Randy Haines – Classical Guitar
You don’t have to own a bar or a coffee shop to host great music. Have a living room? A garage? A yacht, a barn, shop or backyard? We can create a fabulous musical event for you and 15 or more of your friends.
House Concert Guide
Thank you for your interest in hosting a house concert. In my experience as a performer, house concerts have been among the most fun, rewarding, and memorable concerts I’ve ever been a part of.
This guide will take you my method for organizing a house concert. I’ve learned a lot about how to structure these shows to make them the most enjoyable and successful events that they can be. I hope this will inspire you and get you excited for what is guaranteed to be one of the most unforgettable things you do all year.
#1: The “House”
A house concert doesn’t even have to be in a house, though many of them are. They could be in living rooms, garages, backyards, and on back patios; in small houses, big houses, condos, and apartments; at a winery, in a photography studio, a tattoo shop, or at a local theater. The point is that the “house” can be any space you have access to where your friends can gather, sit, and enjoy a concert. The only requirement for the space is that everyone must be able to gather in the same space, seated, for the entirety of the hour long concert.
Mingling before and after the concert can of course spill into other rooms or areas of the property, but I ask that for concert time, everyone is seated, together, directly in front of where I’ll be set up to perform. It’s fine if there aren’t enough chairs for everybody – carpet seating in a packed living room or blankets on the lawn in the backyard work great as extra seating options.
#2: The Guests
To create the best possible scenario for a successful show, I ask that you have a minimum of 15 adults in attendance. There are two reasons I ask you to have this minimum number of people at the show:
1) Fewer than 15 people and the concert doesn’t feel like the exciting event it should be; and
2) In the donation-based concert model 15 or more adults contributing to donations is what starts making it a financially viable night for me. In my experience, making sure there is a minimum of 15 people there usually means that the host will need to invite a good deal more than that. The typical scenario seems to be that about half of those invited tend to actually come to the event. So, if you’re aiming for 15, invite 30; and so on.
#3: The Invitation
Invite a bunch of your friends!
In the sample invitation above I have provided you with some precise language that we’ll need you to include in your invitations; but besides that, I want you to have fun telling your friends why you want them to come to the awesome event you’re hosting.
“This is a donation-based concert”
The language we’ll send you to use in the invitations will describe how the event will be a donation-based concert, and that guests should come prepared to make a donation to the artist at the conclusion of the show. I do not specify a suggested donation amount for my house concerts. The reasons for this are two-fold:
1) In my experience, I do better financially at shows where people can donate what they are moved to in the moment, without any previous expectations.
2) Perhaps more importantly, if you have a friend who is cash-poor but a lover of music, it’s important to me that they be able to enjoy the evening without feeling any pressure. Sharing music with people is the most important thing.
Other invitation items
You may want to let your guests know you’ll have drinks and snacks for them if that will be the case, or perhaps you’d like to ask everyone to bring a little something to share. This is entirely up to you, and is not a requirement for hosting a house concert.
Please be sure to ask your guests to RSVP in your invitations. I’ve discovered that when guests are asked to RSVP, there is a much better turnout rate as opposed to a “come by if you can” approach.
A note on the donations
It’s really important to me that I’m able to make it so these concerts are possible for anyone to host, and the way I do that is by doing the shows on a donation basis. But since the donations are how I earn a living and pay my expenses, it’s important that I have my host’s full enthusiasm behind that aspect of the event.I’m pretty good at helping hosts on the donation speech, and I will make a point of going over this with you as we’re getting set up on the day of the concert.
I’ve found that the success of the donations has a direct relationship to the enthusiasm of the speech the host gives at the conclusion of the concert – and I’ve also found that guests are always really receptive and super happy to be a part of supporting the unique and memorable event they’ve just experienced. It’s kind of a big love-fest by the end of the night.
#4: The Concert
So you’ve invited everyone, RSVPs are in, and you’re ready for the show – here’s how it goes down!
I will arrive one hour before guests are scheduled to start arriving, in order to set up my equipment and do a soundcheck.
Guests arrive at the time you and I have decided together that the event will begin. This is usually in the evening – but it could also be the afternoon if it’s a weekend. As guests arrive, we all hang out and mingle for about an hour.
Then, after an hour of pre-concert hanging out, everyone gathers in the performance space, people find their seats, the host gives a brief introduction, and then I perform for about an hour.
As soon as the concert is finished, the host gets up front next to me with a vase or basket or box of some kind and makes the donation announcement. It should go something like this:
“Thank you all for coming tonight. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. I want to remind you that this is a donation-based concert. Your donations tonight will all directly benefit our artist, and will show him our appreciation for this amazing experience he brought us tonight. I’m going to leave this vessel right here and encourage you to give generously. Thanks again!”
After that, we all hang out some more until the guests start heading home.
A note on the flow of the event
I’ve found that it’s really important that the pre-show mingling time is really right about an hour. If it’s shorter than an hour, then people don’t have enough time to get comfortable; and if it’s longer than an hour, then the focus of the event starts to get fuzzy.
It’s one of the most fun nights of the year to be sure, but it’s important to remember that fundamentally this isn’t a party; it’s a concert. Let’s say you want the performance to start at 7:00. In that example, here’s how the schedule would go:
5:30 – I arrive and do my setup
6:00 – Guests arrive
7:00 – Concert begins
8:00 – Concert ends
And then of course we can all hang out afterward for as long as you’d like!
… and that’s how we organize an awesome house concert.
House concerts are amazing and magical experiences that make fantastic memories and lasting friendships. I can’t wait to do a house concert with you.