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Booking - House Concerts
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Contact: Janie Meneely
8011 Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912
443-786-0463 • janiemeneely@gmail.com

houeconcertHouse concerts are a great way to win friends and influence people, all in the intimacy of your own living room. You get to become acquainted with some of your favorite performers and introduce them to your friends and neighbors. For the performers themselves, house concerts provide a source of traveling cash as well as the opportunity to strengthen their fan base. They actively seek out house concert venues at stopping points along their established concert routes, or use house concerts to tide them over between festival appearances and other stage events.

But most important, house concerts are a relaxing way to enjoy music, live and unplugged. No fuss, no muss, no sound system between you and the performer.

House concerts are a way for the performer to make some extra cash, but that doesn’t mean you need to be out-of-pocket when all is said and done. Figure you’ll be putting on  a pot of coffee at the least, then ask your friends to chip in with other refreshments. While the requested donation should go to the performer in full, you can always ask for an additional donation to cover food and paper products. But really, if you figure that you’re getting the concert for free, a pot of coffee is pretty negligible.

Setting up a house concert requires a little effort on your part, aside from the aforementioned pot of coffee and maybe a quick tidying up of your living room. The more often you host a concert, the easier it gets and the more the attendance will grow. Calico Jack loves to do house concerts, but we’d be happy to send other musicians your way as well, or put you in touch with musicians you might want to host.

What follows is a step-by-step guide to setting up a house concert. Gotta question? E-mail me, and I’ll try to answer it.

  1. You send/e-mail invitations to your friends (a sample follows), letting them know about the concert and telling them a little bit about the artist. The performing artist will do the same thing, sending an invitation to people he/she knows in the area. Interested folks will contact you to reserve space and get directions. (Your address shouldn't be publicized; only your phone number or e-mail address).

Dear Friends, Family and Co-conspirators,

My musician friends [John, George, Ringo and Paul] will be passing through here on  [date] and offered to do a house concert for us. "What's that?" we asked.

Turns out a house concert is a private concert held in the living room nearest you and attended by an intimate group of friends and fans. These are not publicized except through an invitation list, so they are closed to the general public (it's not a matter of being exclusive; it has to do with copyright licensing, which is a long story not worth repeating here). Attendees are asked to contribute a suggested amount to help defray the artist's expenses (we're suggesting $15 per person, but really this is a donation so you can decide what you think the performance is worth; it's on the honor system; we'll set out a donation hat/bowl/bucket). The end result is a wonderful social gathering in which the audience has a chance to get to know an artist and learn more about his/her work while at the same time enjoying a private performance. The president does this in the White House all the time, but we've never managed to wrangle an invitation so we decided to host our own instead (saves that long drive to D.C.).

House concerts are really starting to gain momentum, especially in this faltering economy. Artists have been hit hard by the loss of arts funding and failing concert venues. House concerts have been one of the ways they've been able to stay afloat financially. At the same time, they've been able to share their work with an ever-broadening circle of friends and provide a quality performance without the barrier of stage lighting and sound systems. This is acoustic music the way our grandparents enjoyed it.

We hope you can join us at [time] on [date] at our home in [name town or community only NOT your full address]. I plan to have [a pot of coffee on hand and some finger food desserts; feel free to bring wine, soda or anything you'd like to share with the group]. Because we are expecting a crowd, it's important that you RSVP to reserve space. (We may ask you to bring a folding chair . . .).

Yours in harmony,

XXXXX

RSVP for reservations and directions:  phone number; e-mail address

Here's where you would add on something about the artist, either on a separate flyer, or as an after paragraph. Don’t worry. The artist will happily supply you with whatever you need.

  1.  You take a good look at the space you have available and the amount of seating you can provide. House concert veterans are used to bringing their own seating, or at least offering to. Your job is to determine how much extra seating you'll need and letting people know accordingly. You also need to close the concert when you've hit your saturation point; you can do this by putting people on a waiting list and contacting them if you get cancellations, or you can invite them to come, explaining that they may not get the best seating unless there is a no show (which there always is). I generally overbook by four people, knowing that Paul and I can sit on the stairs if we have to. For a first time house concert you probably don't even need to worry about it.

  2. You decide what you want to offer to folks refreshment wise. Most people are happy to bring something (and will offer); don't hesitate to take them up on it unless you really want to keep things simple (makes clean up easier). Simplest is coffee and cookies. Some people will ask if they can bring wine. . . . I was surprised the other night when I hosted Jon Campbell. I told people I'd be serving coffee and dessert. Two people brought wine, one person brought soda, and I wound up having to dig out a bunch of wine glasses and put out a bowl of ice. Not a problem, just unexpected. I also had a few folks bring a plate of brownies, which was a nice addition. Some house concert hosts just set up a table and provide coffee, cups and napkins. The attendees bring the rest--like food, soda, beer . . .

  3. houseconcert On the night of the concert you would put out a hat or a bowl or some kind of container with a sign that says "Suggested Donation $15". This needs to sit on the snack table or in an obvious place where people really can't miss it. You'll also need to set up a spot for displaying and selling CDs (and the donation hat can be on that).

  4. You would welcome people and play host as people gather; generally speaking the artist is also on hand and is helping to greet people. Guests generally help themselves to refreshments and find a seat. When it seems time to start, you would welcome everyone and introduce the artist. Then the music starts and you get to sit back and listen.

  5. Plan on a break about halfway through the concert. Your artist should give you a heads up--"I'm going to do one more song, then we’ll take a break . .." That's your cue to make another pot of coffee or pull out more cookies or generally make sure everything’s set for the break.

  6. When the music is over, people linger and buy CDS, talk to the artist for a bit, or just linger. When you're ready for people to go, you need to start cleaning up and putting chairs away, the usual sorts of things to give people a hint. If they don't take the hint, then address people individually: "Thanks for coming to the concert. I hope we see you again. Would you like to sign my house concert list?" and usher them out the door.  

  7. Now you pop the last of the wine and relax.

  8. A lot of house concert hosts provide or arrange for overnight lodging for their guest performer. Just be aware of how much traveling he/she/they did to get to your place to begin with and don’t automatically expect to sit up all hours playing music or chatting. They might be really pooped and hoping for some shut eye. Likewise be aware of when they have to leave the next day, and make sure you can lay out coffee and a munchie if they have to make an early start.

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