For Immediate Release
A house concert workshop has been scheduled for April 22nd, as part of the Listening Room Festival.
The workshop is led by Fran Snyder, the founder of ConcertsInYourHome.com – the leading resource for house concerts around the world. Anyone interested in hosting house concerts is welcome to attend.
House concerts are an old tradition that has become vital to the careers of independent touring artists. With the shifting sands of technology and the music business, artists have found that the live experience is not easily duplicated (cheapened) and the intimacy of playing in close, homey quarters provides todays best opportunity to sell CDs and merchandise as well.
ConcertsInYourHome educates and inspires music fans to put on concerts in their living rooms, backyards, and other interesting locations. Some of these music fans make house concerts their hobby of choice, hosting 6-12 concerts per year for friends and invited guests.
The workshop takes place during the 6th annual Listening Room Festival – a gathering attended by house concert hosts and fans from around the world. Attendees have 20 house concerts to choose from over 5 days, and the main event is a showcase at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg, featuring all 6 festival acts.
Workshop will include Q&A session and handouts for attendees. Topics will include building an audience, collaborating with other hosts, suggested donations, common mistakes, and some breakthrough ideas.
LRFest Meeting and House Concert Workshop.
Saturday, April 22
Staybridge Suites (meeting room)
940 5th Ave S
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
10am – 11am – breakfast and meet/greet
11am – Festival feedback
11:30am – HC workshop, Q&A based on your advance questions
1pm – wrap-up
The workshop is free for those who register in advance at this link. ($5 at the door if not registered.)
Performers are public figures, so their websites and email lists are for public promotion. If your concert is listed on their website, it can be considered a public event. [We’ve seen a house concert shut down by local government for this. Officials claimed it was a public event because it was listed on the artist’s website, with the host’s email address. Many artists/agents are unaware of this and they will list your info on their website unless you tell them not to.]
Hosts find it tempting to encourage artists help fill seats. Artists are often happy to help (if they can) by emailing their fans in the area, because that can create a bigger show and increase donations. The challenge is they don’t personally know most people on their list, and inviting unknown fans to your home poses TWO types of risks – 1. making your event public, and 2. having un-vetted strangers in your home.
It’s important to take a sober look at the risks you take when you have any gathering in your home. People can damage items, steal, or even fall and hurt themselves. These problems are rare and could even be trivial. But there is always a chance it could be serious. That’s why we advocate for the safest practices, and encourage you to personally connect (online, by phone, or even in person) with people before you invite them in your home.
Can performers help at all?
Here’s what we recommend:
If the artist wants to list your house concert on their website, tell them to list it like this:
Notice that the host’s email address, phone number, or street address are not publicly listed. The reader would have to use the email form on the artist website to ask for an introduction.
Now, the artist can vet (approve) the fan and introduce them to you, the host, like this:
Of course, the decision to invite Ben is up to you. Friending him on Facebook or exchanging a few emails begins a relationship that takes it beyond “someone who just asked if they could come.” You’ve been introduced (by the band) and you’ve communicated, and you’ve added them to your guest list.
Again, there’s no case law on this, but doesn’t this sound safer than having musicians invite every local bar patron they’ve played for?
This is an excerpt from the new house concert guide from Fran Snyder and ConcertsInYourHome.com – subscribe to this blog or to our monthly newsletter to be notified when the guide is published.
There’s a lovely legacy of house concerts that take place at quaint bed and breakfasts and inns. A BNB can often surpass the charm of a typical residence, with built-in amenities like guest rooms, a large kitchens and living area.
In addition to providing entertainment for sleepover guests, a house concert series can be a great local outreach tool to make your community aware of your property. Many people simply don’t know about the great and unique local options for out of town guests. The hotel-on-the-highway is often the default, which is a missed opportunity for the warm and singular experience that a BNB can provide.
So build your local mailing list, and consider putting on a monthly or quarterly house concert at your bed and breakfast. You too can build a legacy of great music and memories, and transform your property into a cultural icon in your community.
Visit www.ConcertsInYourHome.com to sign up as a house concert host, and download our free guide.
Everyone hosts for their own reasons. Chances are you already have enough reason to get started. However, you might be inspired by some of the other ways that hosts benefit from hosting house concerts.
