House Concerts

House concerts are fairly common for fingerstyle guitarists, and are often one of the more preferred opportunities to perform. However, since so many people seem to be unfamiliar with house concerts, I thought I'd put this page together to answer some of the more common questions about them. If you have questions that aren't addressed here, of if you'd like to discuss hosting a house concert, please email me.

Everything you need to know about a house concert with Jim...

Q: What is a house concert?

A: Pretty much just what it sounds like... having me perform in the comfort of your own home. Alternately, some "house concerts" are hosted outdoors or in locations such as a church, office, or anywhere else that is appropriate to listen to live music in a private setting.

Q: Why host a house concert?

A: A house concert is a wonderful opportunity to entertain friends and family and listen to great live music at the same time. Having a concert in your home is a more social and enjoyable event--for you, your guests, and for me--than a performance at a venue. It's an intimate evening of music that your guests will thank you for. Some people enjoy them so much that they decide to start a house concert series, where they host several shows every year so they can bring in more of their favorite musicians. Finally, hosting a house concert is a great way to show your support for my music!

Q: Why would Jim want to perform at a house concert?

A: You may have noticed that a significant number of my performances are at house concerts... and in fact, they're my favorite type of performance. Why? I enjoy the intimacy of playing for a small crowd in someone's living room, and interacting with the audience members before and after the show. Because many of the attendees will know each other, the atmosphere is much more personal and social than a performance at a venue. And of course, a house concert usually provides a better "listening audience," too.

Q: Who should I invite?

A: Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, members of clubs or groups you belong to, or anyone else you feel comfortable inviting and who would enjoy hearing me perform. Some hosts--especially those who run a house concert series--will advertise the house concert to the public and allow anyone who's interested to attend as long as they call in advance to make reservations. In general, I think that approach is probably best for experienced hosts, and that first-time hosts will want to limit the audience to invitees only... but you can do whatever feels comfortable to you. It's your home--not a concert venue--so you should never feel obligated to invite or allow anyone unless you're completely comfortable with it.

Q: Do I need to do any advertising?

A: No. Unless you choose otherwise, you'll be personally inviting the attendees via phone calls, letters, or emails. There's no need to advertise or publicize the event unless you want to make it open to the public.
I treat all house concerts as private events unless told otherwise. I will list the concert on my schedule, but will include no information other than the city. If a host feels comfortable with allowing a few local fans to attend, I will list a contact phone number or email address (whatever method the host prefers) so that can get in touch with you and ask if there's room for them to attend. I will never list your home's address on my website, nor give it out to anyone who contacts me.

Q: How much space do I need to host a house concert?

A: Obviously, that will depend on the number of people you want to invite. If there will be less than a dozen or so attendees, almost any room will work. On the other hand, if you want to have 50 or 60 people in attendance, it'll take a little more planning. Fortunately, even an average-sized living room can hold a sizeable audience if rows of folding chairs are used in place of (or in addition to) the regular furniture. Don't squeeze your audience in too tightly, however... remember that one of the appealing things about a house concert is "the comfort of home." If you have enough attendees that you really need to pack them in, it might be worth looking into whether a bigger space--a local hall, for example--is available.

Of course, there should also be a designated space to use as a staging area for the performance. This area should be large enough to accommodate the performer and any necessary equipment, but not so large as to lose the intimate feel. This doesn't need to be anything fancy, either... but you'll want to make sure that sightlines are good for the audience and there's enough light that the performer isn't hidden in the shadows. Although no special lighting is required, some hosts enjoy lighting the "stage" area and dimming the lights elsewhere to create more of a concert feel at a larger house concert. Remember, though, that this is a house concert--so making too much of an effort trying to recreate the feel of a venue sort of defeats the purpose.

Q: How long does a house concert last?

A: The length of the performance can be tailored to your preferences, but could be as short as a single 45-minute set or as long as two 50-minute sets (with a 20-minute intermission). Generally, keeping the show to two hours or less works best with instrumental music--but the actual configuration is extremely flexible. I can accommodate whatever will best fit into your plans for the evening.

Q: Do I need to provide any sound equipment?

A: No. Many house concerts are intimate enough that they can be done purely acoustic... but if the situation calls for amplification, I can provide everything necessary. Whether or not amplification is necessary will depend on the size and the natural acoustics of the room where the performance will be held and the number of people who will attend. I can go over these details with you when discussing your house concert.

Q: What responsibilities do I have as the host?

A: Most of the responsibilities will be the same as hosting any other party, which include greeting the guests as they arrive, providing refreshments (or inviting guests to bring beverages or snacks to share), etc. The responsibilities that are specific to hosting a house concert would include: sending out invitations that include information about the performer (I can provide some help with that), arranging space and seating for the performance, introducing the performer to the audience, collecting the cover charge or reminding guests about the "donation jar" (if used--see below), and providing a space for the performer to sell CDs. It's important, though, that you don't get so caught up in being the host that you can't relax; delegate responsibilities if necessary to ensure that you enjoy the evening just as much as your guests do.

Q: How much does it cost to have Jim perform at a house concert?

