House concerts, already popular in North America, are gaining popularity in Europe too now. They are proving not only to be a fantastic experience for artists and audiences alike, but a real lifeline for independent musicians who still like to concentrate on the quality of their songwriting. If you’ve made it to this page we hope it’s because you are considering inviting one of our artists into your home, and to that end we’d like to give you as much information and guidance on house concerts as we can.
Other useful information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/house_concert
And for those of you who do the CouchSurfing thing http://www.couchsurfing.org/group.html?gid=12850
WHAT IS A HOUSE CONCERT?
A house concert is a concert given in your home, or shed, or basement…
House concerts can be one of the most intimate and immediate settings to hear music. Put simply, you invite a group of people to meet a touring artist who you are hosting for a night. iI the course of the evening that artist will give a concert, in exchange for which your guests will make a donation towards their fee.
Artists love house concerts because it gives them a direct contact with a genuine listening audience, and audiences love them because of the informality and opportunities to interact with artists and with their local community.
If you live somewhere beautiful and/or convenient, if you love introducing your friends to music you care about, or if you just wish that your favourite songwriters would come to your town or village, then perhaps considering hosting a house concert would be for you.
IT’S NOT COMPLICATED
There are no hard and fast rules about hosting a house concert, but keeping it simple is often a good idea. as long as you have a space that can comfortably accommodate at least 15-20 people and a couple of musicians then you can host a concert.
You don’t need a sound system (unless your space is big enough for 40+, and in those cases many artists can bring their own), and you don’t need to cater for everyone (unless you want to). A simple ‘bring your own drinks’ policy is enough, or if you feel more adventurous a ‘pot luck supper‘ (for which everyone brings a dish) can work very well.
Invite your guests for 30-60 minutes before you’d like the performance to begin, to give them time to arrive, meet and greet one another, have a drink and settle in before the music starts. Artists will have their own ideas about how long to play for, but two sets of 40-45 minutes is typical, with a break in between.
WHAT DO I NEED?
Not a lot, actually, but here’s a checklist of basic requirements:
- A house with a space in (underneath / attached to / round the back of) it that will hold upwards of 15-20 people.
- A circle of friends and contacts who are interested in coming to see artists play in your space.
- Enough things for them all to sit on.
Pretty much everything else is optional, depending on your own preferences and those of your guests.
PROMOTING & TICKETING
If you have a good network of music loving friends the chances are you won’t have to do much in the way of promotion. Most artists will be able to send you posters if you want to open advertising to people you don’t know, too, and will list the show on their website, offering an option to contact you for details should anyone be interested in attending.
Enthusiastic word of mouth is by far the most effective way to get folks to come to a house concert you are hosting. Share some CDs around among your friends, talk it up and urge folks to visit the website and check out some more tunes. Most artists will have some resources to help you with this – photos, free downloads, press quotes (there’s usually plenty of material on the press page of an artist’s website) – to help you put together an enticing invitation to send or email to your friends and family and colleagues. If you’re excited about the house concert then spread that excitement among your friends. They’ll be intrigued, at least. then it’s down to the artist to win them over, all you need to do is make them curious enough to give the music 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, and not just a house party that has some music going on in the background.
Tickets aren’t usually necessary, but it’s a good idea to run a list and get RSVPs from people who intend to come to the concert. Collect names, numbers and email addresses, so that if anything changes you can let everyone know, and so that you know who to expect on the night. That way you will know when you are full, too. People do cancel though, so keep a list of people who wanted to come that you had no room for – spaces can open up again.
Apparently, evites allows you to create and track invites online, and of course facebook’s event system can be a very powerful organisational tool, too. it can then be linked to and promoted through the artist’s own page(s) on facebook.
WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?
Well, of course artists tour to make a living, and yes, they all have CDs for sale, but they do need something to keep them going.
House concerts are by their nature inclusive, and everyone is in a different situation financially, so organising payment for artists on a donation basis is often much more pleasant for everyone. Typically a host will collect a suggested donation from the guests, either at the door or during the break. the suggested amount might be something like between $10-15, £5-10 or €10-15 per person.
The important thing is to be clear with people from the start. Be sure to mention in any invitations or promotional materials that there will be an expectation of money at some point during the evening. Setting a suggested donation helps to formalise this gently, and make it clear that the artist does need more than simply some contributions towards their expenses. Most people find that having the money pot at the door is the least intrusive way of doing this on the night. It also allows people to add more on their way out, if they have had a truly unforgattable evening!
Most artists understand that house concert hosts are not professional promoters and will not ask you for a guaranteed minimum, but it is important to be communicative and let artists know in advance of the show if you think the attendance will be low, say, below 15-20 people, as it will help that artist when planning and financing the tour they are about to embark on.
THE HOUSE CONCERT EXPERIENCE
We really can do no better that to quote Danny Schmidt outright here:
“Here’s what’s wonderful and unique about house concerts – there’s no bright lights or raised stages to divide the artist and the audience. We are all sitting together in a room sharing and listening and connecting. There’s a bunch of songs I’ll only play in this sort of setting. And a bunch of stories and song explanations I’m only comfortable sharing in this intimate sort of setting.
“And just in general, there’s something very real and tangible and human about the whole set up that can be very moving and touching and inspiring and invigorating. And that goes for me as much as for any listener. Probably more so.”
Thanks so much for considering hosting a house concert (if that’s what you just did). If you want to know more then simply contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help you decide if this is for you. Please remember that artists should be helping you do this, not expecting you to produce things for them!
Finally, see if there are any house concerts happening in your area, and go to them if you can. It’s one of the most rewarding and most helpful ways you can support live music.