Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How To Host A House Concert

Help to keep a beautiful ancient tradition alive


Today media moguls have conditioned many of us to believe that we have to attend theatres, concert halls and stadiums for live music, dance and other performing arts. Some of believe pubs, clubs and cafes are the intimate places for music and performing arts, but really with all of the noise and carry on in these places they rarely are.


For several people, the definition of a house concert is switching on the TV to watch a major concert hall or stadium concert, and I must admit I enjoy doing this from time to time too.


However, in days before all these media and mega stadiums were around most music, poetry, dance and performing arts were shared in people’s homes, usually the country house homes. Today many of us do have the same if not better luxuries than those old country houses even did, despite their grandeur,  …… so we can do the same.


I love the stories of the harper bards of old who travelled from home to home to share their performances with invited audiences, and these harper bards were actually quite wealthy because of it.


Another tradition of olde that is still sustained in house concerts today is that bards were discreetly paid from a collection of donations made by the audience. No advance fee or set fee was ever discussed.


However, this tradition is not just for the joy and benefit of the bards 


There is a huge joy and even prestige from being the host of house concerts!


There’s a wonderful sense of servitude and belonging through being able to arrange, invite and share with your community, a sense of being able to do something and give something for the community.


On top of that there is an incredible pride in being an initiator of a service that furthers healthy and talented heritage and culture of performing arts. Folks will thank you for providing easy and comfortable reasons for being taken away from their tvs, game boxes and laptops for an evening to be with real people without any anxiety, stress or inconvenience.


The quality of music and performance at house concerts is usually far, far better than on theatre and concert hall stages. The intimacy of house concerts inspires the best performances from performers. They can provide a far more entertaining show through the ability to talk more about their songs, their lives, share a few jokes, answer questions and interact with the audience more.


The social segments between performances are also so vital with the chatting, socialising, learning, listening and giving.


A house concert is the best $10, $15, or $20 anyone can donate for evening, but if someone does not have $10 in their pocket, they are still so welcome as any donation is better than a non appearance. 


Is your home right for a house concert?


You will need space for at least 20 guests and ideally 50 guests, or as many as you can fit between 20 and 50 people. The best way to determine this is get 20 folding chairs from somewhere and see how they fit in the living, dining or kitchen areas of your home, or even the garage.


If you discover none of the rooms in your house are large enough it is worth asking a neighbour with a bigger house, if they like intimate music, or find a local room, hall or church that likes the idea and does not charge more than $50 rental for the evening. However, be careful there as a rented room could enter you into legal and administrative demands that you will not want clogging up your spare time. Local galleries and gift shops can also provide wonderful and very welcoming venues for this type of concert too and can provide the same minimal effort as your home.


Pubs, clubs and coffee houses are generally not good for the calibre of songs and music that house concerts attract and host.  


Finding an artist


I am writing this article with personal agenda and interests as Claire and I are looking for many more house concert venues for our “Two Worlds” Celtic theatre performances and for our “Harps Around Ireland” friends. Aside from ourselves you’ll have artists looking for you more than you looking for artists. Once you become listed in places like Harpists Around Ireland, Concerts in Your Home, and Reverb Nation you’ll soon find artists finding you. Then add this to the many artists you discover online, at gigs you go to and through referrals. It does not take long to be in a situation when you’ll want to know how to select an artist. 


Selecting an artist 


The more house concerts you host the more you will get the feel about the genres and artists in those genres you would like to book. This starts with the personal preferences of yourself, your partner and others who live with you. Then this spreads to the tastes and requests of those who attend your concerts, or would like to attend your concerts if they know its something they would enjoy.


With our “Two Worlds” performances, especially with Claire Roche, we know that if you and your friends enjoy Enya, Celtic Women, Loreena McKennitt, Clannad, Mary O Hara, Alan Stivell and even Kate Bush, Bjork, and Robin Williamson they will thoroughly enjoy our show.


Perhaps a bigger priority then genre is to know what the artists are like live.


