You’ve heard about house concerts. Perhaps you’ve even considered playing one.
But you’re not entirely sure how they work or what you can do to get booked for one. You don’t know what to expect.
Fortunately, house concerts are typically set up to serve the artist, and the terms are almost always in favor of the performer, from compensation to accommodation.
But even if you know you’re going to be treated like royalty, it’s still nice to know what the host expects from the audience, and what guidelines are in place to create a rewarding experience for both you and the attendees.
So let’s take a look at how house concerts work.
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Where Do House Concerts Take Place?
As you can probably guess from the term itself, a house concert usually occurs inside a home. It might be in a living room, a basement, or even a backyard, depending on the host. Some hosts even have proper stage setups.
Some people like to host house concerts on a regular basis, because it gives them an opportunity to connect with artists they like and see them up close. Hosts with prior experience are the most knowledgeable when it comes to putting on a show of this kind.
Most artists end up playing to audiences of anywhere from 20 to 50 people, and for a house concert, this should be considered a success.
Who Hosts House Concerts?
You can find people who host house concerts by using directories like Living Room Shows. But most hosts won’t book you unless they know you and/or like your music, so while it’s nice to know that there are listings for hosts out there, booking in this way could be a shot in the dark. You need to make sure to present well if you’re planning an outreach campaign.
It is safe to say, however, that most if not all hosts are music fans. They love music. What this means is that all of your fans – particularly your most loyal fans – are perfect people to host house concerts. If they love you and your music, there’s a good chance they’d be willing to book you in their home. The only thing you need to do is provide them with the resources and tools (i.e. promo material) necessary to host a show properly.
In essence, even people that have never hosted house concerts are potential hosts for future shows. This means there are plenty of opportunities to tap into, especially if you have a large fan base.
How Much Do You Get Paid For A House Concert?
In most cases, there is a suggested donation of $10 to $20 per head, and all of the money goes to the artist.
So, for instance, if you’re playing to 30 people at $20 per person, that’s automatically $600 of takeaway revenue. Audiences are typically encouraged to bring additional money to purchase a CD, however, so merch sales can also boost your income.
In general, income levels are variable, but most independent artists tend to walk away with more income from a single house concert than multiple performances at bars and clubs. And for legal reasons, hosts are obligated to give you the money you earn, so there’s very little risk of being fired or not paid.
What’s Expected Of The Audience?
The audience is there to listen to the artist perform and to support and appreciate them. They’re not there to hoot and holler, chat up the opposite sex, or cause a raucous. Attendees are supposed to remain silent while the artist is sharing and performing. This creates a “listening room” environment.
And as I pointed out earlier, audience members are encouraged to offer a donation of $10 to $20, and to bring extra cash to purchase the artist’s CD or merchandise.
House concerts can take a few different formats, such as a potluck or a dinner. In an instance like that, audience members might bring something to drink and to eat with them (though alcoholic beverages are generally discouraged and kept to a minimum). In some cases, the host might choose to host a simple concert and nothing more (i.e. with no food).
What’s Expected Of The Artist?
The main responsibility of the artist is to show up, tell stories, engage with the audience, and give a great performance. If you aren’t good at what you do, you probably won’t be booked in the first place.
It’s the host’s job to book the date, prepare the room, and promote it to their neighbors, friends, family members, colleagues, and so forth. In most cases, you will not need to do much promotion on behalf of the host if any at all.
But you will need to work out what the host’s expectations are in terms of performance. For instance, how long do they want you to perform for (typically two sets worth)? Additionally, you’ll want to discuss gear. Most living rooms are not suited to 4×12 Marshall stacks and full drum kits. There’s a good chance you’ll need to bring acoustic equipment, but you might be able to get away with bringing small amps. This is also contingent on the availability of power outlets. Plus, there usually isn’t a PA system at house concerts (or the need for one).
As for accommodations and food, it largely depends on the host, and it’s an important point to discuss in advance. But most hosts are happy to provide these amenities to artists.
It’s one thing to play in bars and coffee shops, and sometimes these are really good gigs. But for artists who are great performers and storytellers, house concerts represent an exceptional opportunity. You don’t have to compete with random chatter or the clatter of an espresso machine, and this means people are better able to connect with you and your music. This makes it much easier to grow your email list and earn sales, so you walk away with solid revenue.
But house concerts aren’t for everyone, so think carefully about whether or not your act fits the format. If you have a polished set list, some interesting stories to share, and good stage presence, house concerts are for you. But if you have a big ego, if you require the host to check off 20 items in your rider to perform, if you’re shy or nervous about performing for attentive audiences, then you might want to consider other opportunities.