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House Concerts

31 Jan 09 - 01:30 PM (#2553794)
Subject: BS: House Concerts
From: GUEST,Lyricalwhims

I am getting ready to do my first organized house concert, and have some questions. I know that every house concert is organized slightly differently, so just let me know your general thoughts.

I would like to give a percentage of the donations (I will be asking $10 - $20 sliding scale donation...but won't turn anyone away who can't afford a donation) to the house. What is the usual percentage? (I'm hoping for about 25 people).

After playing around cafe smoothie machines and loud pubs for years, I'm looking forward to performing our more subtle compositions. With this in mind, is there a kind, respectful way to tell people to leave their small kids at home?

Lastly, I'm planning on two 45 minute sets with a 15 minute break in-between. Does this sound reasonable? or is there a better schedule?

Thank you for your input.

31 Jan 09 - 01:44 PM (#2553803)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Joe Offer

Hi - this is certainly a music question, so I moved it up to the music section of the Forum.
Here in California, the performer usually gets 100% of the admission fees. Oftentimes, the host will put out a basket for donations for refreshments. The performer gives the host CD's and perhaps a thank-you gift, especially if the host has provided meals or lodging.

31 Jan 09 - 07:10 PM (#2554049)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Rabbi-Sol

From your query it is hard to discern whether you are the host, the performer, or possibly both.

Two 45 minute sets plus a 15 minute intermission is the norm for house concerts. The break usually stretches to 20 minutes or more if you have only one bathroom and you are also selling CDs.

As far as the suggested donation, the performer usually gets 100% of the take if you are not locked into a guarantee. Most house concerts do not work with a guarantee but you can not always count on attracting a tier 1 performer.

At the house concerts that I host (The Borderline in New City, NY) we guarantee at least $300 if it is a single performer and $600 if it is a group. Anything over that gets split 60% for the performer and 40% for The Borderline (which by the way is a non-profit all volunteer run organization). By posting guarantees you will attract more well known performers and therefore have a better chance at attracting a large audience.

In order to minimize expenses I would also suggest that you do a pot luck lunch or dinner depending on whether you are doing an afternoon or an evening show.

As far as young children are concerned, be up front with the people and tell them in no uncertain terms that small children who can not sit still and behave themselves are not welcome because they will disturb everyone else who is trying to enjoy the music. Our age limit is no one under 12 and we are strict about it.

31 Jan 09 - 10:36 PM (#2554154)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Deckman

I think you're on the right track. When I do a house concert, I plan for the first set of about 45 minutes, then an intermission. I plan a final set of 30 minutes, and anticipate a few more songs as requests and/or encores.

If the host is willing, it's nice to have a potluck supper afterwards, and then if it's a well known crowd, that can evolve into a hoot/jam session.

And is usual for the perforer to get 100% of the gate. And it's always appropriate to gift your cd's to the host.

As for children ... good luck! If they get too noisy and dissruptive, either the performer or the host should invite them to leave ... and take their parents with them!

Just my opinion! Bob(deckman)Nelson

31 Jan 09 - 11:21 PM (#2554165)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: GUEST,Peace

Never done one but expect to be this summer. Thanks for the input and info.


31 Jan 09 - 11:38 PM (#2554169)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Rabbi-Sol

You will be surprised at some of the big names today who are playing house concerts.

Last November we hosted Christine Lavin.

On May 31st we will be hosting one of the top Bluegrass bands in the country today. Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass. It will be their first time ever doing a house concert.

01 Feb 09 - 01:06 AM (#2554192)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Charlie Baum

In the Washington DC area, the Folklore Society of Greater Washington sets up house concerts (as well as our other hall concert series, and all the other things we do.) For house concerts, the performer usually gets no financial guarantee, but takes home 100% of the gate. (Our hall series concerts offer guarantees against a percentage of the net, but even well-known performers will sometimes take their chances for the advantages of the larger percentages and the intimacy of a house concert, particularly if it's a weeknight or a free night while they're traveling in between bigger gigs.) We will usually offer to put the performer up at a member's home and offer hospitality for a day or so if they wish. We match up hosts with performers they'd like to host. We phrase our admission as a "suggested donation" or "suggested minimum donation," and don't turn people away. The admission money is collected in a basket or hat or bowl or whatever, but nobody sits behind it enforcing payment. On some occasions there's a pot-luck dinner beforehand or there's a jam session following, if that's the sort of thing the performer enjoys and asks for.

