Host Your Own House Concert

Edited by Nuance

Thinking of hosting a house concert? Do you love music and see yourself as a patron of the arts? Are you someone in the midst of your social circle? These things and more will work in your favor if you're planning to host a house concert.

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Why Host a House Concert?

Imagine throwing a party that includes one of your favorite performers, your closest friends, family, acquaintances and new friends, in a beautiful setting, enjoying the intimacy of a concert that makes you feel as if the performance is specifically for you. The company is fantastic. The music is amazing. You're doing something good to support the arts. That's why people host house concerts. If your intent is to make a bunch of money, this venture is probably not for you. It can be done, but this VisiHow article has a different focus. If you have a love for music and you're interested in contributing to the arts by promoting and hosting a house concert - read on!

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LeE HARVey OsMOND at The Rookery.

Who Hosts House Concerts?

It takes a special kind of person to host a house concert. First, they wouldn't consider having a house concert if they didn't have a love of music. They are usually outgoing, generous, popular people – movers and shakers. They are people who have a scathingly brilliant idea, and aren't afraid to follow through with it. It's helpful if you already know some musicians, some you'd call friends, but don't let it stop you if you don't.

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Venues for Musicians are Dwindling

We live in a time where respect for music and musicians has dwindled significantly. Venues that in the past paid musicians fairly and promoted concerts at their venues, have used social media to their advantage. If they have live music at all, in too many cases, the musicians are not hired because of their talent, but by their ability to draw a crowd. Period. In this new-fangled model, musicians are often paid a pittance of what they deserve, they are required to promote the event themselves, and provide the audience – basically, they are producing their own show. The venue benefits by not having to advertise, paying the musicians poorly, and making a lot of money from the bar.

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On the downside – everyone loses. The venue doesn't have a consistent caliber of music. Because musicians are hired by their ability to promote, the music changes drastically from night to night, it's not a place you can just drop in, knowing the music will be fine. Often, the quality of music isn't even a consideration. The musician loses financially. The time he spends promoting his concert, he's not spending playing and writing new tunes. It affects his/her emotional well-being. Trying to maintain a sense of pride in any of the arts these days is a challenge.

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If Music Be The Food Of Love – Play On!

If this sounds like something you'd like to do – how wonderful! Read on, and work to make this a house concert your friends and family will never forget. With a few personal touches, this won't be difficult to achieve.

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David Bidini at The Rookery.

What You Need to Host a House Concert

  1. 1
    Space.
    You need to have enough space in your house to accommodate 15 – 35 people in the audience. Some are luckier enough to have more space, and can obviously house more people.
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  2. 2
    Audience.
    You need to have a lot of like-minded friends and acquaintances, and access to people in your community.
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  3. 3
    Sound System.
    Usually the musicians bring their own mic and small speaker, but if they are travelling without a system, you may need to rent a small sound system. Try borrow one first. Trade for two seats at the concert. If you aren't flush financially, discuss being reimbursed from the money raised at the door if you have to rent.
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  4. 4
    Chairs.
    Enough for everyone with advance tickets, and extra for those who might drop in.
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  5. 5
    Extra lighting.
    You want to light the band, or musician properly. You need something to light their faces. Something on the ceiling you can aim will work – even track lighting.
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  6. 6
    Parking.
    You need to accommodate cars – even if it's not on your own property, you should give people an idea where they can park.
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Contact a Musician/Band First

  1. 1
    Talk to musicians you know.
    Find out if any musicians you know already do house concerts, or are interested. Ask if they have an available date that works for both of you.
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  2. 2
    Talk to musicians you admire.
    Perhaps you've never met them, but you may be surprised at their willingness to do a house concert at your place.
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  3. 3
    Ask your friends.
    They may know some musicians who do house concerts.
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  4. 4
    House Concert Circuit.
    Look for an organized group of people in the same general area as you. They may have a musician who is doing a series of house concerts, and they might have a free night, provided they'll be travelling near your location.
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What You Need From The Musician

You've set the date for your house concert. Yay! Now there are things you need right away, even if the concert is months away. You want to be organized every step of the way.

