A big thanks to our friends over at FlagshipRomance.com for letting us copy from their fantastic FAQ page!
We are asked this question all the time! :)
A house concert is a private event in someone's home where an artist comes to perform in an intimate, listening environment. The host (homeowner) invites anywhere from 15 - 100+ of their closest friends, co-workers, family members, neighbors, etc. to experience a concert they'll never forget, while supporting an independent touring musician.
House concerts can be set up in a variety of ways. There are no rules; just guidelines that we'll lay out in this FAQ. We've performed at hundreds of house concerts & no two have been the same. With this first-hand experience, we've developed a good grasp on works best for us, the host, & the audience. Once you read this FAQ, contact us to start the booking process! :)
In this day & age, musicians make a majority of their income through live concerts & touring. There are a couple options when it comes to the financial side of hosting your own house concert with us:
1.) Suggested Donations: At a majority of the house concerts we perform at, the host will ask attendees to contribute a "suggested donation" in exchange for attending the show. We've found that an open-ended ask of $10-20 per person works wonderfully; it doesn't alienate possible attendees who can't afford a higher price ticket, but also encourages those who truly enjoy the show to give more. 100% of these donations go directly to the artist.
You don't need to recruit a door person to collect donations (although a couple hosts have done that & it works flawlessly). You can simply place a jar with a sign to let attendees know to put their donations in it at a highly visible spot (or two) at the entrance to your home.
2.) Flat Fee/Guarantee: At some of the house concerts we've performed at, the host has expressed that they would rather pay us a flat fee so that they don't need to encourage their friends/familiy/etc to pay a suggested donation. Our performance is essentially their gift to their social circle. If this is the route you would like to take, please let us know via email, as we work one-on-one with each host when it comes to this.
** A note on Minimum Guarantees **
Most times when setting up a house concert, a host will tell us how many people they expect will be in attendance. We keep track of this information so that we can project our income/expenses. However, stuff sometimes happens, right? Bad weather, a town function or festival that happens to fall on the same date & ends up cutting your attendance in half or worse.
Now, the last thing we EVER want is for a host to feel badly about low attendance when its out of their control. Trust us when we say that sometimes the shows for 5 people end up being BETTER than the shows for 55 people.
Financially speaking, it takes a lot of pressure off of us if a host agrees to a minimum financial guarantee to ensure that our costs are covered.
** A note on Cancelling a House Concert**
The two of us handle all of our own tour booking, which is a full-time job in itself. A majority of the shows have to be solidified & routes need to be drawn out almost a year before we plan on leaving our driveway.
Most of the time, if a host needs to cancel 6+ months before our scheduled house concert, we are able to find a replacement host/venue. If we are given any less notice than that, it becomes nearly impossible to find a suitable replacement.
We wholeheartedly understand that sometimes life gets in the way. If you end up needing to cancel our house concert, we would greatly appreciate being compensated with a minimum guarantee, as well as an added stipend for lodging & a meal.
There are a variety of ways to get the word out about our house concert: - Email - Text - Word of Mouth - Passing out flyers to your friends & neighbors (we'd be happy to design one for you)
If you're open to meeting new, music-loving people, we've seen certain hosts use online groups, such as MeetUp to advertise their concerts. Also, we have a wonderful network of friends & fans throughout the US & Canada that we could invite, if they happen to live in your area.
The main points to cover when inviting people are:
At many house concerts, the host will ask friends to bring a dish to share before the performance. We've seen that this typically increases the attendance. This can be anything from a bottle of wine, appetizer, dessert, or a full dish for potluck.
Something we hear often is a potential host saying that they would love to do a house concert, but feel like their home is too small. That is, almost always, not the case. Rooms can be deceiving when it comes to how many people can fit in the space comfortably.
Jack Williams says that most often, a space which the host estimates could accomodate only 15-20 people can comfortably handle 30 or even more.
When mapping out a performance space in your home, it is usually best to choose the largest common room (living room, den, basement, etc). Once you've picked the room, arrange the seating to face where you envision us performing. When setting up, the goal is to turn this room into your own, mini-concert hall.
Fun fact: We enjoy our audience to sit close to us. It creates an immediate energy & connection which allows for a fun, conversational concert. Since some folks tend to be on the shy side, it would be best to have the seating arranged close to us before the audience begins to arrive.
When it comes to what we'll need to perform, all we ask for is the following: - Two electrical outlets (either directly behind us or in close proximity) - Space for our compact sound system* & microphone stand
In our experience, we've found that most of our favorite house concerts have been indoors.
When performing outside, there are two things that usually work against us from giving you our absolute best:
1.) Sound travels & it has very few, if any, spots to reverberate when performing outdoors. With the stripped nature of this performance, it is important to keep the sound contained as much as possible.
2.) One of the greatest things about house concerts is the palpable, symbiotic energy the performers & audience feel when the focus is on the music & the stories. When indoors, there is an environment conducive to listening. In most cases when outdoors, there are more distractions that could encourage the attendees to sit far away, get up, talk, etc.
That being said, there have been a few outdoor house concerts where the audience was instructed about it being a listening environment & the setting had some natural acoustics. Those concerts ended up being amazing nights.
No two house concerts are the same & we trust your judgement when it comes to what will work best for you & your audience.
The invites have been sent, the chairs are set up, & Mary Beth Koplin will be arriving in a matter of hours! Here is a helpful checklist of things that will guide you through the day of the concert:
1.) Send a friendly reminder about your house concert to your email/text/Facebook list. In this reminder include the time, address, & the suggested donation.
2.) Create a list of people who will be attending & those who might be attending. This is for your records & you or a volunteer can cross names off of it as they arrive.
3.) Place at least one jar or bucket in a heavy foot traffic area for attendees to put their suggested donations in. It works best when the jar is placed near the front door or near the potluck area.
4.) Attach a sign to the jar or bucket that says the following: "Suggested Donation of $10-20 per person. 100% goes to Mary Beth."
5.) Make an announcement 5-10 minutes before the performance, instructing guests to grab a refreshment & take their seats.
6.) At most house concerts, the host will make a short introduction right before we begin performing. In this introducion it is best to mention that it is a listening environment (conversations can be taken outside), there is a jar for their suggested donations, & that we have merchandise for sale during the intermission & after the performance. If you plan on hosting more house concerts, consider having an email sign-up list so you can easily inform your audience about the next one.
After the introduction, we will take it from there so you can enjoy the evening. I typically perform (2) 30 - 40 minute sets with an intermission in between. If it is a weekday, we may suggest simply performing one longer set.
In our travels we get to meet some of the kindest folks who just want us to feel taken care of when we're with them. Here are some simple things hosts do for us that make us feel at home:
1.) I eat a light dinner after performing, and have no dietary restrictions. In case you were wondering, prior to performing, I don't eat and I avoid, alcohol, caffeine and dairy.
2.) A Wi-Fi connection and available password would be helpful.
3.) Prior to performing, I'll need a private room for about an hour prior, to warm up my vocals and prepare.