House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return


Joel P. West house show

It’s almost winter and its time to start thinking about booking for the next several months will look like.  As I’m about to embark on recording a new CD, I’ve decided that I’d like to put less effort into promoting shows while spending more time in the studio.  That said, I’m reminded of why house shows are a so popular…especially among singer/songwriters.  Read On…

What is a House Show?
First, I don’t want to assume you know what a house show is, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. Basically a homeowner (or apartment owner) agrees to host an event in which they invite their friends/family/acquaintances over to listen to you perform.  You can also host your own house show.

Little Effort, Better Connections
There are very few things in life that are “too easy” and I think setting up a house show is one of them…especially considering how much time and effort goes into booking shows at traditional venues. What makes a house show easy?  

  • 1.) Connections: The host invites people he/she knows. You don’t need to worry about  marketing yourself to people you’ve never met just to get them to drive to a show at a venue they’ve never heard.  Not to mention that, because of the already existing relationship between the host and his/her invitees, the likelihood that they will attend is incredibly higher.
  • 2.) Less Lead Time: You can decide you’re having a house show on Monday and set it for Saturday. Maybe a little more lead time would be good, but realistically, you don’t need to do much planning ahead for this.  It’s really up to the host as he/she will have a better idea on how much advance notices friends/family would need.
  • 3.) No artwork, No door policies, No PA: Your promotional efforts can be just as laid back as the show. You don’t need to put together artwork (but you can) or worry about a venue taking 40% of the cover.  And in many cases, depending on the size of the living room, you won’t even need a sound system. Go acoustic or use a small amp.

They’re Cheap
On the artists end, it doesn’t cost anything to put together a house show and you don’t have to worry about paying musicians to accompany you like you might do for a larger venue.  The host will often spend time and money on food and drinks or will ask his/her friends to bring a dish. Some house shows double as potlucks. 

They’re Usually More Profitable than Venue gigs
Just because your in someone’s living room, doesn’t mean the experience is less valuable.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  House shows are more intimate and personal. So, don’t be afraid to put value to put monetary the event.

  • Charging Cover:  Do a cover or suggested donation. On average, they range from $5 to $20 depending on what you and the host decide. Most hosts will respect that you are an artist working to make a living off your art.
  • Selling Merch: It’s easier to sell merch at house shows because you have a chance to engage with people on a more personal level – both in conversation before/after the show and during your set.  It has much to do with the idea that people want to invest in who you are as a person and take a piece of you home with them.
  • Little Perks: If you charge $10-$20 for the concert, consider giving attendees a free copy of your CD or an ep…or something small as a thank you and to put added value on the price of admission.  Thanks to Peculiar People for this tip.

Booking House Shows
Do you have fans who are die-hard supporters of your music but can’t always make it to your shows (for various reason)?  Ask them if they would like to host you. Send out a message to your fans and let them know that you are booking for the winter.  House show are extremely popular when the weather gets cold.

If you’re passing through a city and have a free evening, consider booking a house show. Have big gig on Friday and Saturday? Book a house show for Sunday evening.  Sunday’s are the least busiest time of the week.

Check out this great write-up on the idea of house shows:

Lastly, keep in mind that some people make a living strictly off doing  house show tours  but the negative thing about these gigs is that they’re pretty exclusive. In other words, even if the show is open to the public, you’re not likely to get folks who aren’t somehow associated with the host. 

  • DISCLAIMER: If you’re part of a band, consider going solo or duo when booking house shows. Or book house shows in bigger living rooms.  House shows don’t always have to be low-key and some people have large spaces (i.e. finished basements) in their house where they can host listening parties, concerts, or holiday shows. 

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4 Comments on “House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return”

  1. molly rae Says:

    I agree that house shows are an excellent way to promote your music, be personal with your audience, and create a fan base for your music. At large venues, often times it is difficult for friends and fans to attend due to transportation, schedule conflicts, etc, so you go in to the situation without any kind of idea what sort of turn out you may get. With a house show however, it is more like a part and a social event, a good way to connect and gain support. Thanks Joy for the great tips and insightful information! 🙂

  2. […] For some pointers on how to plan your own house concert, whether you are an artist or a fan, check out Grassrootsy’s recent blog on the topic, “House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return.” […]

  3. […] ANSWER: Yea, check out this Grassrootsy blog specifically on house shows: “House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return“. It’s got alot of helpful […]

  4. […] 6. House shows are great…espec since Fall is around the corner. See House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return […]

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