Love of music and artists
Some music fans feel a deep connection to the touring artist. These fans often have a music background, and have profound admiration for people willing to make the sacrifices necessary for a life on the road. Artists delay (or abandon) financial security, dreams of family and a modest home, and the powerful luxury of a stable career routine – weekly outings with friends, dance lessons with your spouse, and more. Yes, there is plenty of magic in return, but the sacrifices are real. For these reasons and more, music fans feel blessed to be able to contribute to a musical dream, and to often see it happen in their home.
Love of community
House concerts are a powerful way to unite friends and build community. They enhance friendships, foster new ones, and create sublime moments that allow us to weave our memories together. House concert hosts often become tastemakers in their community, and even inspire music scenes to develop in their town. Neighbors and friends rediscover their love the arts and start to divorce their televisions a few times per week.
Love of entertaining
Despite the multiplex-sized television screens in people’s homes, very few people actually entertain in their home on a regular basis. It seems like the dinner party is a myth of the wealthy past. House concerts provide an inspiring reason to clean the house and make good use of the sprawling spaces we inhabit. Consider the fact that many apartments today are bigger than the homes of just a few generations ago. Did your grandparents have a guest room? Probably not.
Love of a cause
One of the novel applications of house concerts is to honor and support a cause. Many fundraising events require large teams of volunteers, whereas a monthly house concert series can be organized by one or two people. Furthermore, artists typically have affinity for several causes, and often have a song related to those causes. Imagine a wonderful artist inspiring your audience with a personal story or song that is on-message for your favorite charity.
Being the change you want to see in the world.
One of the best ways for artists to create house concert opportunities where they live is to start their own series. The generous act of shining the light on someone else can be the catalyst for others to start hosting. With a healthy house concert scene, that artist may find their own opportunities to play at someone else’s home.
Building an audience to fulfill your dream of owning a commercial venue.
We’ve seen house concerts graduate to promoting bigger events in their town, and some eventually open their own commercial venue. Starting any new business involves risk, but the entertainment venue is especially risky. Wouldn’t it make sense to build an audience and a great reputation before creating the massive overhead (rent, employees, licenses, etc.) of a commercial venue?
The list of potential reasons to host house concerts could certainly go on, but these are some of the most common ones. Most of us can relate to more than one, and that provides a strong enough “why” to do the work of putting on the first few events. After a few great shows, your own list will certainly grow.
When was the last time you tried something new? Pick one of these for your next concert.
1. Make a list of 10 people you have never invited to your house concerts. Engage them in a conversation via Facebook, email, or (gasp!) even the phone. Start with “how are things?” and move to with “have you heard about my house concerts?” and finish with “would you like front row seats at my next show?”
2. Dig deeper on your artist and share. Get beyond the webflyer with links. What are the two most interesting things about your artist’s story? Is there a lyric or a verse that particularly moves you? Is there a new video to discover and share with your friends? Give people context… why is this artist special to you and potentially special to them?
3. Call 5 people with a personal appeal. Use your house concert series to make yourself genuinely friendlier all month long. Choose a few friends each month to check in on, catch up, and show genuine interest in them. And of course, remind them about your special hobby and your special event coming up.
You are special.
Your artists are special.
Your friends and attendees are special.
We just need to be personally reminded from time to time.
Should the artist expect dinner at the house concert or venue? Certainly, this should be confirmed by phone a few days before the show, but why not make it clear in your host/venue profile?
For most house concerts and venues, feeding the artist before or after the show is expected. Depending on their arrival time, artists may prefer to skip dinner or just snack before the show, and opt for a more relaxed meal after the guests have gone.
With an early arrival time, it can be quite nice to have dinner (host, artist, and maybe a few special guests) together. This takes extra effort and planning, and if it’s too much for the host to take on they should simply say so.
Through ConcertsInYourHome.com, there’s an easy place to put this information when you list your show. It’s the confirmation page (step 3). Read the “Accommodations and Additional Info” in the example below.
This confirmation page is available to artists at anytime for reference. All they have to do is login and click on your show on their Start Page to see this information at the top of the webflyer.
Hectic travel schedules often lead to artists forgetting to confirm these details. Hosts can be pro-active to make sure food will not be a stressful or disappointing part of the artist’s experience.
TIP: Make it easy. Choose a go-to meal to offer in your accommodations. Something easy that you make all the time. Artists can accept, decline, or supplement.
Artists are capable of picking up some food before they arrive at your home. It’s not ideal, but it’s not a big deal if you can warn them ahead of time. Please have some suggestions for them, and include some gluten-free and veggie options if possible. It’s best to send these options in an email.
