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How to Host a House Show

An artist you love is coming through and your hometown and you have a chance to host them in your home. Should you? What do you need to know? What does the musician expect from you and what do you need to know to have a successful show? This contains no legal advice - it is about the basic homework of hosting a one-off show for touring musicians and not making it a hobby like we have! 

There are amazing artists willing to perform in house show venues right now. Many smaller venues did not survive the pandemic, and a band may play at a festival on Sunday and a superb independent venue on Tuesday, but they still have expenses on Monday.  Other artists are just looking for a way to connect directly with fans and make new ones and love mixing a short house show tour in with larger events. If you find out an artist you love wants a place in your area, should you request a show? Absolutely - it is amazingly rewarding to have music you love played in a room with your friends. But you also need to understand your responsibility for making it a successful show - and unless you live in just the right place, that responsibility is yours.

The number one, most important thing is calibrating your audience numbers with the artist's expectation. This is a function of what the musician needs to make and what you can bring in. You need to honestly estimate how many people you can handle in your space, where you live, how many people will come to the show based on your promotion, and  how many people will come to the show based on the artist's promotion.

  • How many people can you handle INSIDE? Even if you want to do the show outside, make sure you have inside space. You don't want to have to give out weather refunds to the attendees or not pay the artist. Do a mockup with all the chairs you have, make sure there is some kind of aisle access, make sure everyone can see, and that is a reasonable estimate. Take into consideration the band size as well - a 4 piece band is going to need a lot more space than a lone singer with a guitar.

  • Where do you live? Are you in the country with 20 people in a 5 mile radius? Are you in a small town but it regularly packs out town hall for arts events? Are you in a big city with so much to choose from that great shows are a dime a dozen? I find it helpful to think about the nearest town with a great venues that host the kind of artist your are looking for, and look up the capacity. If you are looking at someone who plays shows in Birmingham, AL (population 200,000) at 400 max capacity venues, and you live in a town of 20,000, 40 people is the difficulty equivalent of a sellout. 

  • How many people will come to the show based on your promotion. This is YOU, your reputation, your friend group, how comfortable others will be coming to your home, places you know that will put up posters and spread the word on social media, etc. Make a mental guest list for a party - cookout, football watching, etc. How many people would be on that list? If you only know 10 people that will come to your house, then you will not get 50 people to pay to see a show without a lot of work. Regularly have events? It will be much easier. 

  • How many people will the artist bring in? The artists you want will be hitting a lot of towns and they do not have the time or knowledge of your area to promote the show. They may send you material and they will post dates on social media, but unless you are near their hometown or have a giant local fanbase, then their draw will likely be less than you expect. We naturally think everyone should have as great taste as we do, but even the top bands in your favorite sub-genre may not be known to most people. To get an idea of how many fans they have, look them up on ​Chartmetric. You can see Spotify listens and follows, social media stats, etc.​

  • Now do a little math again. Say they have 20,000 fan reach on Spotify and socials - that's about one in 16,500 people in the US - assuming all of their fans are in the US, which is likely not true. You live in a town of 100,000, that means 6 people may be engaging with this artist - lower this if it's not a popular sub-genre where are. These 6 people are not going to all magically know about the show and beat your door down either - it's just a place to start. 

Now that you have thought about realistic numbers, are you willing to work to make up the difference between what the artist will bring in and what they need for a successful show? 50 seats at $20/seat is not a lot of money for a touring band, but it may be a ton of work for you.

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