Musicians, dump that noisy bar crowd and get a sober audience that listens and buys a lot of product. House concerts are the way to go. I’ve done them for thirty years – before it was fashionable, yes, I’m that hip – and I’ve got some advice for you.
Get some experience
Okay, you know three chords and you can change them without stopping. It’s not time to start booking house concerts. You might have to play crummy bar gigs for tips for awhile to learn your craft. When you’ve got a solid two-hour show under your guitar strap and a group of fans clamoring for the next show, then it’s time to start looking for house concerts.
Make sure you’re the right fit
House concerts work best for solos or duos although I’ve seen bigger bands in huge living rooms and in backyards. Folk, classical, country, whatever — it all works, as long as the host loves your music, has a big enough space, and can get you an audience.
How to find bookings
Ask from the stage at that lousy bar gig. Ask on social media. Other musicians are a great resource. Talk to everyone you know and explain how easy it is to do a house concert. Generally, they need an address book of music-loving friends, space big enough to seat them, and follow-through for the promotion. More about producing house concerts here.
Established house concerts
There are some folks so crazy about live music in their living room that they book a series, some that present shows every month. These people are worth their weight in gourmet chocolate. Better yet, there are whole networks of them who can be found at these sites. Keep in mind that some require an audition and membership fee:
International: Concerts in Your Home
Europe: House Concert Hub
Give yourself some lead time and look at a map
Don’t call your best friend a week before and throw this at them. Give them at least a few weeks. Book it like any other tour. If you’re playing in Los Angeles, don’t book a house concert the next night in Catbarf Montana unless you’ve got Scotty to beam you up.
This is not a club. This is someone’s home and they’ve graciously asked you to perform for their friends. Most house concert promoters won’t give you a guarantee and you might have to hold their hand if they’ve never done this kind of thing before.
You may get a place to stay
If you’re from out of town it’ll save you from sleeping on your friend’s leaky air mattress in his roach-infested apartment. Politely ask your host if they have a guest room. Ask also about meals – I’ve gotten everything from home baked muffins to steak dinners. Don’t expect housing and meals, of course, but in general, the people who’ve hosted my house concerts have been very generous.
Do your own promo
Occasionally a house concert presenter will want it to be a private show and that’s cool, if you trust that they’ll get a good crowd for you. However, if it’s open to the public, do your own promo like you would for any gig. Ask the presenter if they’re okay with blasting their contact info to the world. An email address is usually okay but not a street address or phone number. Use your mailing list – you have one, right? – and post on social media. Stop strangers in the street. You know the drill.
A simple email or text will suffice although some people like to have a contract – as long as it’s in writing. Verbal confirmations aren’t good because people can forget details. Whatever the method, confirm the start time, donation at the door (I ask for $15 to $20 each), length of show, if food is provided, if housing is provided, and if you’re bringing a PA.
Will you need sound equipment?
Unless they seat more than 20, I don’t use a PA for indoor gigs. Your mileage may vary. Some musicians bring a small amp and a couple of mikes. Whatever you do, check with your host to make sure there’s room.
Most presenters will give you whatever they collect at the door. Even with a small crowd, that can mean a few hundred dollars. Score. I always ask the presenter if they need money for refreshments. It’s also nice to leave them with a CD, download card, or those cookies your grandma sends with you.
Relax and enjoy the show!
Take photos and post to social media afterward. Encourage audience members to post, too. Toward the end of the show, ask the audience if any of them would like to host a concert.
Thank your hosts. When you’re in their area again, ask them about another concert. Politely. Can you tell I’m Canadian?