The 2018 Brad Hoshaw HOUSE CONCERT HOST GUIDE
Hi! I'm so happy you're interested in hosting a house concert. In my experience as a performer, house concerts have been – by far – the most fun, rewarding and memorable concerts I've ever been a part of. I'm excited we have the opportunity to experience this together.
This guide will take you step-by-step through the method by which I'll organize all the house concerts on my 2018 Summer House Concert Tour. Through a lot of research, I have learned a lot about how to structure these shows to make them the most enjoyable and successful events that they can be.
- It's important that you read this all the way through, even if you've hosted a house concert before, so that we're on the same page as we start planning together.
At the end of reading through the guide, if all the parameters seem good to you, then I'll have a short list of questions for you that I'll use to pick a date for your house concert.
I hope this will inspire you and get you excited for what is guaranteed to be one of the most unforgettable things we do all year. Ready?
#1: The "House"
I have staged house concerts in living rooms, backyards, and on back patios; in small houses, big houses, condos and apartments; at a winery, in an art studio, and at a local theater. The point is that the "house" can be any space you have access to where your friends can gather, sit, and enjoy a concert.
- The only requirement for the space is that everyone in attendance must be able to gather in the same space, seated, for the entirety of the hour-long concert.
Pre- and post-concert mingling can of course spill into other rooms or areas of the property, but I ask that for the concert time, everyone is gathered close and seated, together, directly in front of where I'll be set up to perform. I've learned that seating around tables for the concert works against the creation of the intimate experience I aim to bring to the audience, so I ask that there be no table seating for the performance.
It's fine if there aren't enough chairs for everybody – carpet seating in a packed living room or blankets on the lawn in the backyard can work great as extra seating options.
#2: The Date
I will work with you to pick a date for your house concert. This is fun and exciting, and it's also a bit hectic on my end, as I am juggling several different hosts' schedules to make things work for everyone as I move in a (hopefully somewhat) logical way around the US playing concerts almost every day of the week.
In a perfect world, every day would be the weekend, and then I could do a house concert on the weekend. However, a quick look at the calendar reminds us that in fact Friday and Saturday only account for about 28% of the week – but I play shows nearly every night! This means that in reality your concert will have about a 72% chance of falling on a "school night."
But don't dispair! While weekend shows can certainly be a lot of fun, I've had some of my best shows on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The bottom line is that if you have a good group of people, you can't stop the fun from happening, no matter the day. And, this is not a particularly lengthy event; the time from guest arrival until the music is done is typically only about two hours (more on this in a minute) – making this the perfect event for a unique weekday evening get-together.
So, if you want a weekend date, I will certainly try to make that work – but keep in mind that other people want one too, and there are only two per week. Thanks in advance for being flexible so that I can accommodate as many potential hosts as possible.
- At the end of this guide, one of the questions I'll have for you is to provide me with any dates in August and September that you will be unavailable to host your house concert. So if you have a vacation planned, or a wedding to attend, or a regular weekly event that make you unavailable, I'll want to know each of those things to help me plan the tour.
#3: The Guests
To create the best possible scenario for a successful show, I ask that you have a minimum of 20 adults in attendance.
There are two reasons I ask you have this minimum number of people at the show 1) Fewer than 20 people and the concert doesn't feel like the exciting event it should be; and 2) In my donation-based concert model, 20 or more adults contributing donations and purchasing merchandise is what starts making it a financially viable night for me.
In my experience, making sure there is a minimum of 20 people there usually means that the host will need to invite a good deal more than 20. The typical scenario seems to be about half of those invited tend to actually come to the event.
- So, invite double the number of people you'd like to have at the concert. If you're aiming for 20, invite 40; and so on.
If you aren't sure you'll be able to get 20 adults to come on your own, you might "co-host" the show with a friend who also has a group of people to invite, and increase your overall attendance.
If your space can hold more people and you want to have more, then great, the more the merrier. If you have an idea for something bigger, I can absolutely do it, and I'm eager to hear what you have in mind. I've done house concerts with as few as 20 and as many as 100 people in attendance, and have loved every one of them.
Human Adults only, please
Because the show has a lot of quiet parts, and because it's essential that I'm able to create and maintain an uninterupted focus on the performance for the whole concert, I ask that there be no kids or dogs in attendance during the concert.
That said, if it's that rare kid who can sit silently and listen to music for an uninterrupted hour, like a little grown-up, that's okay. Every child is different, but I've found that age 10 generally seems to be a rough line dividing those able to display good concert etiquitte from those who may end up causing a distraction.
If you're in doubt, it's best to err on the side of caution. Having someone create a disturbance mid-show can significantly affect the audience's experience, which can in turn significantly affect my income. As much as I love kids, this is my job. Thanks for your understanding and cooperation with this detail!
- If you have kids, or if you have friends who want to come but who would be unable to come if their small kids couldn't come along, I ask that you arrange to have a responsible adult take charge of the kids in a physically & acoustically separate space during the concert.
This could be a babysitter or a parent willing to volunteer for the duty, and they should take the kids to another room in the house – a place that is sonically isolated from the performance space – and keep them there for the entirety of the concert portion of the event. This works great, and of course the kids are more than welcome to hang out with everyone before and after the performance.
