Get Help. (with your House Concerts)

This is part of a how-to-series from ConcertsInYourHome.com, written by Fran Snyder.

"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^)

CIYH CREW shirt

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;

Booking

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.

Organizing/Promoting


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!

Furniture/Equipment

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)

Financial/guarantees

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.

 

Sleeping Quarters

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.

Advertisements

Your Invitation List – Let’s Get it Started

This is part of a how-to-series from ConcertsInYourHome.com, written by Fran Snyder

Toddler

Basics:

One of the first steps to take as a house concert host is to gather a useful list of as many invitees as possible.

Attendance, for many hosts, is the most challenging part of hosting house concerts. For some hosts, throwing a party and getting people to attend is second-nature. They have tons of acquaintances, are involved with many clubs, groups, charities and maybe even a reputation for holding great events. For most of us, however, it takes a bit of work and and some planning.

A full room adds so much to the feeling of a concert – whether that number is 15 or 1500.  Performers really sense and feed off the energy in a room when they play. Empty seats, however, suck the energy out of any event.

There's a common expression in music – "the crowd made the show," and you'll see it happen first-hand when you host your events.

Consider:

First, it's important to get some leverage. If you think purely in terms of people you see consistently and know personally, you will seriously limit your resources.

Second, don't neglect to invite someone simply because you don't think they'll be into it. It's so much fun when you see someone "converted." Time and time again the biggest compliments come from people who begrudgingly attended – thinking it wasn't their kind of thing, who then were blown away by the quality and fun-factor of the show. You'll provide information, and links to the music, and let people decide for themselves.

Finally, your invitation list will always be a work in progress. You'll also create a nice form to display at each of your events to enlist anyone who may have come as an invitee of one of your friends. As your list grows, your events will become easier to promote.


Options: FlyerSnapshot


Most house concert presenters use their email programs to create a list from their address books, and use our free, attractive flyers to promote their events.
However, in addition to your current email program, there are many websites and programs that can help you do this:

  • eVite – free, though it requires your invitees to register with the site when making an RSVP.
  • Socializr – free, though it requires your invitees to register with the site when making an RSVP. 
  • ectoRes – free, simple, and with a few nice features designed for house concert presenters.
  • Constant Contact – feature-filled website which allows you to send attractive HTML emails, but costs $15-30/month

Tips:

  1. Create a list of everyone you know within an hour's drive of your home. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, club members, parents of your kids friends, fellow soccer-moms, the fantasy-football buddies (ok, maybe?), etc.
  2. Gather any missing email addresses (and phone numbers if you like.)
  3. Keep a notepad, index card, or some visual reminder with you for the next 3 weeks. Get in the habit of adding people you meet, or have overlooked in your invite list. You'll be amazed at how many people you meet or bump into on a day to day basis that escaped your mind when you made the initial list. "I'm hosting a music event soon, and I'd like to invite you, can I get your email address?"
  4. Warm them up. Before you even book (or announce the performer) try sending an email like this:

Dear Friends, (mail merge the first names if you can)

Have you heard of house concerts? There is so much great talent out there, and these events look like so much fun, that I've decided to jump in and host a concert in my home. Have a look at this short video, and let me know if you'd be interested in coming to our first event. More details soon!

http://concertsinyourhome.com/beahostintro.html

Your pal,

….

This short email will peak their interest, and the early responders will be good candidates to enlist for help. One or more of them can help you set up chairs, manage the potluck, or even help promote the event with you. Then, when you do send out the actual invitation email (with details) you won't be starting from scratch.

Related Articles:

How to Build an Audience for your House Concert
Find Nearby Hosts
Mini House Concerts

House Concert Guide: Choosing a Location

SligoRagsAtRuss&Julies
This is part of a how-to-series from ConcertsInYourHome.com, written by Fran Snyder

Basics:

Although similar results can be achieved in different locations, a house concert takes place at a house. When the weather turns seasonally ideal, some hosts do patio, garden, backyard shows, but you always need a backup (inside) in case the weather doesn't cooperate. Indoors, the living room is usually the best choice, often providing a balance between cozy and the opportunity to stretch into an adjoining area. A window or fireplace can make a nice background scene for the performer.

Consider:

You'll most likely need to re-arrange some furniture, like removing coffee tables and pushing the couches to the side of the room. You'll most likely use every chair in the house (dining room chairs, bar stools, ottomans, office chairs, etc.) Your neighbors can be a great resource for free chairs (especially barstools – which make a great back row) as well as audience members. Don't feel obligated to overdo it. You don't have to create Carnegie Hall in your home.

Options:

Ask me about my house concert shirt

We feel there are few spaces more cozy than a living room. However, basements work too. If you live in an apartment or condo, there is often a clubhouse or common area that can be reserved at little or no expense. Some hosts, who aren't satisfied with their space recruit like-minded friends to co-host the shows in their homes. It can be terrific to work with a close friend as a partner in these events.

Tip:

Most people underestimate the number of guests they can comfortably fit in their living room. To get an idea, clear the middle of the room (coffee table, etc.) and move the couches to the side of the room if possible. Then, start arranging available chairs (dining room, kitchen, breakfast nook, office chairs) to get an idea of the number of people it could hold. Once you've set up a few rows, it's easy to imagine how the rest of it would fall into place. Remember to allow a 4' by 6' area for the performer -  more if it's a duo or group.