Attending a live musical performance in a huge sports center with thousands of other supporters of the musician is exciting. Even in a smaller place, such as a restaurant or theater, a skilled performer can provide a great show. Here in the U.S., a very different kind of performance space is gaining in popularity.
Singer-songwriter Annalise Emerick is getting ready to play a show in Nashville, Tennessee. It is something she does most nights in coffee houses, bars, auditoriums, and other small spaces across the country. But tonight, the setting is even smaller. Ms. Emerick will play for a few people in Kristina Shulz’s home.
“An artist will come into my house and play music and I don’t have to go anywhere. All I have to do is provide the atmosphere, which I am absolutely happy to do.”
Ms. Shulz has been holding such performances in her home for about four years. As many as 30 people have attended past shows. The crowd is usually a mix of family, friends and neighbors. But some strangers might show up, too. The performances are listed on house concert websites.
“We’ve done rock, we’ve had blues, we’ve had pop, folk…pretty much anything…anything we’ll have here.”
House concerts have become an important part of Annalise Emerick's earnings.
“I can play a bar for 100 bucks (dollars), but I can play a house concert and if there’s 50 people there and they all paying $20 I’m having a great night. And they’re all buying CDs. It’s amazing.”
Ms. Emerick says house concert audiences tend to make more supportive fans. They follow her career, buy her new releases, and go to her shows when she is in town.
“There's just a totally unique experience as opposed to playing like a coffee shop or a bar or something like that where people are usually there, but you don’t always know if they’re there for you.”
This show is Janice and Steve Anderson's first house concert. The personal setting appeals to the couple.
“You’re just with a bunch of friends, you're sitting around listening to new music...and it's just...
“Kinda like sittin’ around a campfire outside.”
"Yeah, like she said, it’s just like a level that you don’t get when you go to a concert. It’s more personal.”
Charlie Dahan teaches music management courses at Middle Tennessee State University. He used to organize shows for artists like Annalise Emerick. Mr. Dahan says house concerts can be financially risky for artists.
“The downside for the artists is that most house concerts don’t pay guarantees. So you have no assurity of how much money you’re going to make. In fact, most house concerts by law are not allowed to charge admission. Most of them can only do a suggested donation.”
On the other hand, he says house concerts can help fill an artist’s performance calendar and build a loyal following.
Annalise Emerick says she has played in some homes so often the owners have become close friends.
“They always say our door is open if you’re traveling through and you need a place to stay in Virginia, or something, or Maryland, or wherever you are. So that’s been really nice too, 'cause these people are just good people that love music.”
Ms. Emerick says not every house concert goes quite as planned. She recently booked one in Idaho. It turned out the home was in a nudist colony -- a community where people do not wear clothes.
I’m Caty Weaver.