House concerts have been around forever in one form or another – from the East Coast kitchen parties to live band parties – but lately, they’ve become a way for artists to make good money and for fans to experience music and art up close and personal.
Having hosted and played many house concerts, I’ve become familiar with the good and the bad of both hosting and performing. In fact, two years ago I went on a house concert “tour” organized by Home Routes – an organization that sets up tours of house concerts for all sorts of artists.
On this tour, we saw the gamut. There were some shows that were rewarding, special, and financially lucrative experiences. There were also others where we kind of felt like we were just a replacement for a TV.
I’ve also recently become involved with an organization called Sofar Sounds – they set up secret house concerts in strange places and film them. It’s a great community, and I love the concept behind it.
Why House Concerts?
Artists love house concerts, because they have the opportunity to make “forever fans”. These are the kinds of loyal fans that will donate to your PledgeMusic campaign and buy your merch. House concerts are also really intimate and fun. On top of that, they generally pay pretty well.
Audience members love going to house concerts because they are intimate and private, you can bring your own booze, and it’s usually a fun community of friends putting it on.
Hosts love putting on house concerts because it’s a very fun and artistic way to host a house party, everybody is guaranteed to be in a good mood, and they get to have amazing artists right in their house. When done right, house concerts are amazing for everyone involved.
So here is my guide to putting on a great house concert. This is a valuable skill, because as a musician, at some point, you’ll probably find yourself helping out a friend in need and putting on a house concert for them . Or, maybe you just think they’re fun to organize! Here’s what you need to know to make your next concert a success.
Setting A Ticket Price Is Recommended
While in certain scenes (such as the punk scene or EDM scene), a donation-based approach is the norm, in most situations, a set ticket price is a good idea. Here’s why:
Musicians Get Paid Fairly
Even though it’s “just a house show“, there is still a lot of energy that goes into performing and then chatting with the audience afterwards. Musicians deserve to get paid for their work, and having a set ticket price means they know what they’re getting into and whether it’s worthwhile.
At house concerts, musicians are supposed to get paid fairly. They may even expect it, especially if they’ve played a few house concerts before.
A House Concert Is More Of A Concert Than A Party
If you’re in to hosting a true house concert, you need to do what you can to make it a truly concert-like experience. Having a ticket price encourages people to pay attention to the music and appreciate the fact that it’s so intimate and personal. People always value what they pay for more than what they don’t pay for.
Keep in mind that your goal is to create a “listening room” environment where people are there to listen and pay attention to the artist instead of causing a lot of raucous. House concert etiquette dictates that the audience is there to listen and appreciate the artist.
Tickets Can Be Used As RSVPs
House concerts with seven people are pretty awkward for everyone involved. You want to know how many people are coming and so does the artist. You should also offer tickets at the door, but selling tickets in advance makes it easier to know how many people are coming, and enables you to give the artist something of a guarantee.
You can take cash, eTransfers, or checks, whatever you want. Most house concert hosts will also have a bucket or a hat at the door to encourage anyone who hasn’t paid to pay up then and there.
Generally, ticket prices should be set between $10 and $20. More high-caliber artists may require the ticket price to be $20. That was the ticket price when I went on the Home Routes tour.
Set Up Concert Seating
In order to make sure everyone feels comfortable and to set the right tone for the concert, you need to set up some concert seating. Figure out where the artist is going to be setting up, and line up some seats in front of that area. This gives people direction and lets them know they are at a concert.
Of course, you probably won’t have enough seats for everyone – that’s totally fine! You really don’t need to have a seat for all in attendance. The point of the seating is to offer those who might need seats (older or disabled folks) a place to sit, and to set the expectations for the night.
House concerts are as casual as they are formal. Audience members often stand, sit on the floor, find some space on a couch, or just find a comfortable place from which to enjoy the concert, which is why you don’t need seating for everyone.
Say A Few Words Before The Show
I’m very much about setting up a vibe and an atmosphere before a house concert. My least favorite kinds of house concerts are ones where the band is playing, but they might as well not be. These are usually birthday parties and barbeques. For both the artist and audience’s sake, it’s better to set up a good, organized vibe.
It’s always nice for the host to say a few things before the concert starts. This way you can really set the tone for the occasion. Talk about the artist, talk about how lucky the audience is to get to experience their music this way, and mention the tickets and the artist’s merch. This will go a long way and help you build and maintain a strong relationship with the artist.
Introductions also have a way of lending more credibility to the artist.
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