Good music and successful parties: these are two things that I’ve come to realize make me blissfully happy to be alive. Combining the two is something wonderful.
This past Spring, I organized a house concert at my parents' house in Los Angeles with The Family Crest, an up-and-coming indie orchestral band from the Bay Area. In May, they played right before the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th birthday fireworks and this August, they will open for OK Go at the Stern Grove Festival. When they’re not playing for throngs of people, The Family Crest – and myriad other artists – performs in more intimate spaces, including my apartment, my brother’s backyard, and my parents' living room. House concerts are, quite simply, concerts performed in people's homes. They are informal, intimate, generally acoustic/unplugged experiences that both artists and fans, alike, enjoy.
Now, my parents know how to throw a good party, and I’m sure I’ve gotten my hosting skills from my mother. I knew that they would be happy to have a “rock” band play in their home since they’ve hosted live music for political fundraisers. Although with a violin, cello, and upright bass, the whole rock thing would be less of an issue. Even my 93-year-old grandmother enjoyed herself (and she’s so picky she refuses to listen to Mahler Symphonies). My dad invited co-workers, my mom prepared her typical overabundance of refreshments, and my grandmother even brought a couple people. Friends came, and they brought friends, all curious about this band that my mom and dad raved on an on about.
As the Family Crest started their first tune, “Before Your Father Hears Us,” which begins delicately and then charges into a highly dramatic operatic rock anthem, I got full on shivers – sitting in the room where I learned to play piano, with my parents, my grandmother, and about 40 other folks who just wanted to hear some good music. That evening The Family Crest walked away with enough money to fill the tank of their diesel-fueled van, sold about 20 CDs, and made connections for a South by Southwest gig in Austin, Texas, hosted by Whole Foods.
Getting people in the door was also helped along by my parents advertising that I would be singing on a couple tunes with The Family Crest. The band has what they call "extended family members" who have performed and recorded with them. These folks number into the couple hundred now, and they are always inviting more to join. The band has six core members, but I’ve seen them perform with up to 10 onstage.
While house concerts are nothing new, they are getting more and more attention in the media. And musicians are considering them in addition to – as well as an alternative to – playing clubs.
Here are some things you might want to think while planning your event:
Pick a musician you love – If you love the music, you will inspire other people to love it, as well, and you will feel more motivated to invite your friends and family.
Pick a date – Musicians have found that house concerts can be good ways to fill in dates between club shows when on tour. Check out their tour schedule on their website and don’t be bashful to send them an e-mail.
Money – Ah, money, the necessary evil. Most musicians know how much to charge. If you can cover the cost, then great! If not, consider selling tickets at the door, or using a crowd-funding resource like Hear it Local (which will also helps you find and book a band).
Check in with the musician(s) – Closer to the date of the show, ask them if there’s anything specific they need, like access to an electrical plug, a special chair/stool, etc. They’ll appreciate the communication, even if there’s nothing they need. This will also get everyone on the same page and make your event run more smoothly.
Location – It may seem obvious, but make sure you have an idea of where you want the musician to perform. Inside, outside, in the living room corner, etc. Share these ideas with the band, especially if they need a certain amount of room to set up.
Connect with neighbors and roommates, and anyone else who might be affected by the noise – They might have requests for starting and ending times for noise concerns. Make sure to respect their requests; inviting them is always a nice gesture! This should be fun for everyone!
Chairs – Will you need them?
Food and drink – B.Y.O.B? Will you provide? Or both?
Tip Jar – Do you feel comfortable having a tip jar out for the additional raising of funds? Did the band request one?
Merch – Does the musician want to sell merchandise at your event? Are you cool with that? Is there a place where it can be displayed?
Timing – Consider telling people that the music will start a little bit earlier than it actually will (maybe 15-30 minutes). You want the most people in the room when the music is happening, and people will always show up late. But make sure to respect everyone’s time and not go too late.
Remember, in the end, not to sweat the small stuff. Hosting a party always has the potential to stress anyone out. As long as you keep communication open between all parties involved (musicians, guests, neighbors), all should go well and a fun time shall be had by all.