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Suggested donations, tickets sales, door charges

We’ve seen countless compensation deals. Venues, concert series’, and festivals generally have a standard deal which we will negotiate, so for the sake of this page, we’ll be focusing on house concerts.

For house concerts, it’s important that hosts make it clear in their invitations that guests are coming to listen to and enjoy a concert featuring professional touring musicians, and that a “suggested donation” which will go to the artists is expected from each guest. Though the same idea as a cover charge/ticket sale at a traditional venue, for various legal reasons we like to use the words “suggested donation” rather than “tip,” “ticket,” or “cover change” at house concerts. On that note, we also prefer hosts use the word “concert,” rather than “party” or “house show,” which may suggest a different kind of event to some.

Typically, artists receive all the donations. Hosts who take a cut of the artists’ donations walk a dangerous line with local authorities who may get word of a potential for-profit business in operation. If hosts hope to get some compensation for food and drink they are providing, a separate and clearly labeled donation jar on the food or drink table is recommended, or better yet, make it a potluck and allow everyone to contribute their favorite dishes (perhaps even with printed recipes to hand around!).

Invitations should indicate what the suggested amount is (generally in the range of $15-25 USD) and that CDs will also be available for purchase. We’ve had a few experiences where guests came back as we were packing the car the next morning with their donation or to buy a CD because they didn’t know about these details ahead of time! It’s best to be upfront and avoid embarrassed guests. If you’re uncomfortable with your guests offering donations, or aren’t sure if the turnout will be enough to at least cover our touring expenses, we can also arrange an overall guaranteed amount privately with you beforehand.

Most donations are made in cash and collected at the door, though some hosts choose to set up a way for guests to pay ahead of time with options like PayPal, Eventbrite, Brown Paper Tickets, etc. being the most common. The occasional guest may prefer to donate to us using Venmo or a credit card. We are set up to provide these options as needed.

Whether playing a house concert or a more traditional venue, we like everyone to feel that they can afford to come out and enjoy some good music. The range for suggested donations or tickets can be anywhere from $15 to $25 USD for adults depending on the venue, event, and economy of the region. Some hosts choose to set a specific amount, while others suggest a sliding scale. It generally all turns out about the same. Children and house concert hosts are never expected to pay.

A $10 donation may be more reasonable in certain areas and we’re ok with that as long as good turnouts are expected. When traveling outside the US, we will agree to a suggested donation that works for the local economy and currency.

It is very helpful for us if house concert hosts and venue contacts create a system for taking money at the event as we are often occupied with setting up, warming up, performing, visiting, or selling CDs. At many house concerts, a host will place a big jar or bucket and sign in an obvious place at the door saying something to the effect of "Good Karma $20", then direct the audience to it again as she introduces us at the start of the show, and again at the beginning of the second set. At other concerts and at most venues, the host or doorman will acted as an official "ticket" person, taking money as people arrive. This works very well.

Some guests may have never heard of a house concert and may be a bit wary of coming. Here's a brief description you can share with them to put them at ease: https://concertsinyourhome.org/house-concerts/

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