Not so long ago this required the effort of ploughing through artist press kits, listening to cds and then going to gigs to see these people live but nowadays we have the wonderful YouTube video clips which I think does it all!


To me the best YouTube clips are the amateur “show it like it was” live clips than polished re-mixed ready for MTV style. A couple of clip links from an artist takes up a few minutes of your time to review and is much, much easier than wading through a clutter of press kits and cds that always seem to have secret codes to opening their shrink wraps. 


Reviewing just live video clips is all I am now doing for selecting artists for our little Two Worlds theatre, which is really a house concert setting, in Co. Sligo, Ireland.


Personally, I do not like press kits. Lots of BS are put into them just like job seeking CVs and Resumes and have nothing to do with how these people will perform at a house concert. Claire has opened for The Chieftains and The Fureys and performed for Finnish royalty but none of that is relative to how she is live. When I first promoted Robin Williamson tours I told folks what Bob Dylan and Robert Plant said about him plus about him being a guest at Princess Diana’s wedding and funeral.  Despite those “honours”, the best reactions came when I either said Robin founded the Incredible String Band or for those who had not heard of ISB that he sang songs with harp like Claire and told Celtic stories a little bit like I do.


Once I have verified I like someone on YouTube I ask the artist to send me a CD. This is not to boost my CD collection but it is a useful tool for showing, sharing and explaining when finding people to come to the house concert. Of course, I email them the YouTube clips too.


Contracts & Licences


Where possible you want to avoid contract situations and sustain the house concert ethic of trust, but this is not always possible.


Sometimes, artists are under contract to be solely booked by agents and managers and they may ask you to sign a contract. Do look over these. If its complicated, then tell the agent its too complex for you. If there is no compromise, move onto next artist. Fortunately most contracts, if you are handed one, are simple to follow and you’ll be surprised how many clauses actually protect you as well as the performer. Having said that, I still believe house concerts should be contract free situations while theatre performances are perhaps best supported with contracts.


Therefore, if a concert needs to be moved from your home to another venue then contracts can be very beneficial. However, concerts in property that is not connected to your own may open up other extra legal requirements such as extra liability insurance, performance licensing and even some publisher royalties paid from performance dues, such as payments to SOCAN in Canada and maybe ASCAM in the USA.


Unless you are an experienced and passionate concert promoter I think its always best to stick to what you can do in your own home or friend’s home to keep it simple and eliminate paperwork and worry of the above.


Selecting a date


Generally, you will have to find a date that suit’s an artist’s schedule. Artists try to set aside block times for writing, recording and performing. When performing they like to set up tours that involve being able to commute from one place to the next without gaps to ensure best financial return with the least expenses. Many artists now create provisional tour schedules on their web sites and ask venues to contact them if they can host a concert near the projected venue location on that date.


You may well be limited with the dates you can offer so when you have set a date when you can host a house concert you may find a need to find an artist from your pool of choices that will slot into your preferred date.


As you can see, desired dates works both ways, so arrangements usually need compromising by both parties. Selecting a date and committing to a booking is generally about courtesy, tolerance and common sense.


Once you decide to enter into the house concert community you are indeed an artist’s venue and should list yourself as such. Having said that, still brand yourself and run as a house concert otherwise you’ll enter into a set of legal obligations.


As a house concert venue its worth developing an online image package with much the same package as what an artist creates today with a web site explaining who you are and what’s on, listings on places like Reverb Nation, Eventful and Concerts In Your Home and engage in social media by establishing pages on Facebook and MySpace and eventually on YouTube.


Developing online presence can take a lot of time so do be sensible about how much you actually do. For most house concert hosts this is a hobby so do not let it over-rule your time with your family, friends and career. Over time being a house concert host may inspire you to create your own saleable media such as books, cds and gift crafts and that will create profit and income, but do not look for this in your early days.


You may also be lucky enough to find neighbours and friends in your community who support your house concerts who may volunteer to put in some online development and promotion time for you. Just do what you can do and be grateful for any assistance offered , but never let developing online presence rule you. House concert hosting and promoting should remain simple and must always be fun!


Promoting


A house concert is an intimate concert so there is never any benefit from paying for advertising. Scattering posters could also bring attention that questions your legality of hosting a concert. Do not promote like a concert hall. These days the internet can do most of your promoting for you with no cost and wonderful intimacy.


Everyone has an emailing list, and do not know it because they have not compiled one yet. Just go through all of the people you have emailed for the past couple of years and compile a list and I think you’ll be amazed how big it will be.


The next step is to manage this list with no cost. I do like Fanbridge best but you may find Reverb Nation’s own Fanreach service easier to use if you have listed your venue on Reverb Nation.


These days, it is essential to do mass emailing through a professional mailing service like Fanbridge and Fanreach because such mailings from a private email are too easily considered and spam and will not be delivered. Professional email management services are coded to cut through spam filters due to their reputation. Do choose a free service though as the paid ones provide no addition benefits for what you are doing.


Your performer will also have an emailing list, perhaps the most important asset of any performer today, so he or she will work his or her list to encourage people to come along, but do not depend on this. Hosts generally get 70% to 90% of the people to a house concert, which is generally 35 to 45 of the people out of 50 that may attend your house concert.


In addition to your emailing list is just telling folks you meet or are on the phone to about your concert. This is easier than it sounds because its barely any different to a social invite but you will be offering something interesting with your invite that they will know is worth spending a few dollars on. Most important, is talk to your neighbours one on one about what you are doing. Make up some nice reminder cards to hand to them when you talk to them about your house concert. A card invite shows you are being serious and professional.


There is a proven sequence for letting people know, though.


Three weeks in advance of the concert is the magic number for serious advance promotion.  Any longer than that and folks forget. Any shorter and folks have made other arrangements. Certainly provide some kind of reminder a couple of days before hand. Again, 3 days before seems to be the magic number again.


If you set up a venue web site, blog and pages on MySpace and Facebook make sure you post details of your house concert on these at the time you send a message to your email list. What I do is post online first and then use these URL web address references within my email and posting notices as a kind of “more details” link.  As a reminder, make it easy for people to contact you by listing your landline, mobile/cell, web site contact form, messenger service, but not email address where it will be picked up by spam spiders.  


Who can come along to a house concert?


I do not think any house concerts present music and performances that are offensive to children. Any kind of risque material that artists have are generally left to the end of the second set or even left to an after concert session. Many performers have songs and sketches that they have tried out on children, often their own children, or even songs and sketches their parents performed when they were young. If the audience includes children the performer is often delighted to have the excuse to share one or two childish numbers in the first set.


For the second set, it may start to become tedious for some children so maybe some alternative activity for children may be set up in another part of your home. One or two parents may feel its enough and could break away after the first set and miss the second half. Nothing to worry about there. At least you and the performer provided them with some time out for joy, and this is very precious for families.


In short, house concerts are for all people of all ages. House concert performers adapt their song lists very easily for all ages present. You can tell folks that they don’t have to worry about child/baby sitters unless it’s there choice to have a night out without the children. 


One exception can be noisy babies, such as through their teething time, which could be both a distraction to the performer’s performance as well as seriously watering down the pleasure of the rest of the audience. 


Children House Concerts


Don’t ignore this wonderful idea. These are great for Saturday and Sunday afternoons. More and more house concert performers have wonderful youngster sets that are not only enjoyed by children but enjoyed by the parents too, for their moment of being a kid again.


Apart from the fun, children house concerts are a perfect exposure of children to the culture of songs, music, stories and poetry. During years ahead these children will be the ones that will continue the house concert performing and hosting tradition.  


Food and Drink


House concerts are much more social than pub, club, and theatre concerts. They are much better environments for having quality conversations as there are no background noises such as juke boxes, glass chinking and cash registers.


However, as tempting as it may be, its never a good idea to have an alcohol based reception before a performance. Though many deny it, everyone does get louder once they have an alcohol drink or two in them. House concerts demand listening attention and folks with alcohol in them can find this very, very difficult. Also there will be a greater urgency to depart to the bathroom and, thus, disturbing the concert.


Now I am only talking about alcohol before a performance. A lot of performers use the first part of their concert to share their more serious and attention demanding work. Many reserve their fun stuff, such as sing-alongs, for the second half. Therefore a bit of wine and beer may go down very well at the interval. Certainly after a performance serving alcohol drinks can suit very well among the non-drivers.


Having said this, alcohol drinks can substantially add to your expenses and it would not be fair for your visiting performers to have this deducted from their takings. You could invited your guests to bring their own bottles but also make it clear that you prefer no alcohol drink consumption until after the first set.


Most house concert hosts do not need to provide more than tea, coffee, drinking water, hot chocolate maybe, and some fruit juice.


Regarding food, the host should not need to provide more than snacks such as chips (crisps), pretzels and similar and maybe some cookies (biscuits) too and this cost is ok to deduct from the performer’s takings.


What is a superb idea is to ask your guests to bring a pot luck dish which everyone can share as a buffet before a performance. 


Payments & Expenses


Normally, people do not need to book a “ticket” and pay online at the same time for a house concert. In fact, for legal reasons they should never book with payment online. You will need commitment and a sense of who is coming and how many. Its a good idea, actually quite essential, for people to “book” with you to say they are definitely attending so some kind of booking instrument on your web site can be very, very handy.  Contact me, asking for “online booking code” and I will send you secure code for your web site and details of how to activate it.  Also if you create a Facebook Page, different to a Facebook Profile, there is a useful RSVP utility there.


You main expenses will be the hot beverages, juice and snacks for reception and maybe the cost of a few phone calls and texts. These you will be able to take back from takings from the evening, but any alcohol beverages you supply should be at your own expense as a gift.


Now onto payment to the performers. Most seasoned house concert performers will except what is put into the “hat” less your expenses. We’ve performed some house concerts where only 5 have turned up but this is balanced out by the shows that get 50, 60 more more people. I’ve been to a house concert with Gerry O’Beirne, one of the most popular house concert entertainers in the world, and I was the only one to show up. No fault of the host whatsoever who is usually a brilliant promoter. Just one of those things. It happens and is nothing to do with lack of talent and promotion.   


I’ll explain “passing the hat”, later.


Performer Accommodation


An important part of the joy of house concerts for both performers and hosts can be an offer of accommodation and breakfast at the host’s home. For the performer its a chance to experience people around the gig and a huge saving in money meaning more earnings. For the host its the joy of having the “star” performer exclusively stay with them.


However, this is a situation that can gain less favourability when hosts and/or performers start to get on in years, when they are into the golden years of greatly increased farting, snoring and coughing through the night plus maybe increased nightime bathroom needs that vibrate the entire property as soon as everyone, at last, is asleep. This follow up exhaustion to both the host who has to be at work the next day and the performer who is off to perform somewhere else the next night can cause irritability. If you are both very happy about sharing your home for the night, its a wonderful experience. If this is the choice, do ensure you look after your performing guest or guests very warmly.


You may wish for performers to stay in a different property to you out of politeness or the performers may prefer their own separate space for the night. If this happens do not allow yourself to be contracted into paying for the performer’s hotels or bed and breakfast bills.


Having said that, for convenience for the performers not having to check in and check out it would be honourable for you to book and pay for the external accommodation, if it is requested, on condition you can take that expense “out of the hat”.


Under almost no circumstances should you be out of pocket from putting on a house concert. Exceptions are if you donate some wine or other alcohol drink or if less than $100 is collected in the hat as the performer may leave with something, no matter how small.


So what do people pay for a house concert


The key word is that people pay a “donation”. There are no advanced ticket sales and no collecting at the door. The money is collected in a hat, bowl or bucket at the end of the first set. This is strictly a donation situation, never a cover charge. It is likely you do not have a licence to charge set cover charges.


I’ll write in some guidelines below in the House Concert itinerary


The suggested donation rates are $10, $15, $20 and some can afford more and some can only pay less. If you know someone who has been unemployed and seen hard times encourage that person to have a night out for a dollar or two, which they can afford with their welfare money, and make sure that person joins in the food so he or she leaves both entertained, not hungry and even made one or two new friends. 


On the other end of the scale there’s usually one or two local people who have created successful lives and in gratitude donate a bit more. The donation ethic always works itself very, very well if done right, timely and with the right ethical attitude.


Car Parking


A subject that left out of most other House Concert “How to…s” I have read, but is important. 30 guests could mean 30 cars, which is quite surprising during these days of greener awareness. In your promotions it is worth reminding people to car-pool, take public transport or ride a bike instead of bringing a car. Riding a bike may be awkward for bringing pot luck food, but the bike riders may be able to ask the car poolers to transport their food too.


Next, you have to consider your car parking capability. You may be able to park several cars, but what other property may the cars be blocking?


Always talk to your neighbours a month ahead of an event and let them know what you are planning, ask if it is not inconvenient for them and, most important, invite them too. I know this breaks the 3 week rule mentioned earlier but with neighbours I find its a bit different. You’ll find a lot of your neighbours will come along and will be eager to help, support and even make the event partly their own. There’s a lot of joy to be gained from making your venue “neighbourly”. You’ll need to remind your neighbours two weeks before the event and then three days before as well.


Details, Details


There are several little things you can do before a house concert event that do not take up a lot of extra time but can really, really smooth out the event.


Tables


Clearly designate table or bench area where food and drink will be self served from. Work out the ergonomics by role playing and visualising the event and pretend you are a guest approaching and self serving to see if your table positioning and ideas flow without effort.


You will also need a merchandise table for sales of CDs and maybe other items such as books, clothing, gift items. This is where any items you merchandise can be displayed along with the performer’s merchandise. Again, think of the ergonomics. Think of the spot where people home into but is not in the way of the social chat and not close to the performing area, which will always be full of people wanting to chat with the performer.


Quiet Space For Performers


When we are on house concert tours this is the one thing that is most commonly overlooked yet is one of the most important and essential thing to provide to ensure a quality performance. Please read that again !!


When performers arrive, though they are friendly and so grateful for your invite and arrangements the last thing they want is to be herded into meeting lots of people and stuffed with food and drink, then expect to perform their best.


There will be plenty of time to chat and munch with the performer later on in the evening.


Upon arrival an artist needs to be led to a quiet place, maybe a spare bedroom where he or she can work on their last minute adjustments such as tuning, going through song lists and a few warm up exercises with voice and on instruments. This is all to ensure you and your generous friends are served with the best performance possible. Though not a house concert situation there was a gig Michael Flatley did years ago where there was no private facility for him to change and do warm up exercises. He leapt out on stage and immediately broke his ankle that put him out of work for a year. With warm up exercises this probably would not have happened. Just a little prep and care is needed to serve you performer’s needs and ensure the best performance for your guests. 


Volunteers


Clearly designate who will be doing what on the evening such as setting up and replenishing the food and beverage tables, serving at the merchandise table and looking after the performer’s needs in changing area, seating, lighting, beverages, etc. Sometimes performers turn up with a “road manager” who does these things plus handle the merchandise table, but be clear in advance communications with the performers, before they arrive, to know exactly how these are usually handled.


Many performers have now composed “spec sheets” in PDF file format that you can download or they will email to you and these explain the performer’s needs in detail. Most performers are not too demanding but by knowing these details well in advance you will save time and hassle and generate more smoothness and flow through your event. 


You will find that though you have pre-designated duties for volunteers what actually happens and who turns up actually changes it all around. However, you will find it is far, far smoother to have a pre-plan than no pre-plan as you’ll always know what “slots” have to be filled at any time.


Also essential is to have someone designated for meet and greet when guests arrive, which includes collecting and hanging coats and leading guests to reception refreshments.


Safety


House concerts do not usually fall into any legal safety requirements but you should still approach your event as if there are requirements.


