Some of the best live music experiences these days can be found right in people's homes, thanks to the grassroots phenomenon of house concerts.
If you haven't been to a house concert before, it's simply an up-close-and-personal performance—live in the living room or den or backyard or wherever—for an audience of friends and neighbors. There is a suggested donation for the performer, and often people bring drinks and food to share.
As a lifelong acoustic musician, I love having the chance to play music in such an intimate setting with minimal or no amplification, and I’ve also had wonderful experiences hosting house concerts with some of my favorite songwriters (in the photo above, I'm introducing the Young Novelists in my living room).
Interested in hosting a concert in your home? It’s easy and fun, and I can help. Here are the basics.
All you need is a space big enough to seat 15 to 30 people or more. You’d be surprised how many people fit comfortably in an average living room when you move a few tables and bring in chairs. In most situations, I prefer using no sound equipment—it's a revelation for many people to experience truly unplugged music, without the barriers of mic stands and speakers. If you or the performer do want to use sound equipment, keep it as simple and unobtrusive as possible. I have a compact system that works great for a touch of amplification.
Invite your friends and neighbors, and encourage them to spread the word to their friends too. In hosting house concerts, I’ve found that people come not because they necessarily know the performer but because hearing live music in this kind of down-home environment is such a special experience.
Typically the performer lists and promotes the concert using only the date, the city, and the host's email address for inquiries. When you confirm a reservation, you supply the street address and other details. If you'd prefer to limit the guest list to your friends, that's fine. This is a private event, and you decide who to invite.
Send your invitations a month or so before the concert, and ask people to reserve seats. You can use email or a site like Evite that automatically tracks RSVPs. You will probably need to send a few reminders in the weeks leading up to the show. Creating a Facebook event and inviting friends that way is also helpful, but I recommend using email as well. In my experience, email reservations are far more reliable than Facebook RSVPs as an indicator of who will actually come to an event.
A few tips for invitations:
- Stress that space is limited and reservations are required.
- Describe (briefly) what a house concert is and how it works, including the suggested donation, for the uninitiated.
- Share your own enthusiasm for the music—that's the best way to draw an audience!
- Include YouTube and website links where people can sample the music and learn more.
- Even if people make firm reservations, assume that a few will back out at the last minute because of illness, weather, etc. If your reservations hit capacity, keep a waiting list or even overbook a bit so seats don't go empty.
Instead of tickets, there’s a suggested donation (typically $10 to $20) for the performer. You can put a donation basket in a location where people will see it as they enter or leave, and/or pass the basket when everyone is seated. Be sure to remind people about the donation at the beginning of the concert or at intermission.
A typical concert is two 45-minute sets with a 20- to 30-minute intermission. It's nice to have some socializing time beforehand too, so you might tell people the show is (for instance) doors at 7 or 7:30, music at 8.
Find a good spot for laying out CDs and other merchandise, where there's room for people to congregate and chat.
Food and drink
If you like, you can offer some drinks and snacks and/or invite people to bring something to share. Some house concerts even include a pot-luck meal.
For any artist on tour, a room for the night and a home-cooked meal is greatly appreciated.