes directly to the musicians (vs. a door charge, which would make you look like a business.) Checks would be made to my name.
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 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 agent John Laird (Americana Agency.)