Before people arrive make sure there are no objects they can trip over. Post notices of what things are and what people can or cannot do in a friendly rather than bureaucratic way. This includes signs and signposts pointing to car parking and paths and routes people walk to get to things.


Look around to see if you have any danger among your electrical sockets and exposed wiring. If you have low doors notices are not enough put dangling a string or some beads from the top of a door does get instinctive attention and ducking action so no heads are bumped trying to look at that “duck your head” sign.


Check out your fire extinguishers to ensure they are charged and working, same with smoke alarms. Make sure all exit doors are unlocked to aid unforeseen quick escape. All common sense stuff but details worth taking seriously.


Ensure adequate lighting everywhere, a very important safety issue. Lots of outdoor lighting, especially in winter, is essential. As a back up ensure you have flashlights on hand in easy reach with spare fully charged recyclable batteries. Believe me, from experience this flashlights thing is the most important and most used safety back up tool we have ever used, and this will probably be the same for you. One flashlight is not enough. We keep at least 4 fully charged flashlights available at all times.


Cash


This seems to be number two detail that is overlooked below “quiet space for performers”. You must, must, must have plenty of small notes cash to give as change. Everyone seems to hand over $50 and $100 notes  


Guest Arrival


I mentioned signage and lighting for safety but this is also important for image and setting the scene. People love to arrive and get the feel and vibe that they are arriving to something special. I love candlelit pathways from car parking to the house door. You can buy some lovely safe ones these days. When people arrive make sure they are greeted as being special too and collect coats and anything else that relieves them. Make sure you have thought out and prepared a space for their clothes and belongings to be placed and quickly retrieved when they need them. Make sure this collection of coats flows into introduction of drinks and snacks that may be available.


Opening acts?


Tempting, especially if the host is a musician, but rarely a good idea due to the social desires of the audience and the performance desires of the performer. An opening act would take up time that would have to sacrifice some social time and maybe performance time of the guest. If social time is reduced from what is suggested below it encourages the audience to become distracted and fidgety more easily due to their urgency to talk to others.


Opening acts can work during longer Saturday and Sunday summer house concerts that may take up an afternoon or even afternoon and evening instead of just evening.


For evening house concerts ask other acts that want to join in to leave their performances until the session at the end. 


Sound System


In short, to me, if a PA is needed then its no longer a house concert


The one possible exception is if your house concert is an outdoor summer concert where a small PA will help. If so this is something you supply but clearly tell the performer in advance that you will need to deduct some money from the hat for use of the PA. This should never be more than $50, if you do. Also, if you ever use an outdoor PA, talk to your neighbours and get their approval first.


I have also heard from some house concert hosts that they have invested in a simple PA system of modest amplifier, speakers and a couple of mics and stands. They have not done this to amplify the performers but have done this as they feel that some of their audience do not feel it is a serious concert without speakers being present. One concert host told me that after he introduced a modest PA system into his house concerts the donations in the hat raised by 50%. So, its your choice. Personally I do not like PA systems at house concerts but I cannot dismiss that there are situations where they may help, not in sound quality, but in audience perception of the value and image of the concert.


If you find yourself seeking to get a PA because of audience size, then you will not be able to apply all of these house concert ideas. For one, the audience will be too big for passing around the hat. They will need to either book and pay online in advance or at the door before entering. All of these expenses can still be deducted from the concert revenue but once the PA is there you have levitated from house concert to theatre concert.


Sometimes you may book a blues of jazz performer with an electric guitar but these people bring along small amps as part of their instrumentation.


If the performer asks you to supply any sound system, do question why it is needed to make sure the performer is wise to what a house concert is. If you have to supply sound system by request, or supply anything by request, deduct your costs from the “hat” after donation collection.


Do not refuse advance requests from performers, unless you truly cannot do them, but always, always, make it clear that you will have to deduct your costs and expenses from the collection hat. It is so, so essential to be firm and be clear with that before the performer arrives. This gives the performer the option to back out of the deal if he or she does not like it. Best to be settled and agreed before  a gig than on the night.


