How To Put On a Successful House Show

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Me at a recent sold out/at capacity house concert

I recently played an at-capacity (AKA sold out) house show with a fellow musician. Some things went wrong, but mostly it was a successful and very fun evening for everyone involved. So in case you’ve been thinking about playing a house concert, here’s what I learn from the experience.

Find a Host

The first step is to put your feelers out there for someone to host the concert in their home. For this reason, it’s best to play in a town or city where you have friends. That way, you can ask them directly and then they can invite their friends.

Here are the details to hash out with the host…

Ask them how many people can comfortably fit in their space. This will tell you how many RSVPs to offer.

Figure out what the host will and will not provide, like drinks and/or food.

Make sure there’s sufficient parking.

Work out the compensation agreement, if any. Here are a few options:

1. Friend host: if the host is your friend, they may be cool hosting the show for free just to support your music.

2. Upfront fee: this is when the host pays you a set fee upfront then can recoup that fee by selling tickets or donations. Then any amount above the recouped amount would be split between you and the host.

3. Percentage of tickets/donations: this is when you and the host agree to a percentage they will get of the tickets/donation money. Because it will be a small audience, the host’s cut may be small.

4. Paid in merch: you can offer to give your host a merch bundle as a thank-you and instead of giving them a cut of the tickets/donations

Do a Joint Show

Because I did a show with another artist, specifically a local artist, we were able to pull twice as many people as either of us would’ve been able to alone. Also, my fans got to hear his music and his fans got to hear mine.

And even though we were both acoustic acts, it gave people two different vibes to enjoy. He was more soulful acoustic and I’m more sad/bittersweet acoustic. It adds variety and makes the night more interesting.

Collect RSVPs

There are many reasons to collect RSVPs for your house show…

First and most obvious, you’ll know how many seats to have available.

Second, you don’t want to post the host’s home address all over the internet. So by collecting RSVPs, you can email the address only to RSVPers.

And third, all of the emails you collect from RSVPers go onto your email list. I would suggest sending a follow-up email after the concert to let the RSVPers know they’re now on your email list and will be getting updates about your music (and make it clear how they can unsubscribe).

Consider a “Suggested Donation”

I’ve always done a “suggested donation” instead of selling tickets. Why? I want people to come to the concert even if they don’t have the money in their budget, or if they just want a free night out. Then if I wow them, they can make a donation at the show.

And what usually happens is that some RSVPers donate much more than the suggested amount while some people don’t donate anything. So in my experience, it ends up averaging out.

When To Post on Social Media

I suggest doing an announcement on social media about 4-6 weeks before the show, then take a break from talking about it. Then during the two weeks leading up to the house show, start getting more consistent with posting the date and city of the show and how people can RSVP. Then do a last-call post a few days before the show, making sure you mention you’ll be sending the address only to RSVPers the day before the show.

How To Email Your Subscribers

About 4-6 weeks in advance, email your subscribers who are in the zip code of the concert location. Then shoot them another email a week before the show. Usually, your email subscribers are more receptive to each communication, so you don’t need as many announcements. And you don’t want to send too many emails that people feel like they’re getting spammed.

Prepare for Your Performance

At my recent house show, my guitars kept going out of tune. Even though I tuned them, there were points where they got worse. Fortunately, the audience was amazing and chill and we all had a laugh about it.

So here’s what I suggest: Run through your entire set in your bedroom as if there’s a crowd there. Figure out what you’ll say in between songs. Plan for any changes in tunings. Make notes about what needs to change, what songs should be moved to another spot, etc.

Promoting Your Merch

At my house show, the other artist decided to drink hot cider from one of my merch mugs, and he plugged my merch table a few times. But you may not be so fortunate.

I suggest plugging your merch table toward the end of your set, maybe before you play your last 2-3 songs. Then before your last song, tell everyone you’ll be hanging out by your merch table and you’d love to say hi. I did this and sold some T-shirts.

Talk To People, Be a Normal Human

When the show is over, stick around and meet the people who just sat through your set. Thank them for coming and say, “It’s good to see you.” Be a normal human and socialize and have conversations. Meeting the people who listen to your music is one of the best parts of being a performing musician.