House Concerts, the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How (Much)?

Here’s a great way to ontribute to the live music scene in your community, support deserving musicians artists, and give your friends and family a great evening together.

What – A house concert is a sort of party at your house with scheduled, appropriate entertainment, that people are planning to pay attention to (not “background music”). Inexpensive snacks and beverages would be nice. Some folks ask guests to bring refreshments or “real food,” making it more or less a potluck. You may ask for a “door” donation for the artist, or the artist may be satisfied to set up a “tip jar” and sell merch. The main point is that it allows your invitees to get “up close and personal” with the artist in a non-threatening setting.

Who – Artists: The residential setting means that solo, duo, or trio singer/songwriter or acoustic-based artists are the best artists to hosts – no KISS tribute bands. You can start out with local artists if you want. Ask one of your singer/songwriter or folksinger friends over to start. Once you get the logistics figured out, though, you’ll discover that there are literally thousands of independent musicians, some of whom are touring on a shoe-string, who could use a good place to play (and maybe a hot meal). If it’s a stranger you know nothing about, I WOULD make a point of hearing them in action (say, on video) or getting feedback from someone you have reason to trust to make certain it’s someone you would want in your home.

Audience: Usually you start with relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. People you’d be inclined to have in your home anyway. If you get commitments from all of those and you still have room for another eight or ten people, you could widen the net a little. Also, ask the artist if he or she has any fans in your area you should invite. You don’t have to have anyone over you don’t want to – just remember that you don’t want your artist playing to a mostly-empty room or going home with an empty tip jar or full merchandise case.

Where – Your back yard, if the weather is likely to cooperate, but have a backup. Your living room, in most cases. Many prewar homes have living rooms, dining rooms, and parlors that can be opened up to make one big (if funny-shaped) room. Or if you have a big open area in your basement, or can clear out a 2-car garage, that may work, too. Or if your neighborhood has a “party house,” or some such. The point is, it should be a venue that you can control. If the venue or the crowd will be big enough that the artist will need to set up a PA, take that into account, too, and make certain your neighbors are cool with what you’re doing.

When – Most touring artists are looking for “odd nights” to fill, which means they’re more likely to be available, say, on a Tuesday night than on a Saturday. But if you’re starting out with local folks who work intermittently, any day is usually a good choice. If you start having regular concerts and scheduling months out, you will have a better chance of snagging touring musicians on the weekend.

Why – Because there isn’t enough live music or human interaction in the world. Because artists you appreciate appreciate the chance to play in intimate settings and potential expand their fan base.

How (Much) – Some artists may have a minimum fee – don’t be shocked if it seems high for “two hours’ work.” Consider a lifetime of training, plus travel, plus wear and tear on equipment, plus the risk of a better-paying job coming along as soon as he/she schedules this one. If you think it’s outrageous, say “Thanks for sharing” and move on. Even if the artist doesn’t have a minimum fee, if the artist has to travel a long way, take that into account. But whether the artist lives next door or is your brother-in-law, consider compensating him/her for the effort. For a person who isn’t a family or friend, $200 for a solost, $100 for each additional person, is usually a good starting point for musicians who aren’t “established” yet, though some may need more. If the musician suggests a lower minimum, you’re under no obligation to guarantee more than that, however. If you’re not sure about making enough money to pay the musician’s fee, you could have a suggested donation ($10-20?), or call real attention to the tip jar and merch table, with the understanding that you’ll kick in something if the tip jar is low at the end of the night (unless it’s your brother-in-law and he still owes you for those Rams tickets).

Most people are a little apprehensive about hosting the first time, afraid people won’t come, afraid the musician will suck or be a jerk, afraid the jerky neighbor five doors down will take offense about something. Here’s something interesting, most people who host a show or two enjoy it so much they start looking at more opportunities to host. Conversely, many musicians are nervous the first time, but so many independent artists have become addicted to house concert tours that you could almost call it a “movement.” Maybe it is a movement. If nothing else, it’s a great way to support the arts, entertain the people you love, and enlarge your circle of friends.

And, yes, I do house concerts, in case you wondered.

Have a great day –

Paul

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