How to Host a House Concert & FAQs
If you've already decided you're ready to host, click here for a shorter Step-by-Step!
House Concerts are my favorite kind of performance, both as an artist and as an audience member. They can vary based on the host and space, so these are not hard-and-fast rules — just a general idea.
House concerts usually:
- feature solo musicians or small groups
- are invitation-only
- average 25-50 guests
- are either completely acoustic or use a very small PA
- are two sets of music (2x40ish, with a nice break in between for CDs and wine-glass re-filling and sometimes cookies)
- feature a “suggested donation” by each attendee, generally between $10-20/person, which goes directly to the musician. ("suggested donation" is the wording, so you don't get in trouble with local ordinances, as you are not technically running a venue. But it's not cool for people to come and pay nothing -- the suggested donation is what they should pay)
- include some snacks, but are most often potluck.
- are most often BYOB
Main requirements from the host:
- a space to host it
- guests to invite
- Your living room is generally the best location. Move out large furniture and bring in every chair in the house — or clear out all furniture and encourage people to cozy up on the floor.
- Outside/your deck is another great choice, but be sure to have a rain plan.
Invitation says, “Doors at 7, music at 8.”
7:00 Guests begin to arrive. Mingle with host and artist. Cocktails and snacks are consumed — potluck events are nice, but some hosts like to provide their own munchies.
8:00 Host announces that the concert will begin soon, and people should find their way to the living room and make themselves comfortable.
8:10-8:50 First set of music
8:50-9:20 Break — Host makes announcement that they are about to PASS THE DONATION BUCKET! and maybe have dessert!
9:20-10:00 Second set of music
10:00-10:30 Everyone hangs out, artists sells some CDs, jolly good time had by all.
10:30-11:00 people trickle out and go home.
What’s in it for the guests?
A better experience than a traditional venue where you pay a cover charge, buy the pub’s overpriced beer, and watch a musician up on a big stage with bright lights. House concerts are unique. You’ll hear stories and be able to interact with the artist in ways you couldn’t at a venue. You’ll be able to request songs, ask questions about songs, and get up close and personal with the artists.
How to get your guests to attend
Since most hosts don’t want a bunch of strangers from the musician’s mailing list in their homes, it’s up to the host to invite people. Word of mouth is everything.
Most people create a Facebook event, sharing music and videos to entice their friends. Get excited about the event, and let your friends know how fun, intimate and Instagram-worthy it will be.
Most people have never been to a house concert, so share with them what to expect and how much you have enjoyed previous house concerts. The idea of interacting with a professional musician on a personal level — from shouting song requests to potentially jamming with them after — is intriguing. And, yes, I have given many a musical saw lesson after a house concert, and occasionally have even led a showtune singalong on a host’s piano long after the party was supposed to have ended.
Keep track of RSVPs, and stay on people who have committed. There is generally a day-of cancellation rate of 20-30%, so you can do what airlines do and overbook — or at least send out more invitations if you are worried about turnout.
How does the artist get paid?
Make clear on your invitation that there is a donation at the door that goes entirely to the musicians. It is usually in the $10-20/person range, and wording it as a “suggested donation of $20 per person” gets the point across. Money conversations can be awkward, so be as straightforward as possible, letting guests know this isn’t a party where you hired entertainment, but a ‘house concert’ where the artist gets paid from "donations."
You can collect the donation up front at the door, or send around a hat at the break. Sometimes people get their kids to approach everyone for money. Sliding scales are always an option.
Here's a more in-depth blog post about making sure your guests understand how the artist is getting paid and sample wording. Money talks can be so awkward, so make sure your artist is taken care of!
Thank you for even considering hosting a house concert! Even if you don’t host one yourself, I encourage you to attend one should you be lucky enough to receive an invite. There is something magical about these events — opportunities to interact with artists, hear stories from the road, brand new songs, half-written songs, stories behind songs, etc.
FOR MORE INFO on hosting a concert in your home, check out ConcertsInYourHome: