Everything You Always Wanted to Know about House Concerts

House concerts are rapidly becoming the most popular way to enjoy acoustic music. At a house concert, listeners enjoy the music of talented artists in an intimate, "up-close and personal" setting. House concert enthusiasts rave about hearing great music in an informal, smoke-free atmosphere, while relaxing on cozy couches, next to the fireplace, in someone's living room. Hosts enjoy having their favorite performers stay and eat with them in their home (not to mention the kudos they get from their friends for throwing the best party on the block). Musicians have said that they get the most attentive audiences they've ever had while making more money than they do in bars or cafés. The hours are excellent and the accommodations included. It's a win-win situation for everyone!

Below are some FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) about house concerts. If you are interested in being a host or would like more information, please contact Jody at
houseconcerts@jodykessler.com .

Who hosts house concerts?

House concert hosts are folks that enjoy and want to support acoustic music and independent artists. Some people are one-timers, and other enthusiasts host regular, ongoing music series in their homes.

Does the host make money on a house concert?

Most house concerts are hosted by people who do it for the sheer love of the music. They want to support the artist and expose their friends to his/her music, and they enjoy entertaining in their home. Typically, all the money collected at the door goes to the performer. However, hosts sometimes do make agreements with the artists to take a portion of the collection to cover expenses for things such as renting chairs, xeroxing flyers, coffee, etc. These arrangements are always discussed and agreed upon beforehand. More often than not, the host agrees to absorb any small costs and simply considers it a usual expense involved with throwing a party.

What kind of space is needed for a house concert?

A living room or family room that holds 20-30 people will suffice. It doesn't need to be a fancy space. People can sit on couches, folding chairs, backjacks, or pillows on the floor. Concerts can also be held in barns, on decks, or on lawns, although usually a sound system is needed for outdoor events. If planning an outdoor performance, a host must be able to accommodate people indoors in case of bad weather. In addition, the artist will need a table set up to sell CDs and tapes, and a guest room to stay the night (it need not be extravagant).

How much does it cost?
It doesn't cost you, the host, any more than having a regular party. Perhaps you might provide some snacks and beverages. The guests pay for the music by making a donation at the door, which is usually $10.00. Some hosts prefer to offer a sliding scale of $5-15 to accommodate guests with varying financial situations. In any case, no one who really wants to hear the music is turned away. Most artists need to make a minimum of $200 in order to make ends meet. Some hosts prefer to simply offer the performer a set fee and cover the cost of the music themselves, rather than ask their guests to pay money. However, in the folk music world, most concertgoers are happy to pay a reasonable admission charge in order to hear quality live music in an intimate, comfortable setting. In addition to providing the performance space, hosts put performers up in their homes overnight and provide their meals during their stay.

How long is the concert?
Typically, the performer will play two sets of music, usually about 40-45 minutes in length, with a break in between. The guests usually arrive a half-hour before the concert starts, and there is also time for socializing and sharing food in between sets and at the end of the performance. Some hosts prefer to have the musician play one longer set rather than two shorter ones. Most artists are amenable to doing whatever fits in best with the event.

Is the performer providing background music?
No. Guests need to know that this is not a cocktail party-it is a concert. Most often, the artist is playing unamplified and really needs to be listened to. There is time to socialize before and after the concert, as well as during the break.

What about alcohol and cigarettes?
Some artists are comfortable with moderate amounts of alcohol, while some are not. Most singer/songwriters do not like playing to a crowd of sloppy-drunk people. Cigarettes are a major drag for most performers. It is encouraged to have smoking restricted to outside only. It is important to remind guests that house concerts are meant to be an alternative to the bar scene.

I've decided to host a house concert. How do I spread the word?

The artist will provide you with materials such as preprinted invitation postcards that you can send or hand out to friends. E-mail and word of mouth are also essential. Ask everyone to bring a few friends, and really talk it up as a special event. Some hosts will open the concert to the public, and will publicize it by putting up a flyer or submitting a notice to the arts calendar in their local newspaper. The artist can also include the event in his/her promotions of upcoming performances( with the host's permission). Only the first name and phone number of the host is listed, so people must call for directions and reservations. This way, the host is able to screen people before inviting them into their home. Please be aware that you need to invite at least twice as many people as you expect to show. It is very difficult for performers who have traveled a long way to play for only a handful of people. This is how they make their living, so vigorous publicity is essential. Publicity and invitations should go out 3 weeks in advance. Follow-up phone calls are very helpful.

Who provides food at a house concert?

Typically, the guests are asked to bring a snack, dessert, or finger food to share during the break. The host often makes coffee or provides some beverages. Some hosts prefer to have everyone show up early for a pot luck dinner before the show. It all depends on everyone's energy level, the night of the week, etc. Keeping it simple usually works best.

What about children?
Children are usually welcome. House concerts are ideal family events. As in any performance situation, parents must agree to remove small children who are being disruptive. If there are several children attending, it is usually wise to designate a room in the house where they can go play if they donšt want to hear the music.


So those are the basic nuts and bolts of house concert production. If you are interested in having Jody Kessler play in your home, contact her at houseconcerts@jodykessler.com .




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