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Want to Throw a House Show? Here's How

By: Carolyn Kravets

A photo of a band playing with a female lead singer.
Source: JupiterImages

Are you tired of paying Ticketmaster fees? Do you want the pleasure of live entertainment in the comfort of your own home? Consider hosting a house show for your next gathering!

It is as if a transient band—carrying all their equipment and instruments—happened to be passing by your house minutes before you were expecting ample company. Often, at events like these, there is an underlying impression of spontaneity. The house show feels both regularly and irregularly occasioned, though you feel fortunate to be in the audience either way.

The house show is a far more intimate way to view up-and-coming bands. Groups just breaking into the music scene and performance landscape often get their start in resident venues. In the food chain of performance space, even the largest bands like The Beatles and Nirvana, who played sold-out arenas, started their bands in a home garage. Groups or acts looking to create momentum would find the house show a perfect opportunity to increase exposure, continue refining their image, develop a fan base, and gain experience performing in front of audiences. Every big artist starts somewhere.

Though typically conducted in a large, open living room or backyard space, the house show can lend itself to any open room available in your home. The “underground music scene” could not get any more underground than a basement. It is possible that composition is where creative aspirations lie instead of performance or entertainment. Realizing these objectives is paramount to the authenticity of artistic expression, and what better way to come to this understanding than in your own living room?

If the notion of a house show sounds daunting, do not worry. I have outlined the main steps for organizing a house show for your next function:

Step One: Secure a Venue

Picking the right space for a band to perform is critical. Depending on the size of the band and the number of people expected to attend, you want to pick a venue of generous size. Consider the flow of people in and around the space. In the end, the venue is not just a backdrop—it functions as a thoughtfully and carefully tailored atmosphere to further enjoy a band’s performance.

Step Two: Find a Band

AUX is standard, and a DJ is cool, but truly nothing beats live entertainment. When picking a band, consider what genre would be most appropriate for the attendees. A mismatch between style and crowd is detrimental to ambiance. Maybe a band reaches out to you, or maybe you find the band. Either way, stage presence and performance ability are key. You don’t want a bunch of guitarists looking at their toes the entire night.

Step 3: Coordinate Date and Time

Once you find a band, check their availability. Be flexible and consider multiple dates. Plan around inclement weather and national holidays. Later in the week—Friday, Saturday, Sunday—is preferable for audience availability. Check noise restrictions in your area. If you are blasting music at two in the morning, you may not get to have another house show for a while. Your promotional timeframe should start well before the concert date. Remember to build in time for the band to set up and break down equipment.

Step 4: Discuss Payment

Most groups will not play pro bono. Their time, effort, and enthusiasm are well worthy of compensation. Typically, bands will charge a flat rate for the night or request a percentage of the proceeds earned at the door. Charging for entry goes toward covering event costs and incidentals. Some bands will even play a show and donate the profits to charity. Either way, it is good practice to communicate payment beforehand.

Step 5: Sound and Lighting

Unless the performer is acoustic, consider the sound setup and lighting ahead of time. It would be unfortunate if audio difficulties postponed or even suspended your show entirely. Wires can be tripping hazards, so consider covering them with a rug; it gives the stage a more homespun appearance.

Step 6: Invite People!

Don’t invite party poopers! Engaged and passionate audience members are essential to creating a positive atmosphere at your house show.

Step 7: Enjoy Your Efforts

When the band is settled in, and people arrive, enjoy your efforts to cultivate community. Try not to micromanage the event. While it is your responsibility to ensure the event runs smoothly, you cannot feel responsible for everyone’s enjoyment of the event. Coordinate details ahead of time so that you can relax and enjoy your event!


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