What size living room do I need?
To make the event financially feasible for the performer, you will ideally be able to accommodate twenty(or more) people. This can include pillows on the floor, carpets, etc. You'll be surprised how many a rather small living room can hold. Outdoor concerts can be wonderful. but a sound system may be needed..
What about the money?
An $8.00 to $12.00 donation is fairly common. Ideally, the performer should take home a minimum of $250.00. House concert hosts and performers will often agree on that amount in advance....mighty important for performers who may be from out of town and have many expenses to cover. However, some folks aren't in a position to take that risk. Talk it over with the performer. If there is enough other work on the tour, the performer is usually flexible. All donations, after expenses, typically go to the performer.
The most successful house concerts seem to use the reservation system for assuring a full house. Call your friends, and ask them to pay in advance...non-refundable, if you sell out. This can make the difference when you have a small space, and are counting on their contribution. The money will be there even if their plans change. Your friends will understand.
How can I get people to come?
The very best promotion is word-of-mouth. If you are a fan --let your friends know. Lend them tapes -- call and invite them. Ask them to invite their friends. It works! Some people will mail flyers to their friends or put up poster. The performer may be able to help design a simple flyer, or you can do it. The cost for the posters and mailing can come off the top of the door.
In addition, the performer may do a postcard mailing listing your number -- no address -- so that people can call you for reservations. The performer may also do radio appearances, newspaper interviews, or use the internet to let folks know they're in the area. You will have the final say. If you'd rather use only your own network of friends, and would rather not have your phone number listed, just let the performer know. You might compile a phone list for future concerts.
How long does the concert last?
A typical starting time is 7:30 or 8:00 PM, although Sunday afternoon concerts have been increasingly popular. The usual length is two 45-minute sets of music with a fifteen minute break between sets.
What else do I need to do?
Your job as host is to help gather the audience and quiet them, introduce the performer, and set the tone for the event. Children are welcome...they are best seated with parents rather than in a group in the front. It's a good idea to take the phone off the hook, and ask people to turn their cells phone off.
Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks at the concert are nice, and they are expenses that can also come off the top of the door. Or, if snacks are substantial, a donation cup can be set on the table to help defer those costs.
You may also be hosting the performer, and you might check with them about dinner. Most musicians prefer to eat at least an hour and a half before the concert, and need to keep dairy products at a minimum. Some hosts hold a potluck before the performance, in order for the musician and community to become better acquainted. But check with the performer first. Some perfomers need to be quiet before a concert....some love to be social! Any gatherings after the concert should definitely be checked with the performer. Performers need to be informed if there is to be smoking in the house....that can be very hard on some musicians. Some musicians may also need to know if there are pets. If the performer is traveling, your help may be needed to transport them from or to performances. Public transportation can be difficult with a guitar, boxes of Cd's & cassettes and suitcases!
If you think neighbors might be bothered by the noise, invite them! Or if parking may be a problem, check that out with neighbors as well.
A personal note:
I, for one, hope that this event is wonderfully successful for you as well as for me. As many traditional venues become less accessible to folk musicians, house concerts become more important as a way of reaching new audiences and of bringing the community together. It also helps keep the rent paid and food on the table. I hope you enjoy doing this for me...so that you'll then do it again for other traveling musicians. You're doing your part to keep this music alive! Thank you!