So you think you might be
interested in hosting a house concert. It's good, then,
that your first question is: Um, what the hell exactly is
a house concert, anyway?
It's a perfectly
reasonable question -- and I'll try and answer it, clear
as I can -- so you can make a more informed decision for
yourself whether or not you'd like to host such a thing.
A house concert is a concert hosted in a house or an
apartment or a community room, as opposed to being hosted
by a regular public venue (like a bar or coffeehouse).
Beyond that broad distinction, there are no hard fast
rules for what makes for a house concert and what doesn't.
But here's what's typical . . .
Depending on the available
space (and the comfort level of the host), house concerts
range quite a bit in size and scope. Some are as small as
a dozen people in a little living room. Others are 50
people in the basement. Others are 100 people in a
backyard. 20-30 people in a largish living room is
probably about average.
There's usually some sort of mingling period, for a half
hour to an hour, wherein folks begin arriving and sipping
on a little bit of wine, munching on treats and
socializing. I personally like it when house concerts are
BYOB and potlucks of sorts. But you can handle all that
however you are most comfortable.
Whenever there seems to be
a critical mass of folks in attendance, or whenever "start
time" rolls around, the concert commences . . .
Everyone settles down in the living room on chairs and on
couches, and on throw pillows, and however they can find a
comfortable nook for themselves -- and then the music
begins. The music is usually completely acoustic and
unplugged and unamplified. Au naturale. Depending on the
space, once you start getting bigger than about 35-40
people, you need to start thinking about having a small PA
system to help supplement the natural acoustics. But
usually they're smaller, and they're unplugged.
I usually play two
45-minute sets with a short potty and cookie break in the
middle. But shorter or longer sets are easily
accommodated, as well. And I'm happy to play whatever
songs you'd like to hear most (provided I still remember
how to play them).
HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO
Enthusiastic word of mouth is by far the most affective
way to get folks to come to a house concert you are
hosting. Share some CDs around among your friends -- talk
it up big and urge folks to visit the website and check
out some more tunes. I've got lots of promotional
materials available (photos, quotes, MP3s, and other stuff
in the "Presskit" section of the site) to help you put
together an enticing invitation to send or email to your
friends and family and coworkers. If you're excited about
the house concert -- then spread that excitement among
your friends. They'll be intrigued, at least. It's my job
to win them over -- it's just your job to 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.
It's usually a good idea to have some sort of RSVP system
in place -- to get some idea of how many folks to expect.
Especially, if there's a second tier of people you'd like
to invite. Some folks, more recently, have begun using
Evites to keep track of their guestlist. That seems to be
a pretty good system.
Also, if you're
comfortable with it, I will post the house concert date on
my website schedule -- and ask that if folks are
interested in attending, that they email for more specific
details, and to RSVP. This way you stay in control over
who you are inviting into your home. And how many people
you're inviting in.
I like to keep everything sliding scale, myself. I know
that everyone's in a different situation financially.
Typically the host will collect a suggested donation from
the guests -- either at the door, or during the break, or
however. The suggested amount ranges from between $10 to
$20 per person -- with $15 being pretty typical. I tend to
leave it up to the host how much is an appropriate amount
to ask of their guests. And I never begrudge any guests
who are unable, or choose not to, contribute.
I know it's weird to have
to be explicit with money sometimes with your guests -- so
I've found that it's best to just be as upfront and clear
as possible from the start. For instance, state it from
the beginning (in any invitations, etc) that there's a
certain expectation that money will be involved in a more
formal way than just "passing the hat to help pay for
gas". Having the money basket at the door is a good idea,
and actually seems to make things less awkward.
I don't ask for a
guaranteed minimum -- but it's good to discuss with me if
you think the attendance will be smaller than about 20
people -- because it helps me to decide what other gigs I
may or may not accept on that leg of a particular tour.
NOW -- AS FOR THE
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 moreso.
Thanks for considering the notion of hosting a house
concert. Whether or not you're still interested, or able,
to host one -- I highly recommend that you keep your eyes
open for some house concerts of your favorite artists --
and that you attend some of them. I think you'll enjoy the