In 1973, Vera Johnson was touring Canada and making the rounds of folk festivals and clubs. Similar to Malvina Reynolds, Vera wrote hundreds of songs that ranged from poignant to hilarious and clever to politically savvy. As a young folksinger of 20, Vera gave me the names and phone numbers of a few folks across Canada who might be willing to put on House Concerts for my partner and I. All she told me was that people put on concerts in their living rooms.
Those phone numbers changed my life. First, I called Paul Phillips in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was a cold call and I started with “I am a friend of Vera Johnson’s and she suggested I phone. My partner and I are touring across Canada and Vera thought you might put on a house concert in Winnipeg”.
“What’s a house concert?”, Paul said. Well, I thought he’d know what it was since Vera told me to call him, so on the spot I made it up.
“It’s a concert where you invite your friends to a performance in your living room and instead of going to a club, they have a show right there. They pay for the concert and also get to socialize.”
“OK”, Paul said. “When would you like to do it”?
We hitch hiked across Canada and arrived in Winnipeg the day before our show. Paul and his wife Donna were amazing hosts. They gathered about 35 friends, we had a great show and made some life long friends. The next day, Paul arranged for us to audition for the First Winnipeg Folk Festival (August 1974). We were invited to the festival and it was our first major festival appearance, all from a house concert.
Then we went on to Calgary, Alberta. Vera had hooked us up with Barry Luft. Barry was a high school counselor by day and a folksinger & banjo teacher by night. We had another warm and friendly show. And, Barry gave me my first banjo lessons. I was there when his 2nd daughter was born and now, at 40, she is teaching banjo, too!
Nowadays, house concerts have become an alternative to clubs, especially as clubs are now booking acts that once played large arenas. A well organized house concert is a great experience and can be quite lucrative. There are no large expenses such as hall rental, sound company, paid advertising, etc. A poorly organized house concert with a tiny turnout is just like any other show that is poorly put together.
So, as you consider adding house concerts to your career, do your research. Contact a few folks who have performed for house concert hosts you are interested in connecting with and get their experience. As an occasional house concert presenter, I work hard to make sure there is a full house and even have folks pre-pay for their seats. That way, the artist has a real income for the night-just as they would at a traditional concert hall. They also get 100% of their CD and merch sales when many presenters now take 10%-25% of sales.
Perhaps you are a music fan reading this and want to try having concerts in your home?
Artist or fan, below are some links and resources I hope will help you.
OUR FRIENDS AT OASIS have put together a swell guide on house concerts, FREE.
Learn the secrets of playing successful house concerts
Many artists will tell you they simply could not tour without the added financial support of house concerts along the way.
House concerts are a great way to build your fan base in new markets. And not only do you get to keep all the money from these gigs, but you also get dinner and a place to stay.
This free guide from Oasis gives you tons of valuable info, including:
• Setting up a house concert
• Handling the money
• Pitching the idea to your fans
• Making the most of your house concerts
• How to have a meaningful show on a weeknight
• And a whole lot more!
Download your free guide. [link to: http://goo.gl/PDytpL]