How To Hold Your Own House Concert – Part 1

5 First Steps to Hosting Your Own House Concert

If you’re in Nashville, you’ve probably heard of house concerts, and been to at least a few. For those of you who don’t reside in Music City, hosting or attending a house concert is the hippest way to enjoy professional, high quality indie musicians playing their own original music. It’s a grassroots movement sweeping the country!

What is a house concert?

A house concert is an invitation-only event held in a private home, by a host who does not profit from the event.

So, if you’re ready to host a house concert (I know you are 😉 ), but don’t know what to do, here are the first five steps to take:

1. Choose where to have your house concert

Now that you’ve decided you’d like to host a house concert, the first thing is to choose where to have it. Most people will host it in their own homes, but there may be reasons that make it impractical or impossible. Maybe you have 20 cats in the house and some of the people you want to invite are allergic to cats. Maybe you live in a condo and the association won’t allow it. So you decide to hold it at the clubhouse in your neighborhood or co-host it with a friend at their house instead.

If the weather is going to be nice, you may want to hold it on your patio/deck/lawn. If this is your plan, be sure and have an indoor backup spot in case of bad weather.

House Concert
A house concert can be held in your backyard in nice weather. Image: nodepression.com

You don’t need to have a large space. A living room with overflow into another space usually works great. In the living room, you may also have the bonus of a fireplace or other nice backdrop for the music act.

Very nice intimate house concerts can be held in small places, as long as you can fit 30 or more chairs into the room. Just be sure to leave a spot about 4’ x 6’ for the artist to perform, or larger if it’s a duo or a group. Most people underestimate how many people they can fit into a room. One house concert I went to was in the finished attic of a very small house, with seating pillows all over the floor.  It was packed, and the performance was amazing.

So just take out the coffee table, push the sofas to the walls, and fill up the room with all your other chairs. Borrow chairs from neighbors if you have to. Barstools with a back make a great last row.

You’ll also need a place for the performers to stay, such as a guest bedroom, or the guest bedroom of a friend or neighbor. Just make sure your friend or neighbor is in on the plan. 😉

2. Choose who your act will be.

Who will be your musical act? You may already know of some you would like to invite, but if not, I have a large number of indie musician friends, and can give you some names. Just contact me HERE and provide some details so I know who to recommend for you. You will be astonished at the caliber of artists who are willing to play a modest crowd to fill an empty tour date.

Steel Blossoms House Concert
Nashville country duo Steel Blossoms in house concert. Image: steelblossoms.com

In making your choice, you need to consider what genre of music would you like. And, do you have thirty or more friends and neighbors who share your taste in music?

It’s also good to consider that some acts may include mild profanity, political songs, or suggestive material. Make sure the musician knows what’s acceptable in your home.

Consider what energy level you would like. Do you want a laid back singer/songwriter? Or an act that’s more energetic and rousing?

It’s always fun to get help making your choice from your friends and neighbors who are potential guests. Send them website links to the acts you’re considering. By helping you make the choice, your friends will be invested in the process and committed to attend. They won’t want to miss the house concert they helped plan!

3. Choose when to have your house concert.

Once you choose which indie musician you’ll have, you’ll work with them to determine a good date. Allow at least six weeks to plan and promote your event, and to insure that you can get that great act you want.

However, if you plan to host house concerts regularly, you’ll want to set specific dates in advance, such as the second Saturday of every month except winter months. Having a consistent schedule lends more validity to your concert schedule and makes it easier to plan in advance, building a strong repeat audience.

Also, if you’re planning to host house concerts regularly, you’ll present your available dates to the acts you want and let them choose their best date from your list.

Beware of local celebrations and sporting events. For instance, if you’re in a college town, and the college football team has a home game, that is not a good day to have your house concert.

4. Make your invitation list.

Most people think first of their special friends and neighbors, and come up with too short a list. Typically, only about 20-25% of people who are invited will actually come. So to get the attendance you want, you’ll need to list everyone you know who has the remotest potential of being interested in your event.

Who do you know at work? Who do you know at prior places of employment? Do you have neighbors you haven’t met yet? (I know you do, everybody does.) What about friends at church or synagogue? Clubs you’re a member of? Charities you work with? Your favorite waitress? Parents of your kids’ friends? Relatives who live nearby? Other soccer moms? Professional groups you’re in?

Everyone you know who lives within an hour’s drive is a potential guest.

House concert
Nedski & Mojo house concert. Image: bluegrasstoday.com

You’ll be amazed at how many people will be on your potential guest list when you tap all these sources. Even if you think a certain someone won’t be interested, include them anyway. They may just be blown away by your invitation.

Gather any missing email addresses and phone numbers.

You may want to keep a notepad with you for the next few weeks. Get in the habit of adding people you meet or overlooked. Just say, “I’m hosting a music event soon, and I’d like to invite you, can I get your email address?”

A roomful of guests makes any concert better. Musicians are sensitive souls, and are able to feel the energy in the audience. They will use that energy in their performance. You may have heard an artist say “the crowd made the show”. It’s true. Empty seats suck the energy out of a performance. Make sure every chair has someone in it, even if you have to remove a chair or two at the last minute.

5. Suggested Donations

You’re not selling tickets to your house concert, nor are you running a business. Technically, house concerts are free. But your chosen music act won’t be happy about performing for free. So the way to handle that is to have a “Suggested Donation”.

It should be clearly understood by all your guests before they arrive that their donations are how the artist is being paid. Remind them on the night of the concert before you introduce the artist by saying something like, “If you can’t afford the suggested donation, please let me know privately so I can make up the difference in the tip jar.” That serves as a reminder, and gets the point across. It’s really rare for anyone to take you up on your generous offer after this announcement.

How much should be suggested? Usually $10-20 per guest is appropriate. Be sure and check with the act to find out what their target amount is.

Some artists will ask for a minimum guarantee payment. As an example, their target may be $400, and their minimum acceptable amount may be $250. If the collected donations were $200, then you would be expected to make up the extra $50.

Usually, the amount is reasonable, but it’s up to you whether to make the guarantee or not. Just be sure you and the act are on the same page ahead of time.

What to do next:

What to do next? Watch for my upcoming article, “How to Host Your Own House Concert – Part 2”.

I would love to hear your comments below!

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