So you’re ready to start working on your house concert–great! Here are some tips to help you get started.
Choosing The Date
You will want to start planning your house concert at least two months in advance. There’s nothing wrong with booking farther ahead–many people sponsor several concerts a year in their homes and will book dates as much as a year ahead of time. It’s best to have a few dates to choose from (see the next step).
Days & times
Saturday nights are usually best for house concerts because you don’t have to contend with rush hour traffic or folks having to go to work the next morning. However, there’s no reason that a house concert can’t be held on any evening you wish. Just be aware of things that might lower attendance or make it hard for people to come too early in the evening.
Remember that this is a concert, not a party. You are booking a musician to entertain people on a stage, even if that stage is a corner of your living room. Your schedule should be built around the performance.
Doing The Business
You will be collecting money from your audience members and giving it to the performer(s). It’s a good idea to figure out some procedures beforehand, and to get certain things in writing.
A formal contract usually isn’t necessary, but it’s a good idea to have some kind of written agreement with the performer so they know how they are going to get paid and you know what you’re going to get for your money. Some performers have a standard contract they send out, some don’t. Click here to see a sample contract
How will you be collecting money at your concert? Will you be selling tickets beforehand? Collecting a “cover charge” when your guests arrive? Passing the hat during the show? Putting out a jar? A combination of these? You will need to know how much you’re going to charge and how you’re collecting it before you can send out invitations. While you don’t want to make collecting money the focus of the evening, you do want to be sure that you do the right things to collect as much as you can in support of the performer.
How much to charge
This is always a tough one. You need to look at how many people your house can hold and what expenses, if any, you need to cover with admission charges. Normally, all the money that’s collected goes to the artist. In some cases, hosts may elect to hold out a little to cover things like the cost of postage. But no matter how you slice the pie, you’ve got to have enough to go around.
A range of $10-20 per person is usually a good place to work from. Some folks use a sliding scale, some set a specific price. Considering what you’re offering your audience and the cost of most shows, even $20-25 per person is a really good deal.
Unless you’re hosting a huge event, the personal liability in your homeowner’s insurance is probably sufficient. However, it’s best to check with your insurance agent BEFORE you book a performer. Additional insurance isn’t hard to get, but it may be too expensive for your plans.
In most places you do not need a permit to host a house concert. It’s a private event taking place in your home. However, some cities have regulations about events where admission is being charged. Learn about your local regulations so that you can have an informed conversation with the perfomer during the booking process. In most cases, there are ways to structure the collection process to avoid needing a permit.
Booking The Artist
Once you have some dates in mind, it’s time to contact the artist and book the show. Since performing artists want to perform as much as possible, they usually try to keep a full schedule–this is why you’ll want to have more than one possible date. When you contact an artist, be sure to send the following information:
- The date(s) you have available
- Your location
- Expected audience
- A little about your space (indoors, outdoors, how large, etc.)
Once we’ve made contact, I will work with you to finalize the details. My job is to make your event a success, your job is to provide the place and the people.
Food & Drink
What you serve, if anything, is entirely up to you. House concerts can include everything from munchies & tap water to sit-down meals and fine wine, and everything in between. Think carefully about what kind of experience you want your guests to have. Here are a few things to think about.
What & when to serve
It’s best not to feed everyone a big meal before the show, because they’ll all be sleepy. Appetizers or munchies are great for pre-show or intermission, and if you want to do a late supper or just dessert & coffee after the show, that’s great too. Think about what time your event begins & ends, and plan your offerings accordingly. Also think about who is supplying food & beverages. Is it a potluck? Should everyone bring one bag of munchies? What beverages will you be serving? All of this needs to go in your RSVP email or letter.
A word about alcohol
Be very mindful about serving alcohol. A glass of wine and some great music can be an awesome combination, just be careful and watchful. Most people drink responsibly but some don’t, and it only takes one loud drunk to ruin your perfect evening. Remember too that if your concert is for all ages, you should probably skip alcohol altogether–it’s just easier. If you’re going to serve alcohol, you need to be the one in control. Don’t allow folks to bring their own. Limit the times when it is being served and make sure that food is available at those times.
