House Concert Host’s Manifesto

I’ve been hosting shows at The Sunset Saloon for 4 years now, and as we head into year 5, they’re getting better than ever. It’s a ton of fun hosting these things, and a real dream come true to have such amazing music and such supportive and wonderful friends join us.

I put a lot of my heart and soul and money into hosting these things, because I really want to provide a place for talented musicians to stop and relax, have a good meal and play for a room full of folks who really appreciate them. No competing against the talkers in the back who seem oblivious to the music, nobody more engrossed in the hockey game on the big screen behind the bar, no obnoxious drunks, paying for parking, or dealing with problems. I want everyone, guests and musicians alike to feel right at home, happy and comfortable. I know how hard musicians work and how difficult and lonely those drives and motel rooms can be. I also know how hard our guests work for their money and how they have to get up early the next day to go and do it all again. It is my hope that everyone will leave here happy and excited to come back again.

Although I seem to get a lot of requests from folks who want to play here these days, I try to make sure that we only have performers that I know are going to be worth your time and effort and money. I want to be excited about every performer who walks in, and I want everyone who comes to be blown away by the show. I seek out opportunities that I know are going to be amazing, and only accept the requests that I am going to be excited about. I hope by now folks trust my judgement, so that even if you don’t know much about a performer appearing here, you’ll know that it’s going to be great, just because I say so. I don’t anyone to ever leave my house thinking that the show wasn’t that great.

And even if you don’t know or previously love the music, we try to have all kinds of food and drinks on hand, so that you know you’re going to enjoy yourself a lot. We make a thorough list before each show, making sure that we have just about everything that everyone could want – salty and sweet, savoury and delicious, chocolate and chewy, different kinds of beer (only the good stuff, mind you, no big breweries allowed) and various soft drinks and lots of ice. Every once in a while Jaine even treats us to some of her homemade ice cream, a real treat and a real delight. We try to make the house clean and comfortable, try to make sure that nobody has a bad view, and we even try to keep Jeremy in line (perhaps the toughest job of all.)

I don’t do any of that and certainly don’t tell you this for my own gain. I don’t want any credit or special recognition. I just want you to feel great about coming here, so that you’ll continue to support the music. The only reason I do all of this is to help bring musicians and music fans together.

I know that many of our performers could play for a lot more people at a public venue. It’s a real gift for a successful artist to do such an intimate show for us, and I really want to reward them for their efforts. Almost moreso, I want to reward those who don’t have a bigger option in town. Some of our performers are so amazing, yet unknown to the masses, so they’re really slugging it out on the road, playing to small crowds, hoping to pull people in however they can. I feel for those people, and really want to support and encourage them. It makes me so sad to hear some of my favourite artists complaining that they can’t pay their bills or don’t have enough money to get by. These people and these songs bring such joy and light into my life; I really think that all of them should be living the wealthy, carefree life that we associate with stardom, but the truth is very different.

Our most recent show was amazing – super talented performers and a really engaging performance, as well as being some of the nicest folks who have ever graced us with their presence. Everyone who did attend seemed to love it, we sold a bunch of CDs and felt a lot of love and appreciation, but at the end of the day, some very talented and hard working performers who had been on the road a long time and had some really bad nights and too many nights off along the way left with, what I felt was far too little.

Unfortunately, on nights when I have worked really hard, put a lot into a show, and invited some special musicians into my home, hoping to make life easier and more enjoyable for them, yet I have to beg and plead for even 20 people to come, I get really sad and disappointed. I know that everyone’s going to enjoy themselves, and that each show is a success because whoever comes has a great time. I know that I put too much pressure on myself and that our performers are grateful for whatever we can get. I just want to feel like all of the effort and promotion and the talent of the musicians is going to be greatly rewarded. Unfortunately, that reward is measured in how much money is deposited into the fish bowl at the beginning of the night.

And sometimes, I feel like it just ain’t enough. On those nights I try to pad the total as much as I can, but sometimes I just don’t have the extra cash to keep things going. And I feel like I’ve already done enough and spent enough that I shouldn’t have to.

I had hoped that by now, I’d build up enough of an audience that people would want to come to as many shows as possible, and that if some folks couldn’t make it to a show, others would be waiting to fill their seats. I’d love to think that everyone is going to go to work the next day and rave about the show they’ve seen, and go on Facebook and encourage others to check out the next show.

If I could be sure that we’d get 25-30 people at each and every show, I’d feel so much better about what we try to do and provide. I’d be less apprehensive about booking the shows, worry less about what night the show happens on, what other things might be going on before/after a show that might take away some of our audience.

I don’t expect anyone to come to EVERY show, and I don’t want anyone to feel badly if they can’t make a show, but I do kind of hope that everyone will help me to spread the good word and try to help fill up the living room every time, and will be looking forward to the next time that they can make it. I know that you have a lot of choices and a lot of responsibilities, but I do hope that we will become a favourite choice of yours and that our performers will be worthy of your support.

I’ve got some really exciting opportunities on the horizon, shows that I know would be amazing, but I’m scared to line them all up, because it’ll mean more shows in a shorter period of time, more expense, more work, and more risk. Some of the shows I envision would feature folks that you’ve surely never heard of, but that I hope will some day be pretty famous. I really don’t want to turn down something that I am really excited about. I know that I can handle my part, but will enough people be willing to come here a couple of times in a month?

That’s the question. That’s the dilemma. That’s the problem. I’m hoping that you’ll tell me. Should I take fewer chances, turn down more opportunities, and hope that the shows we do have are going to be more successful, or do I branch out and do more, hoping that more opportunities for you to come means that more people can make it, and more new people might find us? Your honest feedback would be much appreciated. Leave a public comment at the bottom of the page or fill out the contact form below to contact me directly.

And please, I don’t like to ask you for anything, but if you could help spread the word about shows, and come and join us when you can, I’d surely appreciate it. I hope you know that you don’t need to worry about lining up the babysitter or making sure that you have someone to join you at our house – we’re all your friends, so come alone or come with the whole family. Just come.

Thanks to all who have supported us so generously, thanks especially to the great musicians who have graced us with their talents, and thanks for your feedback:


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House Concert Host’s Manifesto — 1 Comment

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