Originally answered August 31, 2019
Here are details on how we host Garfield House Concerts. You may have different priorities and preferences, so use these as examples you may or may not want to adopt.
- We only book only performers we love. This is the reason we host concerts. Most of our audience has not heard the performers before, and they rely on us to book artists they are very likely to enjoy.
- We don’t repeat performers. We want each concert to be new and different.
- We only host twice a year — in spring and fall.
- Our shows are mostly acoustic. We only us a sound system if the performer supplies one.
- Our shows are inside only.
- We offer dinner, a room for the night, and breakfast for the performers. Some stay with us, and some don’t.
- Our shows consist of two 45-minute sets with a 30-minute intermission.
- We set up a merchandise table in the kitchen (where the food and drinks are) to attract attention.
- Our shows are BYOB and pot luck, with appetizers and desserts. A friend who is a restaurant owner sometimes brings food for the performers and guests.
- We maintain an Outlook distribution list of all previous attendees.
- Our audience consists mostly of our friends, some fans of the performer, and some long-time attendees.
- I send out an email to save the date as soon as I book a new concert. I send out an RSVP request one month before each show, and then week-of and day-of reminders. I also send individual follow-up messages to frequent attendees; these work better than mass emails for getting commitments.
- We post our concerts on the Listening Room Network.
- I ask those who will be attending to help us by bringing friends with them.
- To reduce the number of no-shows, we switched from accepting cash at the door to using Brown Paper Tickets for advance donations. This ensures that the performers will receive all of the expected donations. The ticket fee is low: $2.74 for a $25.00 donation.
- Most of our shows are recorded by one long-term attendee, with the permission of the performer. We have a complete video of one concert.
- We are frequently supported by John Bommarito, a local radio personality.
- When other house concert hosts attend our shows, we offer them a chance to promote their shows and series.
- We work with other local house concert hosts to cross-promote our shows and to support each other. For example, three of us booked the Luke Bulla Trio to a local house concert tour with shows on three straight nights. This enabled the performers to make the trip from Nashville to metro Detroit. I connected two local hosts so they could both book Mary Gauthier. And one host asked other local hosts if we could book David Luning, and I was able to book him on short notice.
- I always sit up front and set the example for our guests to ensure a standing ovation at the end for an encore. Most of our guests don’t choose to sit in the front row, so this also helps fill a seat there.
- We bought our own chairs from BizChair:
- HERCULES Series 800 lb.
- Capacity Premium White Plastic Folding Chair
- 50 @ $10.75
- Total $537.50 with free shipping
Tips for Booking Performers
- Look for an open night on the tour of your desired performer, and offer to fill it. This saves them the expense of a hotel room and meal, and provides incremental income.
- I maintain a list of local Michigan Folk Music Venues. I offer this to performers who want to book multiple shows on a tour to show them where else they can play nearby if they book a show with us
- I send messages like this to desired performers:
- We host two house concerts each year in our home in Northville, Michigan (between Ann Arbor and Detroit).
- We get 30–65 people, collect $25 donation per guest (100% to the performer), provide a table to sell merchandise, and offer dinner, a room for the night, and breakfast.
- Shows are usually acoustic (no sound system).
- We recently hosted our spring show with <name>.
- Our fall show will be with <name>.
- Other previous performers have included <names>.
- Now it’s time to book our spring and fall shows for next year.
- I can help line up other nearby gigs to make a visit to the area worthwhile.
4. I follow up regularly on pending requests.
5. If performers are unable to book at the current time, I try again after each concert.
1. Starting out
- Decide what kind of music you want to present.
- Review the resources listed at the end of this article to learn more about house concerts.
- Attend other house concerts in your area to see what they are like.
- Create a site for your series
2. A year in advance
- Determine which performers you would like to host.
- Contact their booking agents to inquire about hosting them.
- Follow the tips for booking performers listed above.
3. Several months in advance
- Book the performer
- If the booking agent has showed previous interest, follow up.
- If they are still interested in your proposed date, make a formal offer,
- If they accept your offer, sign a contract.
- Publicize the concert
- Create a concert flyer on the Listening Room Network or an event on your site. It should mention that all donations are voluntary and go directly to the performers.
- Ask the performer to link to the flyer or event from their site and in their communications.
- Create an email distribution list of possible attendees.
- Send out an email to save the date with a link to the flyer or event.
- Let your neighbors know what you are planning so they are not surprised or annoyed. Invite them to attend.
- Plan for seating by doing one of the following:
- Buy chairs or use ones that you already have.
- Find out where you can rent chairs and reserve them for your date.
- Make arrangements to borrow chairs from friends.
4. One month before the concert
- Send out an RSVP request or a request to donate online to reserve seats.
- Post on social media about the concert.
- Ask others to help spread the word.
5. Two weeks before the concert
- Send individual follow-up messages to frequent attendees who have not yet responded.
- Ask those who will be attending to ask their friends to join them.
- If you have a piano, get it tuned.
6. One week before the concert
- Send out a reminder message to attendees with:
- Your address and directions to your home
- What time to arrive and when the show starts
- What to bring
- How to donate (if not done in advance)
- The list of all attendees (so everyone will see who else they know will be there)
- Send a follow-up message to the performer with the following questions:
- What time do you plan to arrive?
- Will anyone be with you?
- Will you be playing our piano?
- Will you have dinner with us? If so, any special dietary needs?
- Will you spend the night with us?
- What is your cell number?
7. The day before the concert
- Send out a reminder message to attendees asking them to let you know if they will be unable to attend.
- Get food, drinks, napkins, plates, silverware, flowers, etc.
- Clean your house, mow your yard, and pull the weeds.
8. The day of the concert
- Rearrange the furniture.
- Set up the stage or performing area.
- Provide water for the performers.
- Set up the chairs.
- Remind your neighbors that you are hosting a concert that day, and ask them to avoid mowing their lawn, blowing leaves, or cutting down trees during the show.
- Get ice.
- Get cash to:
- Pay the performer, if donations were made online.
- Make change, if donations will be made at the door.
- Make change for merchandise sales.
9. A sample concert schedule
- 5:30 pm — Performer arrives and sets up in the performing area
- 6:00 pm — Dinner is served in the kitchen
- 6:45 pm — Merchandise table is set up in the kitchen
- 7:00 pm — Doors: guests being arriving, food and beverages are served in the kitchen, merchandise is available for purchase, and guests claim their seats in the performing area
- 7:30 pm — Lights are flicked in the kitchen to get guests to take their seats in the performing area
- 7:30–7:45 pm — First set
- 7:45–8:15 pm — Intermission: guests return to the kitchen for food and beverages and to buy merchandise and have the performer sign it
- 8:15 pm — Lights are flicked in the kitchen to get guests to take their seats in the concert area
- 8:15–9:30 pm — Second set
- 9:30 pm — Guests return to the kitchen for food and beverages and to buy merchandise and have the performer sign it
- 10:00 pm — Guests leave, all donations are given to the performer, and cleanup and knock-down begin
10. After the concert
- Send out messages thanking the performer and the guests.
- If your next concert is already booked, remind everyone about the date.
- If it is not yet booked, start working on booking it.
House Concert Resources
- House Concert Connection
- House Show Agency
- Listening Room Network
- Concerts In Your Home
- Russ & Julie’s House Concert Resources
- Slowbizz.com Global House Concert Network
- Undiscovered Music Network
- Folk Alliance
- Folk Alliance International — Facebook — House Concerts
- Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM) — Facebook — Panel
Communities and Discussion Lists