Its generally your market. It is usually much easier for you to find an alternative performer than a performer finding an alternative gig, so do not be afraid to be firm. 


Increase Your Mailing List


In many ways the value of names an audience puts on a mailing list is much more valuable than the money they donate into a hat.


A performer may place a “please leave your email address for our mailing list” sign, by the CDs, but it is often largely ignored unless each signing gets a free gift.


I find a better solution is for the host to announce, after the first set, what concerts are coming up and ask folks who they would like to see in future house concerts or simply what genres of music they prefer.


The host should then create a form to fill in with five lines, name, preferred genres, suggested artists, email address, phone number, and leave a form on every seat, then announce this and ask everyone to fill it in after the first set.


Another idea, that is done by very, very few performers, is bring along printed songbooks of your sing-along lyrics and leave one on each seat. The artist mentions these at the start of the performance and explains they are on loan as he/she takes them around for other audiences, but can be kept and taken home if they can donate some production costs.


Then the performer can announce that inside the lyrics book is a form to fill in. The handy thing here is that the lyric booklet becomes a rest for filling in the form too. Oh, also leave a pen at each seat, preferably with your web site/social site address printed on it.


Also explain to the audience that email addresses will be shared by you and the performer and nobody else and that either newsletter can easily be cancelled at any time.


After the concert, type up the form details and print or email a copy for your performer’s use.   


The House Concert Itinerary  


6:30 reception, people arrive, sort out pot luck donations


7:00 buffet meal together


8:00 performer’s first set


8:30 social break, cd sales, maybe some wine, but pass the hat first


9:00 performer’s second set


9:30 another social break, cd sales, signings and some folks will go home now


10:00 session until possibly late ……


Let me explain this more …..


Reception


6:30 is a good time as many people can make it that time as it is close to when they like to eat an evening meal. Some will arrive straight from their day jobs as they know a meal will be waiting for them plus there are absolutely no codes on dress. Let your audience know they can come in shorts straight from the garden or come in business suit straight from the office, it makes no difference.


This is the time to serve some hot beverages, water and juice, maybe some soda, and some snacks. Also the pot luck dishes will be arriving, if you are doing this, and people are always eager to help set up a buffet table for these.


Buffet Meal


7:00 is a good time to get going with this so it is not rushed and leaves ample time for clear up at the end. This is a valuable time for social chat as house concerts do brings friends together who have not seen each other for awhile. By the time its concert time the social urge becomes nicely reduced. Also later arrivers will arrive during this time and settle into the vibe.


Perhaps leftovers can be left neatly in a corner for those who might like more munchies at the break, such as later arrivers who did not get a chance to eat. 


Performer’s First Set.


8:00 time to be on time quiet and attentive to the performer. Most people welcome this 30 minutes, or so, of sanctuary absorbing the music and chat of the performer. This can be a very restoring and settling time for all.


Performance Break


8:30 but before folks rush off to the loo, more chat, have a smoke etc. this is the time to “pass around the hat”


Before the concert find out some way that the performer can signal that it is the last song of the first set. The moment the applause starts stand next to the performer and get right into explaining how to donate cash and how and where to buy CDs and other merchandise. Keep it short but meaningful. Here’s a sample spiel …….


“Isn’t this a wonderful performance? Now you express how you are enjoying yourselves by donating some loot into this hat (bowl/bucket) and pass it to the person next to you. The suggested donation is  (and use which is appropriate)


$10 because he/she is a local boy/girl and does not need as much feeding as some of our travelling guests  ( a possible line for someone who has travelled less than 3 hours from their home)


$15 because she’s/he’s come here all the way from ……… especially for us ( a possible line for anyone who travelled more than 3 hours from home, especially from other states and regions )


$20 because  he/she need to pay for some air fare home ( a possible line for anyone who has travelled in from other countries )


but, of course some of you can afford to donate more, and some of you can only donate less today.


