- Entertainment and Media
How to hold a house concert
Holding a house concert is a great way to get to know your neighbours!
Do you love live music? Did you know it's super easy to have your very own house concert with your living space as the venue?
It may seem like the new rage, and in fact it is becoming en vogue, but house concerts have actually been around for centuries!
Not only are house concerts a great way to build community and friendships, they are also a wonderful way to bring live music to people who may not get out to venues (ie: the elderly, disabled or kids not old enough to get into some music venus). Not to mention the fact that in difficult times, it's a great way to fund some amazing local artists who will be truly thankful!
It's a win, win, win situation, so what are you waiting for, let's get planning!
(Photo by The Zender Agenda, Creative Commons)
You don't need a huge house, a front yard will do.
OK, here is the obligatory embarrassing story to start you off right!
When I was a kid I use to love to plan stuff. My greatest achievement probably came around the age of 9, when I wrangled up all the neighbourhood kids and taught them a few gymnastic moves.
I then made up formal invitations and invited all the parents to come and watch this amazing gymnastic event. I may have served Koolaid, I can't recall, but it sounds probable.
So a day later I lined up every chair in the house on the front lawn and had my first bit of stage fright. I nervously waited for everyone to show up, which they did (thankfully I didn't notice the quite chuckles or I would have been mortified), and they all took their seats.
Next out rolled and summersaulted every kid I could get into a leotard. I seriously wish someone had taken some photos, I would have loved to have seen this, in my memory it is still spectacular, but I have a feeling it was just some kids doing summersaults on the front grass.
Anyway, the parents clapped and quickly left, it was a success in my eyes and the moral of this story is: I have loads of planning experience and am highly qualified to write this post and you certainly do not need a mansion with a formal conservatory, even a front yard will do!
The 'how to' part I
So I've already mentioned that you don't need a huge space, and it's true. If you can fit 15 or 20 people, and maybe up to 30 you can have a great event!
You can use your backyard, living room, dining area, garden or gazebo. If you don't have enough chairs, as neighbours to bring their own, but try not to rent. The goal here is to raise enough funds to cover your costs and give the artists a nice payday!
So here are some preliminary steps, you can modify as you need.
1) Find an artist you are interested in and contact them or their management to check their availability. You will be surprised at some of the more well known artists who are performing house concerts these days, so don't be afraid to ask some of your musical heroes! A house concert is generally suited to a band of up to 5 people, and is usually acoustic in nature. (If you are wanting to hire a band to play loud music outside, that is for another post!)
2) Try to choose a date which works for everybody. For example, don't choose a summer long weekend when lots of your neighbours may be away.
3) Figure out how much to charge. For a house concert I have heard between 10-25$ per person is a good price, for a local intimate evening with wine and nibbles. It also depends on if your artist has a set fee, the bigger and more well known the artist the higher the fee.
4) Try to invite using word of mouth or posters/notices at your library, church, hand delivered or wherever postering is allowed in your area.
5) If you are going to serve alcohol, keep it to red or white wine, beer and one or two club drinks, for example gin and tonic or screwdrivers, something that is easy to mix as you don't want to be playing bartender all night! Lots of houses just serve tea and coffee, so it is totally up to you. Keeping expenses low is great as I mentioned, you can even do the baking yourself, or ask neighbours to bring a few things.
6) Set up with your artist or their management what their 'backline' needs are. "Backline' means microphones, amps etc. Most artists will bring their own small PA system. If they are travelling in front out of town though, you may need to go to your local music store to rent something. If this is the case, ensure you know exactly what you need as you don't want to be scrambling at the last minute. These types of rentals are generally by the day or weekend, and prices for a small system are very low.
I love fairy lights!
We use them in the recording studio year round, and have them around the windows and always on the microphone stand!
The more special you can make your home, the more special your night will be; it is the small touches that make all the difference!
There are a growing a number of companies that make it easy for you! - They can provide artists for you and they provide the artists with venue choices!
If this is something you may be interested in doing long term, you may want to have yourself listed in an artist's directory to make it easier for touring artists to find you!
- A great and funny website about how to put on the perfect house concert!