--Charlie Baum

01 Feb 09 - 03:02 AM (#2554210)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Stephen L. Rich

For just about anything one might want to know about house concerts click here.

Stephen Lee

01 Feb 09 - 04:43 AM (#2554243)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: the lemonade lady

Definately time to start them in UK, anyone got a big house?


01 Feb 09 - 05:03 AM (#2554249)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Bonnie Shaljean

You beat me to it Sal -

01 Feb 09 - 08:11 AM (#2554362)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Suegorgeous

They have already started in the UK, as mentioned on another thread. see this

Friends of mine have had very successful house concerts using this site.

01 Feb 09 - 10:15 AM (#2554439)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

I did one last night in Scunthorpe - great fun. 15 people and my fee was as good as many a club, plus CD sales too. Very friendly atmosphere with food in the break and a bit of a session afterwards. Many thanks to Hugh and Vicky for a terrific night.

Here are my notes on UK House Concerts. I plan to do a more general one as part of the clubs tips page soon.

I'm sure this is a good solution for clubs who are having problems with venues, for new start-up clubs before they go public, and just for fun.

I'd like to see an explosion in house concerts in the UK - but not for them to replace clubs. If that happened the music would effectively go underground, (and it would also be much much harder for new acts to get started).

That said, bring it on, I say!


01 Feb 09 - 12:26 PM (#2554526)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: wysiwyg

It needs to be agreed how PR will happen-- host or artist or both-- and how to handle what may happen if PR is done well-- too many planning to attend, for the space. Also plan to harvest new names for mailing lists, and plan CD sales. What will be the policy on photo flashes during performance? OK or not-OK to digitally record? Etc.... think about it from the audience perspective too. Encourage attendees to bring snacks to share, etc., and child-space going to be available for any present who do not listen well?

People's sense of "place" can be strong-- you want attendees to have a totally good experience, and to associate pleasant (hopefully) site memories with great performance memories. Performer wants peeps to come to future house concerts (trusting their site choices). Site hosts may be trying to build a series for the future, around that performer as their first or next in a series. Plan together how both can build for the future. (Don't do it based on assumptions not discussed.)

Have fun!


01 Feb 09 - 12:38 PM (#2554535)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Deckman

Susan ... al your points are VERY well taken. Bob

01 Feb 09 - 12:49 PM (#2554541)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

Susan - are you referring to the USA?

If it's the UK I think the PR has to be the host's sole responsibility. See my link for why. Other points taken on board.



01 Feb 09 - 12:49 PM (#2554542)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Celtaddict

In our area (northeast US) there are some people who have house concerts quite regularly and others who do now and again. One series, running for years, has excellent performers and they also serve a terrific dinner, appetizers to dessert; the whole event (with two sets, usually around 50 minutes) runs well over three hours. I have no idea how the costs are covered, as the admission is low and goes to the performer. Mine are simple, I ask people to bring $X for the performer plus food or drink to share; I provide chairs, ice, cups and plates and such, and I host the performer if he is from away. You are right that many pretty big names enjoy a house concert between gigs when they are away from home, not only to pass the time and for a few extra dollars, but for the intimate atmosphere as well. Don't forget the desirability of local performers for house concerts, too. Often their fans wish they performed near home oftener, or in quieter environments. The regular listeners often know each other so it is a very homey atmosphere.

01 Feb 09 - 12:52 PM (#2554548)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Celtaddict

I also do not publicize the address but ask that people phone or e-mail for directions; this gives me an idea of numbers.
The usual PR arrangement is that the performer includes it on the website or schedule or newsletter, and I send e-mails or telephone calls around. I have not used posters only because we seem to have a full house (25-30) without them.

01 Feb 09 - 01:54 PM (#2554593)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Suegorgeous

If you organise a house gig through Healthy Concerts see here (mentioned above), they'll do much of the PR/publicity for you. There's a core of local people who are really keen to attend these concerts, which kind of feels a bit safer to me.

01 Feb 09 - 02:23 PM (#2554627)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Susan of DT

We have been hosting a couple of house concerts a year for a few years.