Whatever you can offer, will be so appreciated. “


“Hey, if you only have $50 notes in your wallet or purse take some change out of the hat or go to the CD table for some change, or just throw the whole $50 in the hat”


At that point start the hat moving around and keep talking. Do not give people an opening to disappear back into their social circles until the hat is fully passed around.


You quickly move into telling people where the CDs can be bought and then tell some news about upcoming events. If the hat still has to keep moving, continue talking about how grateful you are for people being here and give extra credit and encourage hand clapping for individuals who are making this evening happen. Once the hat is around you can say


“right we are taking a 20 to 30 minute break so you can chat, buy CDs, chat with the performer and perhaps finish the leftovers.”


Phew!  The loot is collected, you take out cash for your expenses and stuff the rest in an envelope to discreetly hand to your performer guest.


Though you may joke around and be fairly assertive with the collection of donations its so, so important to realize that what you are doing is, collecting donations and not collecting cover charges.


A house concert is about inviting a bunch of friends around, having a performer entertain them and then, whoever can, provide some cash as a gift donation. You are not a “venue” even though you may list yourself in venue directories online, and where possible you do not really want to enter into the legalities of being a fixed venue. When the house concert is over the house returns as being you home. In fact, even through the concert it is your home with invited guests. 


Performer’s second set


9:00 Guests will now be lighter in mood than during the first set so you’ll probably find your performer will bounce of that to provide a lighter entertaining set compared to the more inspirational set of the first set. However, this is still pay attention time, not a session time, but your performer is more likely to be more interactive with the audience than through the first set.


Meet The Performer


9:30 the show is over and its your guest’s time to truly meet and greet with your performer. Folks will be rushing over with the CDs they bought after the first set, or with last minute after performance purchases.


Its a bit like sitting on santa’s knee at this point. Everyone will want that special moment of CD signing and their moments of one on one conversation with the performer/s. Its that moment when your guests will explain how your performer’s music inspired them and they will want a moment to bounce their dreams with the performer, maybe about a song or poem they wrote or something about their home family and hobbies.


At this point keep your distance from the performer. De not try to distract attention from him or her. Right now its their time of “fame”, so be sensitive to this.


All through this meet and greet the performer ensure there is someone manning the CD and merchandise table and someone is greeting and handing coats back to leaving guests.


The Session


10:00, or later, the majority have left for home, but some may stay for more.


This does not always happen. It often depends how exhausting the hosts and the performers are and what their commitments may be for the next day. If this does happen its fun. It largely takes on the model of a traditional Celtic ceili was a spontaneous flow of songs, stories, poetry, sing-alongs, dancing and even some prayers.


Also, an extremely important thing to consider here is how your later session may affect your neighbours. Usually, people pulling up in cars and having a good time and then leaving at around 10:00 pm is perfectly considerate for neighbours as this is not cutting into most of their sleep times. After 10:00, if you want to continue, you must, must consider what your impact is with neighbours.


Consideration for neighbours is the absolute top priority with any house concert with a combination of advance warnings and consideration through your concerts. Not all neighbours will want to join you at the house concert.


As mentioned before, if you can comfortably get a session going without disturbance, its the time when other musicians present, including the host maybe, contribute and share their performance skills.


Sometimes sessions move into a different area of a home to inspire more casualness such as from a living room into a kitchen with a solid fuel stove in it.


At our own place, we certainly move from our “little theatre” to the kitchen.


And then  …. 


Maybe a shared breakfast with the performer. Always a nice gesture to send your performer off with a packed lunch, maybe from leftovers from the night before. 


What is certain is the gaining of new friends, new names onto your list, all curious, all excited and all anticipating about news of your next event


We are available 


Two Worlds Theatre, Claire Roche and I, with our songs, stories, harps, and folk drama from ancient Ireland and some modern Ireland are available for your house concerts through March.


Please check out this link to see where we will be and if this is near you. There should also be a couple of video links there for you to review to see if Claire or both of us are for your house concert program.


Finally, a video clip to sum this all up and see a house concert in action …



produced for Concerts In Our Home,
where should register if you wish to become a house concert host
anywhere in the world

No comments:

Post a Comment