The Complete Guide to House Concerts

Fan-hosted performances

Once all music is available online, for free, what’s a musician to do? House concerts are one alternative. Instead of plying a circuit of poorly-paid bars, clueful musicians can now rely on their fans to organize, promote, and pay for small, intimate, private performances in their homes and other non-traditional venues. Fans win, and performers win (by earning more). This slim book explains to both fans and musicians how this new system works.

-- KK 10/20/05


What is a house concert?

The definition's flexible, but generally, it's a show that's presented in someone's home, or a nearby private space (barn, backyard, shearing tent, you name it).
* Usually, but not always, the audience capacity is smaller than at a coffeehouse or club.
* The money collected usually (but not always) goes straight to the performers, with no "profit motive" on the presenter's part.
* Often, but not always, house concerts are conducted "by invitation" (for practical reasons we'll get into later), rather than as "public" concerts like a club or concert hall.
* Often - again with exceptions - there is little or no "sound system" - performers play and sing acoustically, unless someone needs a little amp for their keyboard.
* Refreshments, if any, are usually either a "pot luck" brought by the listeners, or provided by the hosts using a bit of the gate receipts.
* Sometimes - but definitely not always - the performers get a meal and/or lodging with the presenters as part of their compensation.
-- House Concerts, Tom Neff


The bottom line for traditional venues isn't pretty. The basic bar gig pays between nothing and $300, unless they're hiring a big name band that will sell a lot of expensive tickets and alcohol to their audience while they are on stage. The standard cafe either sets out a tip jar or pays you $100 for three to four hours of singing your heart out. And it may be difficult to sell CDs, simply because people have already spent their money on drinks. What's more, sometimes you get the sense that the audience would really appreciate it if you and your music would stay out of their way while they talk and have a good time.

Ready for some good news? You can make considerable more money with alternative venues and have a much better time while you're at it! If you play a house concert with 50 people and a $20 "donation" per person, you are guaranteed to go home with $1,000. And since house concerts are a practically perfect place to sell CDs, you may sell to 50 percent of the room or more, and at $15 per CD you stand to make an additional $375. If you have more than one CD, this figure will likely be even higher. Not bad for a night where all you have to do is show up, eat a delicious meal, and give a concert to a room full of captivated, music-loving people.


I'll be frank with you here. Almost every single great thing that has taken place in my music career has been because of a really dedicated fan. An unbelievable two-week tour of Brazil was set up for me by a fan. I played on nation-wide TV shows, got lots of airplay, was outfitted by clothing sponsors, played at the very best venues in the country, and experienced two of the best weeks of my life, all because of a fan believed in my music.

Want more? Because of a fan, I played a show with Crosby, Stills & Nash and Carlos Santana on the same night. The fan set it up. He sold it to the concert promoter. He made it happen. All I had to do was show up and play.

What about setting up tours across the country? Yes, my fans have rented out venues or hustled the owners to lend it to them for the night. They have gone on to get amazing press, print up tickets, set up venues, and make it possible for me to play sold-out shows to hundreds of people in towns where nobody has ever heard my music.


At the end of every house concert, at least one person will approach you because they want to set up a concert with you at their house. And once people find out that Susie is going to host one, many more will want to show you off to their friends and family too. Before the night is through you will be in the lovely position of adding several names and numbers to your house-concert file and following up with them to book a firm date for each show.

When you play bars or cafes, it is frequently a struggle even getting the booker on the phone! With house concerts, you are constantly juggling plenty of gig offers, which come with guaranteed money, a guaranteed audience, and a minimum of hassles. What could be better?
-- The Complete Guide to House Concerts

Three portal sites:

(Here's a collection of house concert resources. -- SL — editors)

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