I’ve been playing music for over 30 years. I’ve made money playing music, but my primary reason has been the joy I receive from interacting with people.
In my music career, the best nights I have had are when performing at house concerts. Much of the music I play is written and performed on an acoustic guitar, and even though modern PA systems make it loud enough to play in almost any venue acoustically, the attraction of a house concert is that you have a “captive” audience who is there to listen to you play in a quiet intimate setting. As an Alt-Country/Americana folksinger, you can’t get any better than that.
Have you ever been curious about what goes into hosting a house concert? That is the subject of the rest of this blog post. I’m basing this post on my own experiences as a performer and also on some good references (most notably the excellent E-Book, “No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender, by Shannon Curtis” http://shannoncurtis.net/). I also received some good feedback on the first version of this blog post from stellar social media coach Michelle Myers, who is also a DJ at KEXP radio in Seattle.
Start with picking an artist who is a friend of yours or an artist you admire and you know how to get in contact with. In the competitive music environment artists are in today, you won't have a hard time finding an amazing performer who would much rather play your house concert than another smoky loud bar. You like his or her music and you also wouldn't mind helping push their career along a little.
Invite your friends and coworkers. The house concert relies on donations, so it doesn’t have to cost you, the host, anything. Some people love to throw a party and might want to provide snacks and drinks for the guests, but a potluck approach works just as well.
You can invite people using email, but write personal (rather than group) emails and texts whenever possible. Group messages are easy to ignore. Personal messages get more responses. And remember to follow up personally with everyone you invite. Think of the experience you are trying to create and invite those friends personally that you would like to share the experience with. You can even text good friends to ask for online likes and responses if you use a Facebook event, Evite invitation, or some other online tool.
You need a space to hold the event, obviously. Traditional home spaces work great: living rooms, backyards, even garages. But if you don't have a house, alternative spaces can work really well too- like a community room in an apartment complex, a business after hours or even a church meeting room. I’ve played shows in art studio’s and museums, gallery’s and even small community theater’s. These are usually fees for these places, some were paid by the host, other times, the owner of the room waived the normal rental fee. Wherever you choose to hold the event, just make sure that the performance space allows all guests to be seated as a group directly in front of where the artist is performing. If guests are in a physically separate space, like a kitchen for instance, they can create a potential distraction for other guests and the performer. The idea is to have the performer and the guests in an intimate setting, so planning for a tight and focused performance space is important.
You need to be able to bring 20 adult guests to the concert. Experience has shown that this is the minimum number to create a buzz of excitement about the performance while also giving people enough anonymity so that they are comfortable. 20 guests also gives the artist an opportunity to make a little money on the night. So if you don't think you can get 20 people to the gig, join up with another friend or two to co-host the concert with you.
It's a good idea to invite at least twice as many people as your target number for the event. There is about a 50% yes rate for invitations to these events on average, so inviting 60 when you want 30 usually works out.
When you send out the invitation, you should let people know that it is a “donations based concert.” You don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) specify a particular donation. It makes it more inclusive, those who don’t have much can donate just a little, those with more can be more generous if they want.
Usually performers have merchandise to sell, so setting up a space for this near the performance space is important.
Ask guests to arrive one hour prior to the concert start time. This gives people time to mingle and allows for late comers to see the whole show.
About five minutes before the show is supposed to start, someone should go around to all of the guests and give them a five minute warning, similar to what theater ushers do during intermission of live plays.
By the time the performer takes the stage, you want people gathered, seated, and ready to listen.
That's it. There are a few other details that are important, such as when and how to do the donation ask, but the performer at your gig can walk you through that.
What do you get out of this? You get to create an amazing environment for your friends to see great music in a dynamic, yet relaxed setting!
So get out there and have fun. And if you are a fan of my music and you want to try these ideas out on your own house party, send me a message! The weather is getting right for it! And I am not just limited to Seattle gigs, so out of towners, hit me up!
Other references, http://drewpearce.com/portfolio/houseconcerts.html; http://www.shareable.net/blog/how-to-host-a-house-concert
#Alt-Country, #Americana, #TomMelancon, #HouseConcerts