100% of gate goes to the performer. Suggested donation = $15. We feed and house the performer. We serve coffee and cake or sometimes cider.

The publicity we do is an emailing list of about 100 names, 2 club newsletters, some radio stations folk DJs. The performers handle anything else thru their mailing lists and website.

No one has ever brought a child - the audience is rather old for kiddies.

01 Feb 09 - 02:34 PM (#2554640)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Jerry Rasmussen

I've done a house concert for the Greater Washington folks, and they don't exagerate. They are greater...


01 Feb 09 - 03:02 PM (#2554665)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Deckman

I fear that I left a false impression with my earlier negative comments about children. I would NOT like anyone to think that I don't like children. Why, my goodness, it was only three years ago that I saw a child I thought had some possible likeable qualities!

And, in an effort to improve my image, an impossible task, I should explain that at one of my house concerts, I had my OWN grandchildren on stage with me ... singing! TRUE! But I planned the event well, and my daughter left with her spawn at the intermission ... and we sang all the bawdy songs and backroom ballads during the second half! CHEERS, bad bad bob

01 Feb 09 - 03:39 PM (#2554701)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: wysiwyg

You have only to see kids at an Armstrong family house concert to see kids handled well at a house concert. Space given to curl up and listen, space given to go off and do stuff. Space given if they feel like singing along, space given to singers asking them not to.

OTOH adult material in the performance should be communicated soeonehow int he PR if there is going to be a lot of it, else the performer's set list can be cramped/negated when they tune up and spot a lot of unanticipated kiddies sitting in front. Every house concert presenter will have their style.... I only suggested people THINK about the areas I outlined, not address them with a heavy hand.


01 Feb 09 - 04:11 PM (#2554734)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

Sorry to ask again Susan, but this could be important. Over here in the UK, as i understand it, if you advertise your event it becomes de facto a public event and therefore liable to Public Entertainment License, Health and Safety Legislation, Performing Rights Society Licence and so on. However if you don't advertise, but 'invite' the audience by 'private' means (I THINK an mailing list list would be acceptable, but only if everyone has joined voluntarily) then the event remains private - and therefore possible.

Is this not the case in the USA (I assume you're all in the States)?



01 Feb 09 - 04:58 PM (#2554763)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Deckman

To guest Tom Bliss ... you are addressing an issue that is important and is also quite unclear here in the USA. Private vs Public details seem to have dropped away over the last few years. The issue REALLY revolves around TAXES! If you advertise a public event, here in the USA, a bunch of city/state regulations kick in: a permit license, taxes, fire dept regulations, health food inspections if food is served, on and on and on.

The bottom line is that the local government here wants a cut. Whether or not the local government deserves it ... THEY WANT A CUT OF THE MONEY!

I've watched this trend increase over the years. And I'm well aware that folks over on your side the "pond" are seeing the same issues.

Several years ago, maybe 15, our local State revenue agents started "busting" weekend garage sales. You know, where a few neighbors get together and put extra stuff out for sale. The price is five bucks ... give me five bucks ... take the item and go home! Pretty simple.

After two weekends of "enforcement", the local police department asked the State Governor to stop this action. The police couldn't handle the enforcement problems ... assaults on the revenue officers ... disturbences ... citizen complaints, etc.

I don't know if this helps, except to let you know that we are all brothers ... no matter where we live! Bob(deckman)Nelson

01 Feb 09 - 05:24 PM (#2554787)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

Thanks Bob. My advice here is not to advertise, merely to invite. But that's not expert advice, just guesswork based on what I've heard - I guess time will tell! Tom

01 Feb 09 - 06:58 PM (#2554841)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: wysiwyg

"PR" does not mean one must "advertise," it means whatever way one is getting the word out and promoting the event. That will vary not only by country but by region IN the country, such as in the US where states and communities have a wide variety of regulations and enforcemenbt practices. "PR" for the purposes of my post means THINK ABOUT IT TOGETHER (host and performer) and discuss, especially I would think, how their respective email lists will be used.


01 Feb 09 - 07:50 PM (#2554882)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Faye Roche

When I saw the title of this thread I thought "are they really talking about concerts in people's houses or does it have some other meaning, like house music?" Then I found that yes, it really is about concerts in people's homes.

What a brill idea! I really hope that it catches on here and doesn't fall foul of our stringent rules, regulations and the 'elf 'n' safety nazis.

