Yes, I would like to host a House Concert with Michael Pickett!
Lots of good things come out of a house concert. For the performer, it's a chance to do his/her thing in a friendly "listening environment" and to earn some money to keep on touring. For the audience, it's a chance to get a little closer to the performer and the songs.
HOW TO PUT ON THE PERFECT HOUSE CONCERT. They are dirt simple to organize, cheap to produce and virtually fail-safe. You are pretty much guaranteed a packed house, a convivial atmosphere and, for the performer, a decent wage. The key to success is this: a house concert is a gathering of friends; only secondarily is it a show for the general public. When you invite friends to a party, 30 or even more will come, right? So it is with a house concert. Yes, strangers are welcome but they are the icing, not the cake. The performer can walk away with anywhere from $300 to over $1000.
NUMBERS AND SPACE. Minimum of 20-30 and higher. The basic ingredients for a house concert are: a) 25 + people and b) a place for them to sit comfortably and enjoy the performance (you'd be amazed how many people can fit in an average sized room!)
The actual size of the room will pretty much determine the potential audience. A good rule of thumb is 3 square feet per person. Your living room is too small? Remember the sponsor and the host need not be the same person. It is a long-standing and sensible tradition to guilt-trip a wealthier friend with a big living room into offering it for the occasion. Do not feel badly about this, but rather, think of it as a favor.
There are several ways to seat 40 people in a living room. Ask everyone to bring a folding chair or a cushion; borrow stacking chairs from a church or union hall. Sitting on the floor for an hour (with cushions) can be done in relative comfort. In fact it can feel kind of good, psychologically.
MONEY. The amount of money the performer needs to make can change depending on the day of the week. Hosts charge an admission fee (usually $10 to $20). $300 to $400 is a pretty fair base rate for a solo musician on a quiet night, and that breaks down to only $10 or $15 per person for 15 couples. Convincing 15 friends to come (with a partner or guest) is not a big deal.
You know best what price is suitable for your friends. But don't skimp. Be comfortable charging $15 or "whatever you can afford." An"earlybird" price is recommended, expiring a week or two before the show. Say $15 for the early bird, $20 after that. Add a few more people, or a few bucks to the ticket price, stir in record sales, and the gig quickly moves from subsistence to downright profitable. Remember, one of the main reasons for a house concert is that there are no hall costs. Or, often enough, any costs at all.
When it comes to disposing of the proceeds, various arrangements are possible. Many sponsors will give performers the full door. Some take out expenses for the coffee, etc. But bear in mind: a house concert is something that is sponsored for love not money. That is part of the charm, part of what makes it personal, part of the reason friends will come even though they have never heard of the performer.
TICKETS. Should there be printed tickets? A reservation list? RSVPs? This is a judgement call for the host to make. Advance ticket requests and/or (preferably) pre-paid reservations are advisable for several reasons:
GETTING PEOPLE OUT. Although the house concert host will tell his/her e-mail list about the event, the "public" doesn't usually come to house concerts. The newspapers usually don't run information about house concerts, posters only work in specific cases, etc. The attendance basically depends on the host.
PROMOTION. Promote the event in the same personal way you would any celebration/event you have decided to host at your home. Whether you phone people or send written invitations, the personal contact is crucial. If you want to advertise (whether by a poster at the office, a note in a newsletter, or an announcement in the press) that is grand, and the resulting extra sales are a bonus; but the friends you invite yourself must fill most of the seats. DO REMEMBER THAT IT IS A CONCERT AND, THEREFORE, A LISTENING EVENT!
ACCOMMODATION. Remember that the performer is on tour and appreciates the offer of accommodation to help avoid the cost of a hotel while on the road. It could be your home or someone you know who would be willing to offer theirs. A meal is always a nice touch and provides a social opportunity for you to get to know the human side of the performer.
AND FINALLY... House Concerts build strong friendships between musicians, presenters, and listeners. Most importantly, House Concerts provide the most intimate and compelling performance environment available. They are as different as the personality and inclinations of the host. Here's your chance to shine!
© 2006 Michael Pickett