Frequently Asked Questions about Hosting a House Concert
So WHAT is a house concert?
- concert: attendees come to listen to performer, give a donation and buy cds
- held at a private venue (public can’t “drop in”)
- NOT a business; it is illegal in most states/counties to operate a music club or sell alcohol out of a private home.
- NOT a house party (people socializing or dancing with music in background—that’s a different kind of music event)
How do house concerts differ from other music venues?
- small, intimate; everyone sits quietly and listens
- chance to meet musician, more personal experience than club (artists usually chat with attendees during the break and afterwards)
- attendees often initially attend because of the host/friends who are going (as opposed to planning a night at a club where they go because of the artist and don’t expect to know anyone)
- but once the evening begins, it is a chance to hear music and meet an artist attendees would not have found on their own
Do hosts guarantee artists a certain income?
Not usually. I only know of a couple of circumstances in which house concert hosts have guaranteed a minimum payment to artists (bands/big name artists). I never guarantee a minimum income to the artist when I host. (But I do work very hard to get as many people there as I can—and push cd sales. With the rise of streaming services, playing gigs are artists’ best source of income. The artists will not come back if they lose money playing at my house concert.)
When do attendees pay (advance or at the door)?
It can be difficult to persuade people to pay in advance (unless they think the event will sell out) so it has to be easy (paypal, venmo, etc. offer easy one-click kinds of payments). Though some people may still prefer to mail a check. You’ll want to keep track of who has paid in advance and who you need to collect from at the door (and if payments are made to you then you will need to write the artist a check at the end of the night).
HOW are house concerts advertised?
- artist promotes event through newsletters, website and social media
- artist provides promotional material to host in preferred formats (for email, social media, facebook events, etc.) as well as links to professional videos (a must for an unknown artist)
- hosts use their personal networks and email lists to advertise event
- if advertised publicly, do NOT list the event location: use an email or phone # for people to find out details about where and when and how to reserve a seat
- often an “old school” face to face invitation (or text or phone call) is the best way to generate interest in attending, but try to get a written confirmation (either via a check or email) to confirm a verbal response
What about food?
- often potluck (people bring food and drink to share
- if hosts provide food, they can charge more (I’ve charged $30-$50 for wine, food, and concert) and then funnel more money to the artist through my food donation).
What about alcohol?
This decision is up to the hosts’ comfort level/budget. Generally people do enjoy having alcohol (either served or byob).
How do people RSVP?
Usually the host handles RSVPs because they know the attendees and can best judge from response rate if they should expand the invitation list or warn attendees that seats are becoming scarce. If you post or share a Facebook event, make sure people understand that marking “interested” or “going” on Facebook does not constitute an rsvp. They must send you a check or an email to confirm a seat.
When do attendees pay (advance or at the door)?
It can be difficult to persuade people to pay in advance (unless they think the event will sell out) so it has to be easy (paypal, venmo, etc. offer easy one-click kinds of payments). Though some people may still prefer to mail a check. You’ll want to keep track of who has paid in advance and who you need to collect from at the door (and if payments are made to you then you will need to write the artist a check at the end of the night)
How do hosts track responses?
As people respond, cut and paste their emails into a document. Also note their actual names (often can’t tell from email), number of attendees and if they paid in advance (and how much). This document will be helpful before (track responses), during (collect money) and after (to give the artist emails from the event—often I will write folks to thank them and share pictures or video of the evening; my newsletter contains an unsubscribe link for those who don’t want to be contacted in the future).
How much do tickets cost?
It varies widely depending on food/wine served, type of event, etc. but generally $10-15 per person. You can say “suggested donations” if you prefer. Either way make it clear that all proceeds go to the artist/s. The host can’t use the event to make money as this would potentially conflict with zoning laws about music clubs and venues. I have sometimes reimbursed hosts for expenses they incurred or donated part of the proceeds to charities. But it is best from a legal perspective and my own bookkeeping if all the proceeds first go to me and then I write a personal check as a donation.
Does the host need to have a big room?
You’d be surprised how many people can pack into a small space, but you do want to make sure that everyone can see and is comfortable. My home does not have big rooms at all. Most of the house concerts I have attended and performed for have been in modest homes. The only logistical problem with small spaces is providing enough circulation space for before and after the concert for people to mill around. So sometimes moving furniture temporarily out of the room can be helpful.
What about chairs?
- Any assortment of couches/chairs, etc. will work. Folding chairs are most efficient (though not as comfortable). You can ask people to bring their own or borrow some folding chairs from a church/friend/venue to have on hand just in case
- It can also be helpful to ask a good friend or two to sit on the front row—those seats are often left empty and no one who arrives late will walk to the front to sit in them
- Some people are always most comfortable standing (in most cases just by the door in case they want to/need to make a quick exit…
How many people generally attend?
It depends on the space and the artist’s needs. When I host I try to get at least 15 people to attend (and have had as many as 35-50). I try to overbook as there are always “no shows”—even if tickets are prepaid.
Does the host need to provide a sound system?
Even in small spaces it can be nice to have the “presence” that a sound system provides, but it is not necessary. When I travel locally, I bring my own sound system, but I do not bring a system on an airplane. If you have a musician friend who has a system they would loan (and or—bless them—they wouldn’t mind setting up and running for the evening) by all means try to work it out.
What is the length of the performance/evening?
If a meal is going to be served (or people bringing), it’s good to plan for an hour between the time you tell people to get there and the time the artist starts playing. Artists often perform two 30-45 minute sets with an intermission (traditional audience expectation, but also because that is when most people buy cds). I am open to hosts’ preferences as to length of evening (and what else might be planned). Audiences sometimes enjoy one longer set (@45-50 minutes) with time to socialize (and buy cds!) afterwards.
What kinds of artists perform at house concerts?
Everyone: from really big names to independent artists like me
Why do artists like house concerts?
- attentive audience
- reach new fans
- often free place to stay, sometimes a meal,
- income from house concert is often more than a club will provide/promise
What do hosts get out of hosting a house concert?
- get to know professional musicians personally (several long-term friendships have arisen with folks I have hosted)
- develop deeper relationships with current friends
- widen network of friends through common interests (I’ve formed many new friendships through the folks who have attended my house concerts)