House Concerts!

House Concerts 

Your living room was made for live music! Turn your house or apartment or clubhouse into an ultimate Jazz Club. 

 What is a House Concert? 

If you are unfamiliar with house concerts, they are a wonderful way to enjoy an musical evening with a small Jazz ensemble wherein both the performer and the audience receive the benefit of a more intimate venue.  Unlike formal venues, the audience gets to mingle with the performers at intermission and after the concert. Since they are private parties there is no ticket price, but guests are asked to make a suggested donation of $20 to $30.  House concerts are often underwritten all or in part by the host or sponsor(s) in combination with admission donations from attendees. 

Why Host a Concert? 

Ultimately, you host a house concert because you love the music and the people. House concerts hosts are not in it for the money.  The money collected at the door and from CD sales goes straight to the artist.  You can have a separate donation jar to help with food and beverage expenses.  But honestly, there is no greater experience than getting to hear your favorite artists play your favorite music in your living room and sharing the music with friends, family and colleagues at the concert.  That is more than adequate compensation. 

What Are the Host’s Responsibilities? 

The host is responsible providing the venue, getting the word out, managing reservations and providing the artist with meals and a place to stay (if the artist is not local).  The most important of these is getting the word out – the artist is relying on you to get the audience there. 

Do I Need to Serve Food or Drinks? 

There are lots of different formats for house concerts – ranging from potluck dinners followed by a concert to a very traditional concert going experience.  You can also offer hors d'Oeuvres and beverages for the audience to enjoy before the show and at intermission or invite your guests to share a dish a la potluck style. Additionally, you can put out a donation jar on the table to help recoup food and beverage costs. 

How Do I Know if My House is Suitable? 

To host a successful house concert, you need a space large enough to hold 50 to 75 people.  That can be a living room, two rooms that flow together (as long as there are good sight lines to the see the performer), a nice patio/backyard or an apartment clubhouse. For an outdoor concert, you will need to make sure you have a backup plan if there is bad weather (like a tent or a place to move indoors). 

To estimate how many people your house can accommodate, block off a space for the performer(s), and then set up a couple of row of folding chairs.  You will probably need to either shift furniture to the side or move it out of the room altogether.  Setting up a couple of test rows will enable you to better estimate your seating capability.  Make sure to sit in the rows you’ve set up to double check the amount of space between rows.  You can ask your guests to bring folding chairs or you might be able to borrow some from your church or office or neighbors. 

Setting a Date 

There are several important considerations when setting a date for your house concert.  The first and most fundamental thing is to know what else is going on in your area.  Network with local promoters and venues (or at the very least keep track of concerts listed on their websites).  You don’t want to saturate your audience– and you certainly don’t want to book a house concert on the same night as a big venue concert that would draw from the same audience pool. 

Getting the Word Out 

Your most important job as a host is promotion. The artist is relying on you to fill the seats with a knowledgeable and appreciative audience.  In doing that, you need to make it clear to the audience that this is concert organized as a party for a serious listening audience and not a party with music in the background.  At the same time, you need to make it clear that it is a private party and not a commercial venture. 

How Do I Get the Word Out? 

The most effective way to spread the word is via e-mail. An e-mail can be forwarded to other interested folks.  Start by making a list of all your friends, family and acquaintances who love Jazz or live music in general.  Go through your e-mail contacts.  Do you know of any community groups that might be interested?  Ask them to help you spread the word and/or post the information on their events calendar.  The goal is to build an e-mail distribution list for your concert announcement.  When you send out the announcements, be sure to put the addresses in the "bcc" box so as to keep them private.  And don’t insert more than 20 or so addresses into each e-mail or they are likely to be caught in junk mail files. 

What Do I Say? 