  1. 1
    You may require a contract – especially if the musician has an agent.
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  2. 2
    A Bio to use in your promotional materials.
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  3. 3
    Several pictures, both in concert and headshots for promotional materials.
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  4. 4
    If you haven't already, friend them on Facebook.
    You need to be able to link to them and tag them on Facebook once you begin promoting the concert.
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  5. 5
    Follow them on Twitter, again, so you can tag them, and use their hashtags.
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Liability

It's important to avoid being considered a proper venue. Instead of setting a ticket price, you need to suggest a "donation". Basically, you are providing a space as a fundraiser for the artists; otherwise, you can be taxed on the event the way professional venues are. There are no hard and fast rules set by governments, as this is a new phenomenon. All your doing is trying to support underpaid artists, but at the same time, making sure you are safe from any liabilities. If someone is injured during your house concert, it will be treated the same way as if someone was injured at your house party.

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Promotion

You could create an amazing house concert, but if there's no one there, it's a waste of everyone's time. Below are some suggestions for selling every seat in the house.

  1. 1
    Create a poster.
    Use a picture of the performer/s, and create a poster. You'll use this in your emails, and on your Facebook event. Include the performer's name, date, time, place of concert and any other important information you want people to know at a glance.
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  2. 2
    Emails.
    You'll want to start sending out emails 5 – 6 weeks prior to the concert. People are busy, and you'll want to get to them before they commit to other events.  
    1. Send a group email to friends and family. Include date, time, place, suggestion donation, where to reserve or buy tickets, and a picture of the performer/s. You'll want to send the first one 6 weeks prior to the concert. Then another 4 weeks, 2 weeks and 1 week before the show. The week of the show, you can update with how many seats are available, any changes, something exciting that's been added.
    2. Put your own email address in "TO", and the entire invited guest's email addresses in "BCC". Don't start off on the wrong foot. Many people are very unhappy when realize you've made their email address available to your entire list.
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  3. 3
    Facebook event.
    Facebook is all about algorithms. The more people connect with on Facebook, the more people are connected with you. Imagine a red thread from you to every person whose posts and comments you interact with. Those are the people who will see when you post pictures or comments – or in this case, events.  
    1. You'll want to create a Facebook event for your house concert 5 – 6 six weeks prior to the event.
    2. Have a few great pictures of the artist/s to post on the Facebook event.
    3. Make sure you make the event accessible (public), and that invited guests have the ability to invite friends.
    4. The program on Facebook to create the event, will walk you through date, time, location, ticket information, etc.
    5. Keep active on the event page. Post updates. Post pictures. Keep dialogue going.
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  4. 4
    Community events.
    Send a press release to local newspapers that have a section listing community events. Also, there are local websites where you can create an event – similar to Facebook, that specifically lists local events.
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  5. 5
    Keep the performer/s in the loop.
    Make sure they have access to your Facebook event, as they'll often let their fans in your area know what's going on, and you'll be able to attract a new audience.
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  6. 6
    Tickets.
    Have tickets available through your event page.  
    1. Have people purchase tickets ahead of the concert.
    2. RSVP is often not good enough. It's not unusual for less than one third of the people who say they are attending an event on Facebook, don't come.
    3. Get yourself a paypal account, and allow people to pay this way.
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Producing Your House Concert

A successful house concert venue in Southern Ontario is The Rookery. The success is due to the energetic and creative ideas of pBrian Kelly, who deals with the music end of business (booking, set-up, promotion), and his partner, Radhika Subramanyan, reportedly an amazing cook, who handles the food. People return over and over to experience the intimate concerts, the conga lines that spontaneously break out of the audience, the delicious vegan food and due to the size of their property, the fun after-show singing around the campfire with a host of guitars, ukuleles and flutes – weather permitting. Their concerts have included performances by Big Rude Jake, Stephen Fearing, Dave Bidini, Irish Mythen, David Celia, Tom Wilson and LeE HARVey OsMOND. Most of the pictures in this article are from house concerts at The Rookery. Take a look at their Facebook page for more ideas. THE ROOKERY HOUSE CONCERTS.

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The homey & warm atmosphere of The Rookery - all set up, waiting for the audience and performers.

