Sunday, January 02, 2011

House Concerts - Links and Resources

If you're looking for the hottest new concert venue, look no further than your own living room. It looks like house concerts might be one of the big new cottage industries of the music field in 2011, if Nick Krewen's article in the Star is any indication.

Although the house concert concept is nothing new (ever heard of a Schubertiad?), the current changes in the classical musical field might be the perfect fertile ground for many of us to gain a following through playing in people's houses. Where things get interesting is through companies like Home Routes, who book the artists and venues, so artists, agent, and venue are all paid through a small cover charge. And since it looks like Home Routes specializes in the folk-oriented evenings, the field is wide open for someone to create a classical-oriented operation along the same lines.

Here's an introductory video about the house concert experience from Concerts in Your Home:

Links to more resources, which I'll be updating as more information becomes available:

What is a house concert?
Musicians are in the house, a Vancouver Sun article also featuring Home Routes
How to put on the perfect house concert by Bob Bossin w/Martha Stewart
House concerts: a cottage industry from Concert Blog
House concerts for art music: multiple stakeholders, audience development, and sustainability, presented by Anne Ku at the 16th International Conference on Cultural Economics, Copenhagen
House Concerts Guide and 2010 Calendar
Classical House Concerts
Living Room Concerts
Bobcat House Concerts
Shady Grove House Concerts
Music Up Close House Concerts

I like how many of these start-ups are either created by the artists themselves or act like agencies for the artists they represent. Since it doesn't take much money to set up a living room and the presenters presumably billet the artists, costs can be kept down for everyone involved. If an agency is able to book artists on a complete regional tour, the musicians could conceivably make a decent profit from the tour. From the Star article:
Podolak says the admission to attend a house concert is $15, with the musicians keeping 85% of the gross and Home Routes retaining 15%. Musicians are billeted and fed by homeowner presenters, and Podolak says performers can net as much as “$2,000 per week.”
If you're looking to go this route as a classical artist, you'll need to identify your audience, connect with them, bring them into your ensemble's community (probably via Facebook these days), and eventually leverage that trust to sell your product, whether CDs, future concert appearances or other materials. Also see the previous post Impending Doom or Golden Opportunity? for a look at how the rockabilly quartet The Millwinders are able to create a regional cult following by playing in small venues.

What house concert experiences have you had? If you were performing, how were you compensated for your work? Homeowners: what were the takeaways from hosting an event? Companies: is this a worthwhile business opportunity? If you were in the audience, did you have to pay a cover charge?  How much? Did you feel you got your money's worth?

Feel free to leave your answers in the comments. Anonymous commenters are welcome, as always.


  1. I have been performing in house concerts for 4 or so years now. I have found that, at least in my circles, I am the only piano player doing this. That has an upside (unique) and a down-side. The down-side is the one mentioned in the article. The big circuits for this tend to only look at Folk/Blues musicians and primarily Singer/songwriters that play guitar. I have many friends who play in both countries and do very well out of this. I haven't been too successful getting the gigs in the USA, unless I am playing with another musician.
    Don't expect to make concert money out of this (ie $500 - $1500) but I have always come out at least $200 ahead each night, with product sales to be added. The best part is the closeness of the audience, and the after-concert mingling.

  2. Thanks bpetherick! Did you set up these concerts yourself or were they done by a third party? How did you get in contact with the homeowners who hosted the events?

  3. I've played 2 solo house concerts. The first was to showcase the piano of one of my students; the second to try out a new program and record it.

    In the 1st concert, the audience was all non-music people over age 30. From a question someone asked early on, I decided to give verbal program notes throughout. Wonderful feedback, and great people to meet. Unpaid, but great food.

    The 2nd concert, also unpaid, gave me a chance to meet new people and perform on a Hamburg Steinway in a friend's living room. Again, a great time afterwards, and great food.

    I'd do this again in a second!


  4. Wish I was there, Gretchen. It seems like talking to the audience would be par for the course in a house concert, given the intimacy of the venue.

  5. I've done house concerts as fund-raisers or promotional events for larger organizations, and was paid by the organizations.

    One was to raise funds for a local orchestra in Los Angeles that had connections with the Japanese businesses in the area, and I accompanied the concerto soloist for their next concert at the home of a board member. It was really something to meet the most important people of Sony, Seiko, Toyota, etc. and talk about a common love of great music!

    Another more recent experience was the opportunity to present an opera for children at the home of an opera board member, who had a ballroom in her palatial California mansion! What a great way to show the board and donors what we were presenting to schoolchildren every day, and have a lovely poolside reception afterward. The room was packed, the kids had a great time, the company's supporters got to see their kids enjoying the show, and the development folks from the company reaped the benefit.

    I've also done home concerts for university music departments, presenting their opera students to alumni groups and other donors.

    I wonder how many performing groups take advantage of the opportunity to perform in the homes of board members, donors or community supporters. It's a great way to build rapport between the artists and the people who make it possible with their donations, and to encourage the donors to feel like part of the company. Presented in the right spirit, this can be a boost for both artist and organization.

  6. @Chris Foley: Some of these concerts I organised, and some were organised via different groups (ie some House Concert services, some church or other music groups). Word of mouth is an excellent way of doing this. I target people in my city that I know have large spaces and are interested. At every concert, I say a little bit about the process and usually there is one or two people who say that they would be interested in hosting a concert. The problem I see is that you can swamp your local contacts very quickly. I am seeing people are interested in doing one once a year.

  7. Very cool! I would love to do something like this, if only I could find friends who had the time and energy.

    I just blogged about it, Chris, linking to this blog. (& I posted a few house concert YouTube videos I found)


  8. Thanks Patty! Perhaps hiring a publicist (I'm thinking someone along the lines of Liz Parker or Maura Lafferty) would be the answer to getting enough contacts together to make a concert worthwhile.

  9. I began doing house concerts last semester. I am a collaborative pianist, and I have a good friend who is an excellent cellist. I had just bought a concert grand piano for my home and wanted to show it off. So we put a program together.

    We had about 25 people here, and had a marvelous time. Many of them asked if this was going to be a semi-annual event. So we are now working on a new program for March.

    No money was involved. Everyone brought food, and the time together was great. It is a very rewarding venue. Well worth all the work and preparation!

    It is great because of the intimacy of the setting and the lack of formalness. What a fantastic way to enjoy making music with family and friends!

    Besides it's also a very useful way to try out new works before taking them to the concert hall.

    I hope others are out there doing these. Wouldn't it be great for this to really catch on and become normal in our society.