Obviously, you will need to include the name of the performer and the date and time of the concert.  You will also want to include some biographical information about the artists and links to their websites.  Include your phone and your e-mail for people to contact you and to make reservations, but DO NOT include your street address. Give that out only to folks who have made reservations.  You will also want to include the amount of the suggested donation in the e-mail, something like “House concerts are private parties organized as concerts. There are no tickets, but we do ask for a suggested donation of $20 to $30 per person, 100% of which goes to the performer.” 

The artist will also want to post information about the concert on their website and may also have an e-mail distribution list.  Be sure to provide the artist with the information to include in the artists’ PR.  Something like “House concert, 7:30 pm, Seattle. Suggested donation $20 to $30. Reservations required. For more information or to make a reservation contact Arienne and Armand at [phone] or [e-mail].” 

Taking Reservation 

It is imperative to require RSVPs and to keep a running list of who is attending. This lets you know how many seats you have or haven’t booked and whether you need to step up your efforts or start a wait list.  Include e-mail addresses with the list to make it easier to send out reminders and logistical information.  This also ensures that people commit to attend before you give out your address. Keep in mind you are likely to have some no shows or last minute cancellations, so it is wise to slightly over book. 

About Two Weeks Before the Concert 

Touch base with Geraldine to confirm that she has your address, phone number, and directions to your house.  Ask if she knows approximately when they will be arriving (this may be a window of 2-3 hours).  This is also a good time to inquire about what and when the ensemble would like to eat, as well as whether they would like you to arrange someone to help with CD sales. 

This is also a good time to assess how your reservations are going, and if you are not getting the expected reservations, be sure to let the Geraldine know and the two of you can brainstorm ways to spread the word.  Do not just cancel – this is likely to be part of a tour schedule and that date will be saved for you, meaning it's too late to fill it with another booking.  This is also a good time to reassess your PR strategy. 

Seven to Ten Days Before the Concert 

Send out a reminder e-mail to all those who have RVSP’d.  The e-mail should include the date and time of the concert, as well as logistical information such as how to find your house, when they can start arriving and where to park. Be clear about house rules(no smoking, etc.) and let people know if you have pets so that those with allergies are alerted. If all the seats are spoken for, ask people to let you know if they can’t make it.  If you have open seats, let people know so they can help spread the word. 

You are about to have a bunch of people arrive at your house – often after dark. It’s a good idea to check and make sure your outside lights are all working, your sidewalks and railings are in good repair, and your steps are clearly marked.  Put away fragile items that might accidentally get bumped and broken. Make any necessary signs such as where the bathrooms are located, where to put coats, etc 

Do any necessary grocery shopping.  Go to the bank and get cash so you can make change for people the night of the concert. 

The Day of the Concert 

Rearrange furniture and set up the room for the concert.  Make sure you have adequate space for the performer(s) and that all seats have clear sight lines. Make sure there is adequate, but not intrusive, lighting.  Remember to have space for the performer’s CDs and e-mail list.  It’s also a good idea to see if the ensemble wants help with CD sales and to arrange a trustworthy friend to assist. 

When Geraldine arrives, have her check the set up and make any changes she requests.  Be sure to leave bottled water easily accessible during the concert for the artists.  You will also want to have a room prepared so the artist's have time and space to prep for the concert.  You will also want to inquire in advance when they would like to eat. 

Set up any food and drinks you plan to serve so they are easily available for guests to serve themselves.   Don’t forget to have a trash can easily accessible. Just before people start arriving, be sure to turn off telephone ringers, ice machines and other household noise making things. 

At the Concert 

Greet guests at the door, check their name off the RSVP list and collect their donations personally. 

About five minutes before the concert, let the artist know you are about five minutes away from starting and begin to gently urge the audience to take their seats. 

You will want to begin the concert with a short introduction and:  1) Reminds people to turn off their phones and to keep chatter to a minimum, 2)  Let people know about other upcoming concerts, and 3)  Introduce the artist. 

Above all, remember to enjoy yourself!  You are bringing the warmth and magic of Kimmel Center/Academy of Music to your living room!

To discuss booking Geraldine Oliver for your own House Concert,, please click on this link./contact