There is loads of information on this site, it is a must read before you begin!
- These folks provide artists and venue listings!
- This Canadian site has lots of different information
I think house concerts are really big up here in Canada, so many artist travel the country just doing house concerts, or they use them to supplement their touring income.
Some info and an actual house concert performance!
I love to pull out my cookery books for nights like these
I know I don't have to make fancy food, but it sure feels good to see your guest's smiles!
A beautiful tea pot can be the centrepiece of your table!
The food part
As I mentioned, you can either serve snacks that you make yourself, purchase or have the guests bring in as 'pot luck'.
Depending on how many people will be attending (plus the number of people in the artist group or band), you can have just a few things to nibble or do anything form a formal sit down pre concert meal to a more casual buffet.
Whichever you choose, ensure the eating is done prior to the performance. If nothing else, the artist will appreciate a quite calm atmosphere with little or no distraction.
Food ideas include:
~ Cakes and cookies, especially if you are serving teas and coffee.
~ Savouries like cheese, crackers and chocolate, especially if you are serving wine.
Or how about this?
Why not invite a new, specialty or local baker to your event? They may provide treats at a discount in exchange for some advertising!
The 'how to' part II
7) To set up your event you will need to know how long the artist will perform for. We have had artists do two 'sets' of 8-10 songs each, with a break in between for selling their cds and chatting. You can also have a meet and greet before or after, the artist may have a preference so be sure to ask them. Ensure they have a small table where they can set out their merchandise.
8) Once you have your artist and guests confirmed you are halfway there! It is not a huge chore setting up on the day, just make sure your walkways and hallways are clear and house house is tidy.
You can make atmosphere by stringing christmas or fairy lights around, lighting some candles etc.
9) Once everybody has arrived, get everybody seated and say a few words about your artist, where and when people can purchase their music and where and when one or two of their next shows are.
At this point you can also thank everyone for coming and highlight anybody else's work ie: if someone provided the baked goods or donated wine etc. Let people know how the night will work and then introduce the artists. Note here, not all artist are 'front' people, meaning some are very shy and will not talk much, so please don't leave it to your artist to make the introductions.
10) At the end of the event, when the artist is preparing to leave, if you have not made arrangements with the management please pay the artist cash in an envelope. They can write you a receipt if required. If you have to pay by cheque always ask the artist prior to the event if they will accept a cheque, most artists prefer cash, as it's safer for them.
EXTRAS ~ Let the artist know in advance if you have pets, as they could be allergic. Also, if the artists are coming in from out of town, and it is just one or two and you have the room, do indeed offer it to them if you are comfortable to do that, else you could recommend a local hotel, motel or B&B. This advice will be greatly appreciated!
A Great Idea!
Why not find some local painters, artists or woodworkers and display their art for sale at your concerts? It's a great way for the neighbourhood to connect to all kinds of people!
A note about serving alcohol
Please ensure that your guests do not drink and drive! One or two glasses of alcohol per guest is usually fine, you can serve coffees and teas later on.
Want to take it to the next level - If you have a laptop or webcam, you can get even more creative!
There are also many web-based venues where you can also sell tickets on-line and'stream' your concerts. Many artists are earning income this way and it may be a nice addition to your night, so your artist can also invite their online fans to participate!
Click the photo to head over to StageIt where you can learn more about this option!
(Photo courtesy Fred First on Flickr, Creative Commons)
A thank you for the artist
Have your guests write comments to the artists. The artists will be so appreciative of the feedback!
You could include snapshots or other memories and send it to them. And why not keep one for yourself? Have it near the front door where people can sign as they leave or arrive, it makes a nice keepsake of these special events!
It's all about community
I love the renewed interest in house concerts. Not only is it a fantastic way for artists to gain new audiences and supplement their income, you can build your community by becoming a house concert host.
House concerts are a great idea any time of the year too, how about a Christmas concert? Or a special Birthday or Anniversary get together? They are also a great way to fundraise or welcome a new family to the neighbourhood.
The book is just being written on this subject and the sky is the limit, start something big in your own home, you never know, you may be hosting the next Sting or Sarah McLachlan!