Also, if you think you'll have some sitting-quietly-and-listening kids in attendance, I've still found that a minimum of 20 adults is what makes for a viable event, so make sure to count the kiddos as "extras" when putting together your guest list.
#4: The Invitation
Invite a bunch of your friends! I will provide you with some precise language that I'll need you to include in your invitations; but besides that, I want you to have fun telling your friends why you want them to come to the awesome event that you're hosting.
"This is a donation-based concert"
The language I'll send you to use in the invitations will read something like this:
- "This will be a donation-based concert. Please come prepared to make a donation to the artist at the conclusion of the show."
I do not specify a suggested donation amount for my house concerts. The reason for this is two-fold:
In my experience, I do better financially at shows where people can donate what they are moved to at the moment, without any previous expectations.
Perhaps, more importantly, if you have a friend who is cash-poor but a lover of music, it's important to me that they be able to enjoy the evening without feeling any pressure. While it is true that this is how I make my living, sharing music with people is the most important thing.
Occasionally I have hosts who prefer not to ask their guests for donations and prefer instead to pay an up-front guarantee for the show. Either way is fine, and I've done both ways many times. If this approach interests you, please let me know, and we'll discuss the fee structure for scheduling a non-donation show.
Other invitational items
You may want to let your guests know you'll have drinks and snacks for them if that will be the case, or perhaps you'd like to ask everyone to bring a little something to share. This is entirely up to you, and is not a requirement for hosting a house concert.
- Please be sure to ask your guests to RSVP in your invitations.
I've discovered that when guests are asked to RSVP, there is a much better turnout rate as opposed to a "come by if you can" approach.
#5: The Concert
So you've invited everyone, RSVPs are in, and you're ready for the show – here's how it goes down!
I will arrive one hour before guests are scheduled to start arriving, in order to set up my equipment and do a soundcheck.
Guests arrive at the time you and I have decided together that the event will begin. This is usually in the evening – but it could also be the afternoon if it's a weekend. As guests arrive, we all hang out and mingle for about an hour.
Then after an hour of pre-concert hangin' out, everyone gathers in the performance space, people find their seats, the host (that's you!) gives a brief introduction, and then I perform for about an hour.
As soon as I've played the last note of the concert, you get up front next to me with a vase or basket or box of some kind to make the donation announcement. It should go something like this:
"Thank you all for coming tonight. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. I want to remind you that this is a donation-based concert. Your donations tonight will all directly benefit our artist, and will show him our appreciation for this amazing experience he brought us tonight. I'm going to leave this vessel right here and encourage you to give generously. Thanks again!"
After that, we all hang out some more until the guests start heading home.
A note on the donations
It's really important to me that I'm able to make it so these concerts are possible for anyone to host, and the way I accomplish that is by doing the shows on a donation basis. But since the donations are how I earn my living and pay my expenses while I'm on tour, it's obviously super important that I have my host's full enthusiasm behind that aspect of the event.
- I've discovered that the success of the donations has a direct relationship to the enthusiasm of the speech the host gives at the conclusion of the concert.
I've also discovered that guests are always really receptive and super happy to be a part of supporting the unique and memorable event they've just experienced. You'll see that by the end of the show everyone feels like extended family.
A note on the flow of the event, and an example schedule
I've found that it's really important that the pre-show mingling time is really about an hour. If it's shorter than an hour, then people don't have enough time to get comfortable; and if it's longer than an hour, then the focus of the event starts to get fuzzy.
It's one of the most fun nights of the year to be sure, but it's important to remember that fundamentally this isn't a party; it's a concert.
Let's say you want the performance to start at 7:30. In that example, here's how the schedule would go:
5:30 – I arrive and do my setup
6:30 – guests arrive
7:30 – concert begins
8:30 – concert ends
And then of course we can all hang out afterward for as long as you'd like!
...and that's how we organize an awesome house concert.
All these details – from the invitations, to the set-up, to the flow of the event – serve the singular goal I have for this event: To create with you a truly unique and special night – an intimate concert experience, where magical memories and meaningful connections with your community will be made through music.
Questions for you
If you have any questions you can message me here. Otherwise, if all the parameters I've outlined in this house concert host guide seem good to you, and you'd like to host a house concert on my 2018 Summer House Concert Tour, then the next step for you is to answer the list of questions below.
I'll need you to reply to each of these asap in order to factor your house into the routing for the 2018 Summer House Concert Tour. It would be helpful if you could return your replies no later than Sunday, June 10th, but the sooner the better. Please answer ALL questions completely. Thanks!
Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be compiling this information from hosts all over the United States, then using everyone's location and availability to stitch together a route that works for as many people as possible. I should have all of this data compiled and a route planned out by the end of June (if not sooner), if everyone is prompt in their communication.
As soon as I have a date or a list of possible dates selected for your house concert, I'll get back in touch to let you know what those are. If the date looks good to you, then I'll book and confirm your house concert! Very exciting.
I can't wait to do a house concert with you.
“Brad Hoshaw playing in my backyard is everything I dreamed it'd be!”
— Erin (Overland Park, KS)
“one of the most beautiful and intimate house shows I have ever been to.”
— Isabel (Sheboygan, WI)
“I had so much fun and will never forget hearing his songs echoing through my home.”
— Erin (Woodbury, MN)