Better Gigs 101: The House Concert

House-concertsRecently I ran across an excellent guest post about house concerts by acoustic artist Fran Snyder on The DIY Musician. These gigs are so named because the artist performs in someone’s living room in front of anywhere between 10 to 50 friends and neighbors of the host and hostess. Such concerts are very intimate affairs: most venues enjoy excellent reputations for having good concerts, and it will usually be a packed house.

What Artists Can Expect

There are practically no downsides to performing at a house concert. You will not have to promote it. Admission (called a donation in house concert parlance) is usually between $10 and $20 per person, and you get to keep it all. You are also encouraged to bring CDs and other merchandise to sell. There’s almost always dinner or a potluck, and some guests may bring their own wine or beer (depending on the rules of the host). Most of the time you can count on spending the night with the host, as some venues may require a few hours travel. And best of all, you get the chance to introduce your music to a new fan base.

But before you get all excited and start visiting house concert websites to book shows, you need to realize a few things:

  • You are a guest in someone’s home.
  • House concerts rarely have any PA. A small system, like the Yamaha Stagepass , will be plenty.
  • Outlet locations may be in inconvenient places. Bring an extention cord.
  • You can’t be shy. Guests may sit very close to you, and they will expect to talk to you, sometimes between songs.
  • House concerts are for artists who are very, very good and know it. As in played-the-Bluebird-and-got-great-reviews-on-my-CDs know it.
  • Acoustic independent artists, solo or chamber classical musicians, or jazz acts are probably best suited for house concerts.

While house concerts usually don’t book acts with a large backline and Neil Peart-style drum kit, there are exceptions. I have played two such events as part of a 5-piece rock band, and both were incredible experiences.

Who Attends House Concerts?

House_Concert_023For the most part, house concerts take place in the homes of wealthy individuals who are interested in live, independent music and who enjoy impressing their friends with the scope and quality of the acts they bring in. Because of their interest and willingness to open their homes to independent acts, these individuals have become the new patrons of the arts. It follows, then, that the guests who attend will be middle-aged, and they will have money to buy CDs and other concert souvenirs. Some of them may even want to book you to perform in their homes later on.

Another reason house concerts are popular for this age bracket is that, while they used to run out and spend the weekends at the clubs, it’s too much of a hassle now. They can watch internet concerts on 60″ plasma flat screens  in a smoke-free environment and not have to worry about designated drivers or riff-raff. But they will get out to see you performing in their friend’s equally cozy house, where they can hang out with like-minded folks.

Ready For the Next Step?

18_century_house_concertIf you have an act that is good enough, consider planning your next tour around stops at some house concerts. The income potential from the donations and merchandise sales is usually far better that what you might get at a club, not to mention the fact that you’re playing a show you didn’t have to promote to a room full of people who are there just to hear your music and meet you. Add that to an established house concert word-of-mouth network, and it’s possible that you’d never want to play a bar again. Indeed, there are some acts that make a living touring the house concert circuit.

House Concert Resources

In addition to his own music career, Fran is also the founder of Concerts In Your Home, a global resource for those interested in playing at a house concert, and for those interested in hosting such concerts. His video and website links are the three resources listed below.

 Additional resources include the following:

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Image credits: Top photo – canadianmusicians.com; Middle photo – That Camera Guy; Bottom photo – crimeandtheforcesofevil.com

Updated July 29, 2013

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3 thoughts on “Better Gigs 101: The House Concert

  1. Reblogged this on Hear! Hear! and commented:
    As someone who has hosted one house concert, I can vouch for this being an amazing way to showcase great artists from the comfort of your home, while introducing them to your friends and family — giving bands exclusive access to a brand-new fan base. Of course the EXECUTION can be sometimes difficult to pull off. My attempt, while at Ball State, was to bring folk songwriter Danny Schmidt to my campus complex’s community center, to perform for a large audience of plugged-in listeners. Unfortunately, we had to schedule months in advance, and afterwards a campus carnival was scheduled which siphoned off most of the families I’d hoped would attend. Even though only a handful of locals attended, it was a great opportunity to hear his music up close and personal, and his willingness to go back to my place to watch a movie before we crashed for the night, and then hang out while I grilled burgers the next day (and he watched the NFL draft) only cemented my fanhood.

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