I'm even beginning to think about organising one. I'll letyou know if I do (hope that doesn't count as illicit advertising!)

01 Feb 09 - 08:25 PM (#2554892)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: GUEST,lyricalwhims

Thank you all for such a wellspring of information! I have both attended house concerts, and been a house concert "opener" for another group from Scotland. Then of course, there are the very unexpected, spur of the moment house concerts, and the ones you do for visiting relatives when you don't know what else to do with them. However, I have never actually organized an official house concert, so I do appreciate the input. The reason I wanted to give a portion to the house was because I know this particular house is struggling with rent, so I thought it would be a win/win situation to help them out a bit, and draw on their vast circle of friends. I'm also hoping that they will want to have us back again in the future. Thanks again. :-)

02 Feb 09 - 06:06 PM (#2555634)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Deckman

The idea of "house concerts" goes back at least 45 years here in the Seattle area. I well remember enjoying Guy Carawan in the early 60's when John Ross (another catter) hosted him at his home on Queen Ann hill.

I love the intimacy that can happen at a house concert. The performer has a chance to relax and perform some of his best material. And the audience always enjoys the hob nobbing afterwards. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson

02 Feb 09 - 06:37 PM (#2555661)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: GUEST,CupOfTea at work with no scones or cookies

I'm still humming from a house concert last night with long time friends Phil Cooper & Margaret Nelson as the consumate performers (as usual). I've likely presented them as a house concert or main stage concert perhaps 15 times, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

20 years ago I discovered that I was in an IDEAL place for Chicago area friends I met while in grad school to stop on their way to or from the east coast, and soon after returning home, I was lucky enough to present folks who are now "main stage artists" and people from other parts of the country for their first Cleveland gig in my living room- Mustard's Retreat and Lee Murdock among them. As the years went on, I was getting offers from folks who were already main stage artists, to my great delight. I cannot say strongly enough how enhancing to a love of folk music this has been for me, and for the audiences in this sort of an intimate situation.

House concerts weren't unheard of here before me, but they weren't as common either. While also promoting larger hall concerts, our group had gotten a constant barrage of "is it handicapped accessible?" inquiries for every concert. When I had to say "no" to this question for a house concert, my friend Sue offered her accessible home for subsequent house concerts, and there we've done them ever since. Through publicity for previous shows, she was contacted by acts I didn't know, and went ahead and graciously opened her house for them as well. She feels SHE is the one who is getting the best part of the deal. "I've had Anne Hills in my house! And Cindy Mangusen! and..." Huzzahs to anyone who engages in this wonderful pursuit: everyone wins!

In any house concert I've done, my home or others, I've put up the performers who were staying in town (some need to hit the road that night), fed them, made sure they had accurate directions, done flyers and publicity, nagged radio stations with folk programs. (this has several times produced live interviews with the artists and fresh explanation of what a house concert is over the radio to a folk audience). We provide a drink and a light snack, take admission (has ranged from $8 years ago to last night's $15). All admission and record sales go directly to the performers, though we'll collect money to make it easier for them to chat.

It really doesn't get much better than a house concert.

Joanne in Cleveland

03 Feb 09 - 04:57 AM (#2555919)
Subject: RE: House Concerts

I saw an ad for this in the current Shed programme

I have no conection with that Shed My login is pure coincidence!

03 Feb 09 - 04:58 AM (#2555920)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: ThreeSheds

Twas I that posted last!

03 Feb 09 - 03:02 PM (#2556403)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Vic Smith

The website for a well-established and very successful organisation that promotes and helps publicise house concerts in the U.K. - called "Healthy Concerts" is here -

I managed to get Jali Sherrifo Konteh booked into one in Brighton on his very first English tour in 2004. Probably about 80 people in a huge ground floor flat on Brighton seafront and that allowed space for the multimedia presentation that preceded the concert, showing the life of a jali in The Gambia. Lovely food as part of the admission price. Rapt attention during the concert then dancing to an African disco after it.
Lots of sales for CDs and also for the Gambian batiks that we sell to support the batik maker and his family - see

03 Feb 09 - 07:27 PM (#2556605)
Subject: RE: House Concerts
From: Suegorgeous

Vic - that's the one I've given twice above. They're a great organisation.