The Setup

  1. 1
    Create a stage.
    Find an area of your home that allows for good visibility. Think of lighting when you're choosing the 'stage'. Create a backdrop, or adorn the space with fairy lights. Make sure there's enough room for the performer/s to move around in.
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  2. 2
    Chairs.
    Folding chairs work best. You can use chairs you have in your home to add to the folding chairs, just make sure when you're setting up, the taller chairs are in the back.
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  3. 3
    Merchandise table.
    Set up a table with a lovely display of their CDs and other promotional materials they have. Ask a friend to take care of this for you, before, during intermission and after the show. You'll be busy. Make sure they can make change for purchase, and provide them, if you can, with a cash box.
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  4. 4
    Food.
    Prepare or purchase snacks or food ahead of time, so the day of the concert you aren't overwhelmed. Have a donation jar for the food.
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  5. 5
    Have a donation jar for the performer/s.
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Big Rude Jake performing at a house concert. Seemingly tireless, he always puts on an amazing show!

What The Musicians Need From You

  1. 1
    Quiet space.
    The performer needs a room. Artists like to collect themselves and warm-up before a concert. Provide them this space – either a spare room, or your room, anywhere people can't easily walk in on him/her.
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  2. 2
    Spare room?
    Sometimes, if the musician/s are on the road, the host will offer them space to sleep over. Especially if they are on a circuit, they will have been away from home for several days, if not weeks. In this situation, graciousness and a comfy couch will do.
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  3. 3
    Make sure you have lots of room-temperature water available, both in their quiet space and onstage.
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  4. 4
    Feed the artists.
    Have something warm and healthy for them when they get to your house. Find out ahead of time if they have allergies, or if they are vegetarians/vegans. Don't cook with dairy. It's a congestive, and most singers won't drink or eat anything heavy in diary, especially milk.
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  5. 5
    Promote their music.
    Have a table set up where people can purchase CDs, T-Shirts, and whatever other promotional materials they sell.
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What the Audience Needs

It's important that you create a wonderful evening for your audience. Have food available, create a fabulous ambiance, be a gracious host.

An excited and avid audience at The Rookery.
  1. 1
    Ambiance.
    You want the audience to be sitting in subdued lighting. You could add some fairy lights, or candles (enclosed or battery). You want to create a beautiful ambience. Lighting can make or break your house concert. It's no good if you can't see the musician's faces, and it's also annoying if it's too bright in the audience. You want the audience to be able to focus on the music, and subdued lighting helps.
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  2. 2
    Connect people.
    When your audience begins to arrive, introduce people who don't know each other who are like-minded. Especially introduce people who've come alone to the concert. Take extra time with people you've never met.
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  3. 3
    Food & Drink.
    This can be simple or as complex as you desire.  
    1. Easy. You can provide snacks during the intermission – easy things like chips, crackers, hummus, etc.
    2. More complex. If you enjoy cooking, create a more complex intermission menu to tempt the pallet. Put a jar with a label that reads – donations for food. You can even include a "suggested donation". This does not, by any means, guarantee you'll even break even – but that's not why you're having a house concert. Just make sure you don't go overboard. You shouldn't go broke doing it.
    3. Potluck. You do have the option of advertising it as a potluck. Have people bring dishes, and create a festive atmosphere by eating together. Just make sure you have enough time to do this, and some clean up, before the concert (at least 2.5 hours).
    4. BYOB. Advertise the event as BYOB (bring your own bottle). Just watch what people are drinking. You will be responsible if they get into their cars to drive home, and they are over the limit, or something horrible happens on their way home. You do not want to provide the audience with alcohol, and you legally cannot sell it without a liquor license.
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AFTER THE CONCERT

You had a successful concert. Yay! Don't stop there. You want to make sure both the artist/s and audience feel appreciated. It will make your next house concert so much easier.

The reality - imposed over musician/singer/songwriter, Stephen Fearing's fabulous guitar.
  • Don't forget to write an email thanking the artist/s.
  • You can also post something on their Facebook page, thanking them for a wonderful evening.
  • Thank the wonderful audience on the Facebook event.
  • You can also email the attendees and thank them for supporting the arts.
  • If you're writing an article on house concerts, thank the people with the experience who gave you some great advice. In this case, it's performer Jake Hiebert (Big Rude Jake) and house concert host, pBrian Kelly.
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Tips and Warnings

  • Have a signup sheet at the event where people you don't have contact for, can give you their email addresses, so you can include them with your next concert.
  • Consider having an up and coming artist open for the "headliner". You may not be able to offer them pay, but you can feed them, get them into the show, and treat them well. Just don't tell them they'll get a lot of exposure – they've heard this way too many times when being asked to perform for free. Make sure you promote them as well.
  • Ask other people you know who've hosted their own house concerts for advice.
  • If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.

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