Some hosts really cherish the opportunity to sit down with the artist for a meal before the show. It doesn’t always work with the schedule of the artist and host, but when it does, a home-cooked meal for a traveling artist is a lovely treat.
Your Most Important House Concert Volunteers
1. Door Person
2. Food/Drinks Person
3. Furniture/Set-Up Person
4. Parking Person
Every house concert is different, and every host brings their own set of skills to the process of putting on an event. If there’s one thing that holds back the success of most house concerts, it’s the failure to recruit (ask for) volunteers.
Many of us are resigned to grit out the work. We do the dishes, the laundry, the taxes, the yard, and so on because it’s easier in the short run to grit it out instead of training, coaxing or paying someone else to do it well enough. Lucky for you, music and house concerts are inspiring! Why else would you be reading this?
Don’t miss the opportunity to inspire volunteers who can help you make your house concerts easier and more enjoyable for everyone. You might even offer perks like reserved seats, come early for dinner, or welcome their input when selecting future acts for your concerts.
For most hosts (asked at ConcertsInYourHome.com) the most important volunteer is the person at the door. 99% of artists would agree.
One of the biggest challenges when starting a house concert series is getting everyone to make the suggested donation. Paying money to enter a home is a new thing for most people, and it requires diligence on the part of the host to make no one is surprised by the “suggested donation” principle when they arrive.
We’ve found it’s best to have a suggested donation with an actual amount, even a range, and an encouragement to be generous if possible.
$15-20 per person.
Be generous if you can – all donations go to the performers.
This information should be in all invitations and emails about the show. In addition, that sign should be on a BIG GLASS JAR, next to a printout of your guest list, and all of this should be on a table by the entrance so that no one can miss it.
How the Door Volunteer Helps
If there’s a good-sized crowd, it can be nearly impossible for a host to watch the door and be a gracious host for the artists and guests.
When guests enter the home, there are several ways they can become distracted and miss the donation jar. They might recognize someone they know and immediately get pulled into a conversation and drift away. They might walk in with wine, food, or snacks and decide to go unload in the kitchen, and never make it back to the suggested donation. Finally, despite many reminders by the host “If you haven’t made your donation yet…” they might (wrongly) decide to buy a CD instead of making the donation. CDs are extra… and you don’t want to allow guests to take advantage of your artists this way.
All of these behaviors can be prevented by a door volunteer.
Your door-person greets guests, and asks them to cross their names off the guest list and make their suggested donation. If there’s a dish, the volunteer can bring it to the kitchen for them and quickly resume their post.
“Hello! Welcome to the house concert. Please cross your names off the guest list and make your suggested donation – be generous if you can. Here, let me take that dish to the counter for you.” [Or “here, let me hold that dish for you.”]
What is an acceptable “no-pay” percentage?
The easy answer is “0.” If all guests have been invited properly, with the suggested donation clearly stated, then all guests are expected to pay something, even if it’s not in the suggested range. That said, we rarely expect the hosts to pay (unless they are covering a guarantee or making up for a few non-paying guests (usually family.)
Since you are operating with a suggested donation, and asking people to be generous if they can, those who underpay may be offset by those who give a little more. While it’s not the end of the world if a couple of people don’t pay, it sets a bad example going forward… do they get to NOT pay every time? How many people get this privilege?
Volunteers are expected to pay if possible. Try to reward them in some other way (preferred seats, pre-show dinner, etc.) unless you are happy to contribute for them. If you have a large number of attendees it may be OK to have a few volunteers not pay.
Your door person is there to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to pay, but the host should also make an announcement before and after the first set if it seems like there may have been a few who missed. If your door person does their job well, you can make a better pitch (talking less) for the purchase of CDs and souvenirs.
It’s rare that artists will make a fuss, but if the donations clearly don’t match the number of attendees, they will be disappointed. Remember, you aren’t asking people to volunteer to mow your lawn. This is a fun thing. Ask for help. People love to feel valued, and your volunteers can be the most effective promoters of your concerts.
I’ll cover the next most critical volunteer in the next post.
"Get Help" is a popular mantra in the mental health industry. If you've developed the mental disorder called "house concert host," then I suggest you pay heed. It is necessary for your long term health and your enthusiasm. 8^)
The most common mistake among new hosts is failing to ask for help. Hosting shows in your home is not rocket science, but it does pose a handful of challenges. To face these challenges, the more energy you have available, especially at the beginning, the greater the chance your house concert series will lift off. People = Energy
What kind of help should I get? You can ask for and receive all kinds of help, including;
The success and the enjoyment you and your friends derive from your house concerts largely depends on the quality of performers you book. Frankly, many hosts (especially the new) have no idea of the vast quantity of world-class talent that is available. While it might be wonderful to support local artists you already know, it's important to consider the phenomenal touring artists who could be looking for opportunities in your area. You owe it to yourself to be choosy, and to only select artists who make you confident that they will leave your audiences enthralled.