Inviting The Guests
Plan to send our invitations 2 to 3 weeks before your event. Earlier than that and people may forget about it, later than that and they will probably have other plans. Since your space is limited, you will want to encourage folks to RSVP to reserve a space. Services like Meetup offer tools to help with this, but you can also manage RSVPs yourself.
Get organized, stay organized
Keep track of your guest list and be sure to respond to RSVPs so that folks know they are expected and you know how many spaces you have left. Here’s a sample RSVP reply email. Keep in mind that only 20-25% of folks you invite will show up, so don’t be shy about your invitations. Send them to anyone you even think might be remotely interested in attending.
Tell them about your space
Do you need folks to bring chairs or pillows to sit on? Will you be having a potluck? Do you have pets or stairs in your house? What is your policy on smoking? Be sure to include this information in your invitation or RSVP email. I found this great phrase in another online guide: “If you’re allergic to cats you might want to ingest antihistamines or leave your nose at home.”
A word about pets
While most animals enjoy music, it’s very stressful for them to have a bunch of strangers entering their territory so it’s a good idea to keep them in another room or send them to a friend’s house. Animals who may be having issues with strangers may “act out” and be distracting or otherwise keep your event from being less than a total success. Also no matter how tidy your pet is or how much you clean, people with allergies will have issues so be sure to mention that you have pets.
I ask that there be no smoking during performances. Other than that, it’s your house and you decide where folks can smoke and when.
How you invite folks is up to you. You should always use some form of written communication, so that people will have the details in front of them when they are ready to make plans. You can use email, written invitations, or a combination of both. Click here to see a sample invitation email
Help! I’m getting too many RSVPs for my house! What do I do?
Don’t worry. There are ways to cope with this. Contact me to see what options may be available. Maybe we add a second night, or I might be able to move the show to a larger venue. This is a good problem to have and we’ll work together to solve it.
Setting The Stage
When you set up your room, remember that the music should be the focus of the evening. Decide where your “stage” area will be and arrange your chairs accordingly. The size of the stage area will depend on how many instruments I am bringing, which we will decide during the booking process.
Think about how you will use the available lighting in your room. I don’t need to see the audience or my instruments, but the audience will want to watch me play so be sure that there’s enough lighting for them to see well. Think about how lighting is done at a formal concert–you don’t need any special effects or fog machines, but the lighting focuses the audience’s attention on the performance.
Be sure to allow unobstructed access to at least one exit (preferably two), and to the restroom. If your seating area is small, you may have to help herd your audience into chairs in an organized manner so they don’t end up crawling over one another to take their seats. There should also be a place for selling CDs and allowing folks to sign up for my mailing list–and for yours too, if you plan to host more concerts.
It’s best to keep the audience all in one room as much as possible. If people don’t feel like they’re a part of the action, they are much more likely to begin talking or doing other distracting things. And please ask everyone to turn off their various gadgets prior to the show. That means off, not in silent mode. I am happy to do a song or two for those who want to gloat about where they are to their online friends, but I feel that each performance is between me and the audience in the room with me.
Create the mood
Don’t just put some chairs in a room, create a special world and invite your audience into it. Be as creative as you like, but remember to keep the focus on the music.
I’m The Performer, But You’re The MC
This is your show, I’m just the talent. It’s up to you to greet people as they come in, make sure their needs are tended to, and act as MC for the show. The MC job isn’t all that difficult, but it’s important. You will need to welcome everyone, introduce me, and handle the collecting of money during the show if that’s something you’ve decided to do. If you’re going to pass the hat, it should happen about two-thirds of the way through each set. You should also encourage the audience to purchase CDs and sign up for mailing lists. Also if you are hosting future events, let the audience know about those so they can plan to attend–and be ready with a sign-up sheet for early RSVPs!
I will make every effort to be ready to start exactly on time, but it’s up to you when the show begins. Starting on time will help keep the audience’s attention from drifting and that makes them much nicer to play for. If there is an intermission, starting the second set on time is just as important.
If you have more questions or are ready to book a date, please contact me. I’m here to help!