I attended my first house show a few years ago. It was a cool summer evening. We sipped lemonade, ate cookies, and listened to the folksy sound of guitars, pianos, harmonicas, and shakers waft through the air. People tapped their feet, clapped their hands, and swayed from three feet away from the performers. There’s something powerful in live music, and the house show really showcased that. The stories behind the songs come to life and you feel like you really know the songwriter—they’re not a rock star far removed from real life. I left thinking, “Why are there not more of these kinds of shows? That was awesome!”
Over the past few years, there’s been a growing trend in house shows, and people and artists alike can benefit greatly from being involved in this music scene.
What’s a house show? Basically, a house show is a small gathering of friends and family in someone’s living room to listen to two or three musicians perform acoustic sets. House shows typically involve food—whether it’s a potluck or desserts, and guests usually bring some money along to donate to the artists instead of paying a cover charge.
What are the benefits for singer-songwriters? House shows can be the perfect atmosphere in which small acoustic bands or independent artists can thrive.
First of all, house shows create low-key, friendly environments in which singer-songwriters can gain valuable performing experience. People attending house shows are usually there because they enjoy music and want to support independent artists, not because they just happen to be in a coffeehouse on an open mic night. Playing for an interested audience gives singer-songwriters a chance to shine instead of compete with the whirring sounds of espresso makers.
Second, because house shows are generally in people’s living rooms, the audience is only a few feet away from the performer—creating an intimate atmosphere that helps artists forge stronger connections with their audience. Singer-songwriters can’t hide behind stage spotlights or curtains at a house show. Instead, artists learn how to interact with their audience more in talking between songs and after sets. This increased interaction gives house shows a more authentic and personal feel than most public shows and can lead to more loyal fans and supporters.
What now? Want to be a part of the growing house show trend and perform for more people?
1. Host your own house show! Start by inviting your close friends and family to your living room and then grow by having your friends invite other people. Get to know the artists in your own community by hosting a few at a time and then learning about their musician friends. You can establish a monthly house show night, or rotate living room venues within your community.
2. Be hosted by someone else! House shows are a great way for little-known artists to go on tour (and usually get free lodging and food at the host house). Start by asking friends and family in different cities if they would be willing to host a show for you, and then expand to play at other house shows. This website is a great resource for finding hosts, artists, and house shows to attend.
Have you been a part of the house show scene? What kinds of tips do you have about becoming involved?