If that sounds like a lot of work, it doesn't have to be. Our website contains nearly a thousand artists, many of whom have a long track record of being great performers AND house-guests. Please look for the number of "recommendations" in their profiles to read comments from hosts who've had these performers in their home.
Also, you can work with Jeff Robertson, our friendly agent, who can hand-pick some of our best acts to get your series started with a bang.
"…beyond my expectations. I'm still in awe that musicians of this caliber are willing to travel here for our personal concert with our friends. Thanks Jeff!" – B. Hofbauer, OH
If you really want to go for it, you can attend regional music conferences to hear, meet, and connect with touring artists who would love to schedule shows with you. Folk Alliance has several regional conferences with dedicated forums to enjoy artists in small, personal spaces. Highly recommended, and don't let the word "folk" throw you – many, many genres are represented.
One of the most common challenges is getting the word out, and inspiring enough people to RSVP and attend the show. Will this be easy for you? Many hosts find themselves surprised that their friends don't understand how much fun this will be.
Though we continue to create free tools for our hosts (eflyers, calendars, videos, etc.) – nothing beats having a few more boots on the ground. Your circle of friends is surprisingly small when you compare it to the collective circles of a handful of people. Don't do this alone!
Chances are, at least one or a couple of your friends, if properly approached, would LOVE to get involved with promoting your event. Personally invite them to take part in the event… send them links to the artist and see if they get inspired by the music and/or videos. Would they email 10-20 of their friends a personal invitation? Would they pitch the idea to some friends at work? At house concerts, a turnout of 4-6 extra people can make the difference between an O.K. turnout and a full house!
Most artists can travel with a small sound system, or do without one if the room is small enough. However, it is great to have access to a small P.A. (microphone, amp, speaker, etc.) when the need arises. These systems can be bought for $300-$1000, but that's probably not a worthwhile investment unless you do many shows each year. Someone you know probably has one.
Chairs, especially bar-stools (great for the back row) are one of the best things you can borrow from your next door neighbors. They might also have a few extra folding chairs if you need them.
The Right Space
One of the most common reasons that people don't feel they can host house concerts is because they think their home is too small. The beauty of house concerts, is that even modest homes can pull off worthwhile events. That said, if you aren't comfortable with your space, why not recruit/inspire a friend or family member who has a better "performance space" to get involved? You book the shows, and help host the events at THEIR house. However, much care should be taken to make sure they understand what they are getting into.
Setting Up/Running the Event
I've seen my share of stressed out hosts before an event. Between getting the house clean, arranging the furniture, setting out snacks and beverages, and handling last minute details, it's easy to feel overwhelmed before the artist even arrives. In the end, they are always happy with the result, but why take on more stress and work than you have to?
Consider inviting at least 2 or 3 guests to come early to help you set up. You can thank your "crew" with some fun shirts, choice reserved seats, pre-show meet and greet with the artist, or almost anything else. Money is not a good reward for these tasks – it takes the romance and the community feel out of the event. People are happy to pitch in for worthwhile things.
Here are some fantastic tasks to delegate or get help with.
- moving furniture, setting up chairs
- collecting money/donations
- setting up food
- serving drinks (in moderation)
- making announcements
- parking guide (if necessary)
Many artists are happy to book shows without requiring a financial guarantee, especially if the host is offering a free meal and place to stay. However, even a modest ($100-300) guarantee can go a long way to offer piece of mind to artists who are incurring travel costs to get to you. Hosts only need to make up the difference between the guarantee and what is collected from donations, so the cost is usually minimal, and often "$0" if 20 or more guests show up.
However, some hosts feel better when they can offer a strong financial guarantee, and sharing that (voluntary) responsibility with a few friends is certainly an option.
Important: Please do not feel compelled to offer more than what you can comfortably afford to spend.
One of the most significant travel expenses for artists is lodging. It's a tradition (but not required) for hosts to offer a free guest room or basement futon for artists who perform at their house concerts. If this is awkward (e.g. a single mom hosting a male performer, or families with newborns), it's certainly acceptable to get a nearby friend or neighbor who has a better situation to host your guests overnight. These co-hosts should be friendly and flexible, and should be cheerful about helping. Otherwise, it's best to offer a local hotel or let the artist know ahead of time that sleeping accommodations are not part of your house concerts.
