How long should house concerts be?

I’ve noticed a lot of variety in the past 12 years, and learned a lot about what makes house concerts an enjoyable experience. I’m ready to promote a new slightly-tweaked standard for our listening room community. Artists and hosts are free to vary from this standard, but this is what we will promote going forward. Whatever format or set-structure you choose for your concerts, you should communicate that to your hosts/artists in your profile.

For a long time, the de-facto standard for house concerts has been two sets, of roughly 40-50 minutes in length. Whether the concert is one set or two, I am advocating for a shorter amount of time.

Here’s why.

Most people have trouble sitting still and concentrating for more than 30-40 minutes. Like it or not, technology and pop-culture have whittled away at our attention spans. In addition, house concert seats are rarely comfortable for a long length of time. When it comes to the end of a second long set, I think most encores are half-hearted.

The old saying of “leave them wanting more” applies here. Why not play shorter sets of your absolute best material and make people eager to hear more? Why not build to an enthusiastic encore every night?

It’s also becoming more common for artists to choose to play one longer set instead of having set breaks. The arguments for this are logical, especially if you previously played two long sets.

  • Some people leave during the break.
  • The break stops the momentum you have built, and it’s often hard to recapture the vibe you worked to achieve in the first set.
  • It makes for a longer night.

The advantages of two sets with a break include:

  • more sales during the break (two sales opportunities can make the lines shorter)
  • allowing people to stretch and re-fill, re-snack
  • the opportunity for two distinct acts (first act new stuff, second act previous hits/requests, a la James Lee Stanley)

Going forward, we will be promoting 70 minute formats for house concerts, whether you choose to play one set or two. For one-setters, it’s almost unkind to ask people to sit for more than 70 minutes – unless they ask you for more.

For two-set shows, we are recommending 40 minutes, then 30. The shorter second set leaves people primed for an enthusiastic encore, and it allows you to choose whether to play 1,2,3 or even 4 more songs if the energy is sustained. I would even suggest doing encores in pairs of songs. Play 2 and see if you get a second encore once in a while… that’s when you know your are having peak experience concerts.

We understand that not everyone will agree with or endorse this standard. It’s simply what we will promote.

TenTen Concerts

As a reminder, we developed the format of TenTen Concerts years ago to inspire short performances on weeknights – to make things easy for the host, for the audience, and for the artist. This format is unchanged – Ten Songs for Ten or more guests. Ten songs is roughly 45 minutes for most artists, and encores are a likely and welcome treat here as well. The suggested donation is reduced to (U.S.) $10-20 instead of $15-20.

More on TenTen here.

 

 

 

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Restaurants as Listening Rooms… possibility vs odds

We often get requests from restaurants and cafes who want to be part of what we do, by hosting concerts at their venue. Most often, they haven’t thought it through… they just have a notion that live music might be fun and could enhance their business.

The unique thing about our concerts is the “listening atmosphere.” We like to make a clear distinction that our concerts are not “background music,” so we expect the audience to behave like they would at a movie theater or Broadway musical. We want everyone seated, paying attention. The venue also has to support the performance – limiting or eliminating noises like espresso machines, clinking ice, chatting at the register, etc. Historically, that has been tough to achieve in restaurants, but there are a few that pull it off.
The key is that everyone in the space should be there for the show. If someone walks in for dinner and is not interested in the show, they might start talking and distracting from everyone else.
Small spaces are totally fine. If you’d like to create a “concert night” that would take place at a time where it wouldn’t interfere with your normal business flow, we’d be happy to support that.
Listening Room Network is a fiscally sponsored organization, and we accept donations that help us create meaningful and enjoyable music events around the world. We welcome your support.