A Musician's Guide to House Concerts: How to Build Your Fanbase & Earn More Money Performing in Peoples' Homes

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House Concerts – The Lifeboats of the Music Industry?

[This post was written by guest contributor Fran Snyder, an artist and the founder of ConcertsInYourHome.com (CIYH), DinnerAndSong.com, and ListeningRoomFestival.com.]

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” —  Richard Buckminster Fuller

Many artists will tell you that they simply could not or would not tour without the financial support of house concerts along the way. But money is just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface we find that house concerts are bringing artists (literally) closer to their fans, and sometimes they even help artists rediscover what they enjoy most about playing music – the intimate connection with an audience.

What are house concerts? 

House concerts are private events in the homes of music fans. Friends, neighbors, and acquaintances are invited to attend a two set performance, and make a suggested donation of $10-20 per person. Often there’s a pot luck dinner or dessert, and it’s not unusual for guests to bring a beverage along with their favorite dish.

What’s the big deal?

Well, one of the key benefits of playing house concerts is the ability to play in markets where you don’t have a significant fanbase. Play a public venue and you are expected to draw (or sell a lot of booze.) Play a house concert and you are expected to be kind, fun, and damn good. Although house concerts usually welcome some local friends/fans of the artist, for privacy, safety, and legal reasons, the promotion is best done by hosts and their close friends.

And here’s the really big deal. 

You get all the money. You get dinner and a place to stay. House concert hosts are volunteers and the most important new “patrons of the arts.” They host events because they love the music, and they love impressing their friends with concerts in their homes. There are thousands of them around the world. And now the tools exist for any artists to pitch the idea to their fans.

“House concerts are the emotional anchors of every tour.” —  Hans York

Playing in homes is not for everyone. 

If you’re interested in playing house concerts, it’s important to look at the advantages and disadvantages of your situation.

Most house concerts take place in average living rooms, with little or no PA provided. These shows are attended by people who will want to talk to you. They might sit within 3 feet of you, and they will be looking at you and listening to every word. This is not for shy artists. This is not for smelly artists. This is not for prima donnas. This is (usually) not for a full drum kit, backline and entourage.

Learn everything you need to know about house concerts in this free guide by Oasis.House Concerts Guide for Musicians

 

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  • House concerts are great especially for acts like mine that don't fit in to well with traditional venues. And you don't have to pay to join a network, if you are already established, it's easy to book a show through your own website and mailing list

  • markpinkus

    I do lots of house concerts and they sell out very quickly. I offer food and refreshments which the guests have during the intermission. I sell all the tickets in advance. And I make my tickets at a local printer for peanuts. Cd sales are excellent after a concert. With this industry shrinking for places to play at reasonable prices for really good profit, I can say that house concerts are fantastic to get your music out there and for people to meet people. It's an intimate way to share your music and feel connected to friends and new faces.

    • Hello,
      I live in the uk. I was interested in doing a hous concert tour of the USA. I’m primarily a writer. Published poetry, novels, plays. But do a Country act with own songs. See my website: garethowen.com (writer poet).
      Be gratefu for any advice.
      Regards,
      Gareth

      • ArhavenHouseConcerts

        If you want to play house concerts in the U.S., you have to let American house concert hosts know who you are. Because of the work involved in setting up a house concert, and because we don’t make any money doing this, most house concert hosts will only book acts that they KNOW they will enjoy. Assuming your music fits in some way into the genre of “folk” music, the best way to meet American house concert hosts and get your act on their radar is to go to Folk Alliance International or to one of the various regional Folk Alliance conferences…especially if you can get some showcases lined up. It’ll cost you some money but because you’re coming to a conference and not “working” you don’t have to go thru the hassle of getting a work visa. More information re Folk Alliance International at http://www.folk.org

      • Ashley Jennings

        Hi Gareth!

        This is Ashley from Parlor Shows, we are a website that connects house show hosts with musicians. You can sign up for free and be on the lookout for hosts in the cities where you plan to tour! Best of luck!

        http://parlorshows.com/register/

  • Darrin Kobetich

    This is great news!

  • I just started doing house concerts in November 2012 and love them. It’s a great way to introduce my music to new fans. It’s also helps me book new gigs in other venues. Just another good way to share.

    Charley
    http://www.chhc.co

  • I don’t book any tours without adding in a few house concerts. This was a great and thorough description on the way these work.

    I recommend setting a guaranteed minimum fee. $350 is reasonable. This makes sure that you’re not going to show up to a super fan and her mom’s house who tell you they couldn’t get anyone to come and you walk away with just (fantastic) brownies and more awkward conversation than is possibly healthy. If this does happen with the guarantee set, at least you still walk away with $350. Tell your hosts to charge $15 and if 24+ people come they get a free concert. I have never had a problem and I have played 30+ house concerts around the country.

    I write extensively about the DIY music world (have been a full-time independent artist for 5+ years). Read more on http://aristake.com

    Ari Herstand

  • Hey Ari, thanks for sharing. Guest blog post from you soon? Yes!

  • So I live where there are no house concerts, how would you suggest offering someone to host it?
    I need more than: Would you like a lovely concert in your own home. You can invite guests, have dinner, and I'll like you to charge a little cost for it?