These are some ways you can get help. You'll find that sharing not just the events, but their responsibilities will deepen your friendships, enrich your community, and provide memories you'll cherish for a lifetime.
To join our community of house concert hosts (for free), visit ConcertsInYourHome.com.
What should a host do to insure that they will be able to gather a respectful and attentive audience for a house concert? This is part of a how-to-series from ConcertsInYourHome.com, written by Fran Snyder.
Controlling the audience is an important skill for hosts as well as for performers. Imagine, making great effort to get your friends to your house so they can hear an artist you really love and want to support. Everyone arrives in good spirits, catching up with old friends, sharing funny stories, and getting lost in the normal get together stuff.
Then, despite your best efforts, when it's time for the show to start, you can't seem to get everyone seated and quiet. A few folks head outside for a smoke, a few guests have already had too much to drink, and some insist on standing in the back so they can "discreetly" keep chatting.
The smokers keep going in and out, the drunks are whispering louder than most people yell, and the guys in the back are just loud enough to annoy the people in front of them.
A nightmare. Might as well be a noisy club show, right?
As a house concert host, it is your responsibility to educate your invitees, and to manage their expectations. This is especially true when you are first starting out, when you haven't built a core audience that will set the right example at every show.
You set the right expectations with the first email. You continue to establish control with every conversation and every invitation. It's part of the show's introduction, the intermission, and the closing goodbye. It's a CONCERT. Emphasize the word. Don't let anyone get the impression that it's a party with music.
If your house concert isn't promoted as a CONCERT, getting your new attendees to behave like an audience will be an uphill battle. Remember, you'll want your invitees to bring their spouse or a friend, and they will most likely have to explain what a house concert is. If you aren't clear about it, you can bet they will not explain it well to others.
Even the most seasoned performer can lose their spark when they have to work to get the crowd's attention. Instead of playing music, being warm and comfortable, they start spotting problems and plotting solutions, and this lovely experience we call music starts to look and feel like a job. If that job necessitates announcements for people to shut up and be respectful, no one wins. The artist will not sell as many CDs, and your audience will have missed the opportunity for a truly inspiring experience. Some may not come back next time.
- Make sure your flyers, invitations, and emails say "concert" and not "party." Even though house concerts can turn into very festive events (with certain performers) – let that be the surprise.
- As people arrive (or ahead of time) pull a few of your friends aside and ask them to take seats in the front row when the time comes. Unless the artist is well-known, new audience members have a tendency select seats like they are entering algebra class. Have a few "good students" set the example early.
- Twenty minutes before the show, make an announcement like this… "Hi Everyone, in about 10-15 minutes we'll need to have everyone seated before the concert starts. If you want to use the restroom, or refill your drink, please do that in the next few minutes."
- A few minutes before the show, make the next announcement. "O.K. everyone, please find a seat as we're about to start the show. The first set will be about 40 minutes, and then you'll have a break to stretch your legs, use the restroom or get a refill. Please help us keep distractions to a minimum, silence your phones, and get comfortable."
- Introduce the artist. There is no penalty for being brief. "Hi Everyone, thanks so much for joining us at our (first?) house concert. Tonight we're pleased to bring you, all the way from Lawrence, Kansas, Fran Snyder!" Hopefully, you won't have to goad them for some applause. 8^)
The introduction is a great way for you to stall as the last few people settle in. But wait until they are quiet… make them uncomfortable with your silence if you have to, then smile. "Welcome everybody!…"
- Even if you are comfortable as a public speaker (OK – it's a living room), this is a great way to get some of your guests involved. If you sense that one of your friends would be good at (or even enjoy) the role of announcer – delegate! Give them 2 or 3 of the cues above so they are prepared, and share the spotlight. If you can, choose someone with a strong and clear voice, who can speak with some authority and a friendly vibe. Even if you reserve the artist introduction for yourself, it's best to have just one person be the other announcer. Having three different announcers would be weird.
- If you aren't up to the job, or forget to delegate it, or just can't find anyone willing, let the artist know at least one hour before the show. Share these tips with them if you like, but a professional artist should be willing to take charge of making an announcement or two. Yes, it's much better if they don't have to.
To join our community of house concert hosts (for free), visit ConcertsInYourHome.com.