“Katie was the person who inspired us to do house concerts in the first place. The warmth, intelligence, and beauty of her music filled our home with wonderful people; some new to her music, some long time followers.”
– Marijke van Roojen, Neenah, WI
Ahh, the house concert. One of my favorite ways to perform! I perform in people’s homes regularly. It’s a great way of creating a fun, intimate, memorable evening for audiences and performers alike. Almost anyone can host a house concert—I’ve performed house concerts everywhere from small San Francisco apartments to big Wisconsin barns. All you need is a dwelling, some friends, and interest. Above is a video about Katie Dahl house concerts, as well as a step-by-step guide below.
- Think about your space. Do you have a room where you can fit some people? I’ve played house concerts for as few as 10 people and as many as 50. There is no upper limit on the number of people you can invite. (That said, if your space is outside, or much larger than a normal-sized room within a house, we should discuss a sound system.)
- Consider how many people you can reasonably expect to come. If you’re paying for the concert using guest donations (see #4), then in order to make it worthwhile for me to set aside an evening and travel to a show, I ask hosts to commit to bringing in about 20 or more people. (Of course, stuff happens in life, people cancel at the last minute. I totally understand. We’re talking about a good-faith effort.) If the host is interested, I can also invite friends/fans of mine in the area, but it’s generally best not to count on them as part of the 20. There is no minimum if the host is paying for the concert themselves.
- Contact me, Katie Dahl, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (920) 495-2862. Let’s figure out a date! Also, I often perform with my bass player/spoons player/washboard player husband, Rich Higdon. Let me know in advance if you have any objection to him playing, too.
“Setting up the house concert was a breeze and my guests couldn’t have been any more impressed by Katie’s performance! Katie’s music has a powerful focus on her community so it was especially nice to share her songs with my community, as well.”
– Jordan Francke, Los Angeles, CA
- Think about which financial paradigm you’d like to use. Most house concerts I play are suggested-donation events: there is a suggested donation (usually $15 or $20, sometimes $10, depending on your market) per guest. However, we are also willing to play for a flat fee, paid by the host. Contact email@example.com for current rates. We also offer CDs for sale at all house concerts.
- Consider whether you want to include food and/or drinks as part of the evening. Some people have a dinner potluck before the show, some hosts cook dinner and have people bring snacks or drinks, some hosts provide drinks (alcoholic and/or non-alcoholic) and don’t bother with food at all. Anything is fine.
- Set up an Evite or other form of RSVP-required invitation to the concert. (In my experience, Facebook doesn’t work great for this—people don’t seem to consider Facebook RSVPs to be binding. But you know your friends better than I do.) If your concert is suggested-donation-per-guest (see #4), and/or if it’s BYOB or a potluck (see #5), make sure to specify that from the outset. I welcome kids at house concerts (or other shows), but it’s best to clarify early on that the event is a listening-style concert, so that parents of young kids (or people looking for a raucous party) aren’t taken by surprise.
- As the event gets close, start thinking about chairs. Most people have plenty of seating already (between couches, kitchen chairs, beanbags, pillows, etc.); some borrow chairs from a local church or ask guests to bring their own camp chairs. If you’re concerned about chair arrangement or setup, feel free to email me a photo of your space and I’ll be happy to offer advice.
“Katie Dahl’s house concert was, by turns, inspiring, energizing, rousing, fun, funny, and thought-provoking. It was an outstanding show all around, and we were so fortunate to be able to host her!”
–Russell and Tara Nadel, Springfield, VA
- As the event nears, keep track of your RSVP list. If turnout is looking slim, I’d appreciate knowing in advance so I can plan accordingly. It is also a good idea to re-contact confirmed guests 2-3 days in advance to remind them of the concert.
- That night, have a basket for donations placed somewhere prominent. It’s important to also mention the basket verbally at some point (usually in whatever welcome/introduction you make before the performance). Asking your friends for money can be uncomfortable, I know, but it’s less uncomfortable if the “rules” (suggestions, really) are clear from the beginning, and also if your guests clearly understand that at the end of the night, all money goes to the performers. That said, it’s a suggested donation, not a ticket price. If you know a friend of yours can’t afford to pay, please don’t let that stop them from coming.
- If I play by myself, I don’t need much more than a 4’x3’ area to perform in. If I play with Rich and his big upright bass, 6’x4’ is good. It’s helpful if we can have a small table or stool to set picks and water on, and helpful if you can provide a small space/table for us to set up CDs to sell.
- Sit back and enjoy! I find that one 70-minute set works best for house concerts—the night can start to feel draggy with two 45-minute sets. That said, I’m happy to do whatever the host prefers.
Here’s another very thorough resource: a manual from ConcertsinYourHome.com.