A: Probably less than you'd expect. There are a lot of factors that have to be considered, however (travel time/expenses, equipment needed, length of performance, anticipated audience size, etc.), when determining the cost--so the best thing to do is discuss your house concert with me to figure out the details.

In general, house concerts will fall into one of the following three categories:

Local: House concerts in the Atlanta area which require minimal travel (i.e., I can make it back home after the show). Because there really aren't any travel expenses involved and they're easy to schedule, local house concerts are the most affordable.

Road: A "road" house concert is one that is planned when I am traveling through your area, usually when I am on the way to or from another gig. For example, if I'm driving from Atlanta to Nashville, and you want to have a house concert in Chattanooga, I'm already passing by... so the additional travel expenses are minimal--usually just an extra night of accommodations. Sometimes hosts will even offer to put me up for the night (no worries... I'm housebroken), which eliminates the additional travel expense; in that case, it really becomes no different than a local house concert.

The drawback to a road house concert is that scheduling is dependent upon when I'll be passing through. If you're interested in hosting one, the best thing to do is to contact me and let me know you're willing. Then I'll either contact you when I know I'll be heading your way, or I'll try to schedule a road trip that will allow me to string together a few house concerts. Although it means you'd essentially be on a "waiting list" for a concert, I will do my best to make sure I get to you. The more people who are interested in hosting a house concert, the more likely it is that I'll be able to put a trip together. Obviously, I would also give you as much advance notice as possible about when I'd be able to make it to your area, and try to give you some flexibility with dates... but because of the very nature of a road house concert (the "just passing through" part), flexibility is necessary on both ends. Of course, there's no problem if scheduling doesn't work out--we'll just keep you in mind for the next time!

Travel: A "travel" house concert means that instead of waiting for me to be in the area, you want to schedule something for a particular date (or at least a date that's sooner than I'd be there otherwise). These are a little more costly because of the travel expenses, but because they show an obvious enthusiasm for having me perform, I'll work with you to make it as affordable as possible. While still more expensive than hosting a local or road house concert, it's probably not as costly as you might think... so get in touch and let's talk about it!

There are also three methods that are typically used to cover the cost of hiring the performer for a house concert:

Direct Payment: If a host wants to cover the entire cost of the concert (such in the case of a special occasion or event), or if, for some reason, he/she simply wants to avoid collecting money from the guests via one of the methods listed below, then there is always the option of paying the performer directly with cash or a check. In most cases, however, it's probably preferable to spread out the costs using the cover charge or the donation jar.

Cover Charge: Using this method, the host basically divides the cost of the hiring the performer by the anticipated number of attendees to arrive at a cover charge that each guest will be asked to pay. This is similar to selling tickets (and in fact, some hosts actually print up their own tickets to reinforce the idea), although the host has the option of collecting the money in advance or at the door. It's usually a good idea, when figuring the cover charge, to factor in the likelihood that some guests may have to cancel, etc., so that you still end up with enough to cover the cost of the performer if the attendance for the show is lower than originally expected. It's also generally a good idea to make sure guests know that the money collected will go directly to the artist. You don't want your guests to feel like you are making a profit off of them--and it's possible there also be legal issues to deal with if your house concert becomes a money-making venture. (Almost all of the people who host a regular house concerts emphatically emphasize that they don't make a profit and don't run the concert series as a business.) Using a cover charge has the advantage of spreading out the cost in a fairly efficient manner; the disadvantage is that the host has to collect money and keep track of who's paid, etc. Some hosts--and some guests--may prefer a less "business-like" feel.

Donation Jar: Perhaps the most common and most preferred method of funding a house concert is through the use of a donation jar. Instead of a cover charge, a host can mention in the invitation that "a donation to support the artist is requested," or some other wording to that effect. Then, instead of collecting money or selling tickets, the host simply has to place a donation jar (usually best if labeled as such) near the entrance when guests arrive and when they depart. The host should also remind guests about the donation jar when they're introducing the performer, then again during intermission (if there is one), and at the end of the show. It's easier than collecting money, and most hosts don't mind reminding the guests several times to donate because they don't have to ask for the money directly. A donation jar also allows guests to decide what they're comfortable with... and often, I've found that guests will actually contribute more to a donation jar than they might have been willing to pay for a ticket. The drawback to a donation jar is that it is wildly unpredictable, and it may be embarrassing for the host (and disconcerting for the performer) if donations fall short of covering the artist's fee and/or travel expenses. One strategy for dealing with this is to state something along the lines of "a donation of $xx or more is suggested" of "a minimum donation of $xx is suggested" in the invitations, but of course that might feel more like a cover charge than a donation!

Because a true donation jar--with no suggested minimum--is often the most comfortable for host and guests, I am usually willing to accept donations instead of charging a flat performance fee. This means that the only fixed costs that need to be covered are the travel expenses--which mainly come into play with road and travel house concerts. And, depending on whether or not you can offer accommodations, the travel expenses may not amount to much.

The bottom line is that if you want me to perform a house concert, I'll do what I can to make it possible!

If you have any questions about hosting a house concert, would like to schedule a house concert, or would like to be kept in mind for a future road house concert, please email me. Thanks!

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