TIPS FOR HOUSE CONCERT HOSTS
House concerts have become a major phenomenon in folk and other acoustic music. Fans can enjoy their favorite performers in the comfort and conviviality of a friend’s home instead of a club or concert hall. Performers can escape the difficulties of commercial bookings and instead offer intimate performances to audiences sometimes as large they would draw in public venues. And hosts find the experience of hosting the musicians and their performances gratifying; lasting friendships are often forged.
One of the ways AAFFM promotes folk music is to nurture house concerts. Here are some tips for making your experience hosting house concerts a success:
- Space. In this case, a room big enough for one performer and probably two dozen listeners at most.
- Seating. You need enough folding chairs to accommodate what you think the maximum turnout will be.
- Refreshments. House concert hosts typically spring for this (snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, water, coffee with accoutrements). Let patrons bring their own alcohol if you’re okay with having it. Most house concerts allow beer and wine.
- Hospitality personnel. Someone to greet and take admission money. Consider if you want to accept only cash, or whom checks should be made out to. Someone else being convivial at the refreshments station. That person or possibly a third person to orchestrate the event (tell folks when to take their seats, when intermission is and how long, introduce the performer(s), talk about “product” (CDs or other merchandise). For product ask performers if they want to accept only cash, whom checks should be made out to, if they need someone to handle sales.
- Publicity. AAFFM can help. Provide us a website or Facebook link we can include in the list we send out monthly. And talk it up among people you know. It’s safer to not publish your address. Describe it as a private home in whatever community you’re in, and give an email address and phone number.
- Reservations. You may want to set deadline is usually the day before, so you may know how to plan regarding refreshments and chairs. Some hosts encourage folks to send in their admission money ahead of the show. This makes them more committed to coming, and if they don’t come after they’ve paid, the performer isn’t out that money. When folks call or email, they receive the host’s address, not only for the show but also so they may send their admission money.
But Deedee Real, director of the highly successful Whistlepig Productions house concert series, does not take admission in advance. “I would rather not have to mess with the performer’s earnings more than is absolutely necessary, and I feel it discourages those who call or email at the last minute. I would also rather not have to argue with those who might demand a refund after the fact. And I feel folks might be put off by requirements that they pay ahead of time. I have never had a deadline for making reservations, and I often get people reserving seats at the last minute.” Furthermore, Deedee advises, when you collect admission in advance, you technically become a business. That could lead to zoning, music licensing and other legal complications. “We always ask for a ‘suggested donation.’ If you call it a donation at the door, then basically you can say you’re just throwing a party!”
- Lodging (and breakfast). Concert hosts frequently provide it in-home (and that’s often one of the fun aspects of hosting).
- Sound reinforcement. Usually no sound system should be needed. Most house concerts are intimate and don’t require sound reinforcement.