    • Start by asking your biggest fans in the area. If that doesn't yield anything — start asking some friends. I'd say you propose it as a really fun, intimate, and unique event. If no one in your area is hosting house concerts, it's all the more opportunity to someone to step up and be the first to do it. There's lots of reasons why people would want to host one:
      * social clout
      * seeming hip
      * developing a closer relationship to the artist
      * showing off their home (if they're into that sorta thing)
      * having a unique party where peeps don't trash the place

  • David Nathaniel Hoyte

    Born & raise in the Bahamas.
    David Nathaniel Hoyte.
    A Perfessional Steel Drum Performer .
    I would love To Perform Live. Concerts .
    Arouund the globe for my Fans
    (242) 431-5776
    A Hmmbalpy Inventions. & Start A Lite. productions.
    Manager Owner.
    Ranking you. In advance.

  • I have done many private concerts, from exclusive high roller suites in Las Vegas (23 years), to private events for clients across the country; either as a solo or with duo/ trio. Would love to connect with some organizers in Florida as I am planning to move there this winter. Any help is greatly appreciated. My credentials are on my website at http://ginofederici.com
    If I can help you in any way, please get in touch. Thank you.

  • I learned a lot a lot about promoting house concerts from house parties my wife has held for candles, junk jewellery, etc. Like those parties, you play a house concert and get a guest to agree to host the next one or recommend you to friends.

  • Oh, that’s an interesting similarity. Any tips?

    @ChrisRobley

    • Basically my wife was hosting a candle party and I asked her how she was roped into that. She said the host sent a sign up sheet around. They enticed her with a percentage of candle sales to put towards more candles (we have way too many candles now). Talk to people between sets about hosting. Usually someone will want a party as well or has a friend or relative they can get to host. They can be comped some merch (a cd or two, t-shirts if you have them) or offer to learn a couple of personal song requests for them. Passing around a guest list to collect the guests names and emails is another great way to market as well. They can be enticed to sign up by offering to send them a free code for a downloadable song in return.

  • Great advice. Thanks!

    @ChrisRobley

  • bearcreek911

    So I already book up with my regular shows through most of the year but I’d like to start doing house concerts in the Midwest, but I’d like someone to book them for me. Is that possible?

  • Fran probably has the expert opinion on this, but I would say… start booking them yourself, or at least join a house concert service or community that acts as an intermediary between you and the hosts. Part of the whole experience is the intimacy between you and audience. The relationships you build with the hosts is also important, and that begins with your booking conversations.

    @ChrisRobley

    • bearcreek911

      Chris that’s a great idea, but I’m not looking to book house concerts because I don’t have enough regular bookings I’m actually looking to grow the depth of venues that I already perform. Currently I play around 4 to 5 nights per week and make a good living, but like you said I love the intimacy factor. The problem is that I am from a small community and old habits are hard to change. We have a few people who do private house concerts per year, but I’d love to try and grow that number. Ideas?

      • Ahhhh! I see. You want to get people to host more shows. I know that CIYH (http://www.concertsinyourhome.com/index.php) has a program where new hosts can test the waters with a house concert where the idea is exclusivity AND low-impact: it’s something like, 10 songs, 10 listeners, each paying 10 bucks. So the performer gets $100 for about an hour’s worth of music; and the host doesn’t have to stretch it too far to get 10 RSVPs. And since space is extremely limited, it’s got that exclusive vibe to it. Their site has lots of other good info for hosts too.

        @ChrisRobley

  • Im thinking of putting a house concert tour together as a way of launching my new album in November. How would you go about promoting such a tour as I’m aware that most people would want to invite their own friends and not necessarily have it advertised on a tour poster, promo. Anyone?

    • That’s a tricky one, because mostly the hosts want to have control over the guests/attendees, and often don’t want the gigs posted publicly as if open to public. So… one way to go about promoting is to make promo material that hosts can share with their guests to get them excited (videos, online posters, etc.), and then you can document each of the shows to use in your emails, website, etc. to show how the events were successful (in hopes of attracting more house shows in the future).

      @ChrisRobley

    • Kevin Bass

      As a consistent house concert venue I have hosted quite a few. I would have no problem with an artist promoting the event, actually I encourage it. As long as there is a cuttoff to how many attend no problem. That being said I do things a little differently. I usually have it catered and have sound equipment for the artist to use. I MC the event and I take enough money from the evening to basically break even with my costs.

  • Seems like a good model if it works well enough for you to keep doing it. Nice.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Kevin Bass

      Thank you Christopher,
      I am trying to find access to more musicians interested in coming out to Houston to play as well as a new fan base to fill up seats. So you have any sugfestions?

  • What genres do you focus on?

    @ChrisRobley

  • Agreed. Folk Alliance International is a fantastic event. See you in Kansas City!

    @ChrisRobley

  • gabep

    I just jam as many people as i can into a basement/garage, turn it up as loud as I can and go bonkers for a couple hours

  • Lacey

    Hi My Name is Lacey Madison,

    Im a singer/ songwriter from sydney and i really want to start house concerts but i have no idea where to start. And how do i find people to perform house concerts for?? Any advise ? Also If you want you can check out my website http://laceymadisonmusic.wix.com/laceymadison you can subscribe and ill ad you to an email list where you can get FREE music and lyrics xo