Want To Host A House Show?! Here's Everything You Need To Know!

I love house shows! So far they’ve proven to be the most effective way to introduce my music to new people. On top of that, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really great people. So you’re interested in hosting but you don’t know what all that means? Here’s a quick little guide.

A house show is an evening of music in your living room, back yard, basement, or whatever room fits people. You invite your friends and I provide the music. Simple as that!

Most of what’s below I borrowed from my friend Levi Weaver. He’s been doing house shows a lot longer than I have and has some great thoughts. You should go check out his music at leviweaver.com!

Let’s start with the very basics: - Weather-appropriate location with electricity - Roughly 20 people - $200 (not out of your pocket; I’ll explain)

I’m going to separate this into two sections: Essential and Inessential. There are a few things that, over the course of the last half-decade, I’ve seen work time and time again. These are the things that shows fail without. In the second half, I’ll give you a few tips for putting the show over the top if you have the time and means to do them, but you can easily host a show without those.


1. Location

This might sound redundant, but you need a space to actually have the show. Barns, by swimming pools, on porches, in basements, apartment commons areas, and living rooms are all great options. As long as you have a place with enough space to fit 20-30 people, and electricity that I can plug into, we can make a show happen.

I should also say that while outdoor shows can be really great, it’s important that you have an indoor backup plan, just in case it ends up raining or storming.

2. Friends.

This is the one that I think a lot of people underestimate; I’ll need you to bring as many people as you can. I’ve been touring more and more over the last couple years and once a fan base is established, I can start to bring more people to a show, but especially in new cities – if I’ve never played there, chances are that I will bring 100% of my fan base of zero-people-that-aren’t-you in a new city. : )

Even in cities I’ve played before, it can be a little tricky to bring people to house shows if they’ve never been to one before. It’s easy to think of it as a dinner party at a stranger’s house; like they’d be intruding. Of course, they wouldn’t be, and once they come to one, they realize that it’s actually an awesome way to make new friends. But until then, I probably won’t bring as many people as you think I will. A good rule of thumb is that if you can get 50 people to say that they are coming, then 25 will show up, and we will have an awesome house show.

2a. Friends of Friends. It’s easier to get to 50 if you have 20 friends say they’ll bring 1.5 friends each. Encourage them to tell everyone that it’s open to the public.  Facebook events are helpful, but not enough by themselves (how many event invites do you get every day and totally ignore? If you’re like me, the answer is: a lot.) Phone calls, texts, personal conversations over coffee… let people know that you sincerely want THEM at the show, not just that there is a show and they’re generally invited just like everyone else.

**SIDE NOTE** At this point in the conversation, it’s pretty common to hear “If I make it open to the public, won’t my house end up looking like something from Animal House?”

The short answer: nope!

The longer answer: It totally depends on your friends. If you bring the guy that does keg stands in the Olive Garden parking lot, then there’s a good chance he’s going to talk throughout the show and maybe end up sleeping in your bathtub. But I’ve found, for the most part, that those guys really prefer the kind of music that I don’t make.

As for the “strangers” that I’ll be inviting: my “fan base” (see: friends) are generally really well-behaved. It’s less a “house party” crowd, and more a “listening room” crowd.

3. Someone in charge of the “tip jar”.

I hate talking about money, and wish I could just play shows for free. But I have to address this:

Payment for house shows usually goes one of two ways, since there are no “tickets”. One, people will set a price ($5 or $10 usually, depending on what you think your friends will pay) and have someone at the door taking money as people come in. (Get your friend who isn’t shy) Secondly, some people prefer the “tip jar” method….

The “tip jar” method can be very successful, or very very unsuccessful. If there is someone in charge of making sure that it gets passed around during the set, it works fairly well. If it sits on a table by the door, hoping that people will notice it, it will usually fail miserably.

So the “Essential” part of this is that whichever way you choose is fine, but if it’s the “tip jar” method, please please have someone in charge of passing it around near the end of the set.

That’s it! That’s all the Essentials. A weather-appropriate space, 20-30 attendees, and someone in charge of the door money (or tip jar).


Do I Need To Provide Food? That’s entirely up to you! Most house shows I’ve played have had some sort of munchies. It may work best if you ask a couple friends to pitch in (everybody loves the guy or girl who brings a bag of chips and salsa!)

What About Alcohol? Again, this is entirely up to you. Some folks are totally fine with a BYOB event, some folks prefer not to have alcohol at all. It’s totally up to your discretion. Again, I don’t anticipate too many of the rowdy crowd at my shows, so you shouldn’t be too worried about that, but they might like to enjoy their favorite craft beer while they listen.

Where Do You Sleep? Well that’s kind of you to ask! Fortunately, I have the ability to sleep just about anywhere, but a warm bed is always welcome! If you or a friend have a bed, couch, futon, or floor where I could sleep that would be most appreciated, but not required. I can always find a Motel 6 ;)

Can I Have A Local Act Play Too? Absolutely! I’m always ok with an opener as long as you let them know that you’re counting on them bringing some people!

I Have Strobe Lights! Will That Work? Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here! But on that note, a little mood lighting can go a long way in turning your living room into a great listening environment.

Do I Need To Introduce You? I can’t tell you how big a difference it makes when the host is the first one to approach the mic. They can be the one to tell everyone “Okay, okay, we’re about to start; everyone put your phones on silent.” I always sound like a jerk when I say it, so I just never do. If you’re not comfortable on a mic, you probably have at least one friend who is. But again, it’s not essential.

What About That $200 Thing? Oh yeah, well it costs me money to be out on the road (usually between $75 and $100 per show) and I still have to pay bills and stuff after that. But I’ve found that if we get 20 people to the show, then hitting that $200 mark is rarely an issue. I will NEVER hold you personally responsible if we don’t hit that mark, but I feel that it’s best to have something to aim for.

If you’ve made it through this whole post and are still interested in hosting, shoot an email to booking@jamesonelder.com. I promise to do my very best to provide you with a memorable evening of musical entertainment!