Ian Sherwood plays a house concert at my place in Montreal, Oct 2010

Last night I hosted an intimate and communal experience at my house. Almost 20 people partook and everyone seemed to have a fantastic time.  Before you go too far in imagining what I am describing, let me stop you in your tracks.  The event last night was a house concert and the artist was Nova Scotia singer/ songwriter Ian Sherwood.

House concerts have been around for centuries (think of chamber music from the middle ages) though the concept of hearing modern music in the home seems somewhat novel. There are some online hubs which create a network of hosts much like the couch suring concept for travellers.

Ian is a good friend of my sister Jill. He and she performed in dinner theatre together more than a decade ago and Ian spent about a month living at my house in Toronto about 5 years ago when he needed a short term rental.  When I heard he was passing thru Montreal en route home to Nova Scotia from his latest CD launch in Ontario, we connected and decided he would do a house concert at my place. I had gotten the idea from my cousin Sarah whose boyfriend John Connolly did a recent house concert tour in the west.  Ian has done dozens of house concerts and loves them so the idea wasn’t new to him.

Since I am not a music critique (and loved every minute of Ian’s concert last night), I am going to focus instead on the process of hosting a house concert and look at it from a business perspective (as in: the artist as a business person).

With only two weeks lead time and both of us being fully booked with our respective work, we decided we would put the word out via social media (a Facebook event) and that I would send an email invite to my Montreal friends, colleagues and neighbours.  We would take whatever response we could get and Ian confirmed it would be worth it for him even if our audience was tiny. 

In the end, we were almost 20.  Ian played two spectacular sets. He’s an extremely accomplished singer/ songwriter and an incredible storyteller/ entertainer.  I looked around the room often and sensed that Ian had really captured his audience. 

While my motivation in hosting the concert was twofold: 1) help Ian establish a small following in Montreal and make a little extra money on his short tour 2) host a novel event for friends and neighbours, it’s interesting to look what it took to pull it off and what came out of it.


1-2 hours online creating the FB event invite and inviting people via FB and email;

3-4 hours picking up some groceries, cleaning the house and preparing some food for the concert

Approx $75 on food and wine (with lots leftover because some people brought booze and no one consumed much anyway)

2-3 hours travel and set up/ take down time for Ian from where he was staying in Montreal (and a lot more hours than that to drive back to the Maritimes today)

30 min clean up post concert


3 hours of fantastic music in an intimate living room enviroment for 20 people

Socializing  and mingling over a drink before concert and at intermission; perhaps some new connections were formed

Maybe half a dozen CDs sold and an additional $150+ in voluntary donations for Ian

Almost 20 news names/ email addresses for Ian’s database (so he can promote future work/ tours etc.); these same 20 people will remember Ian far better than if they had seen him playing in the background in a bar or coffeehouse

My friend Christina Sciascia attended the concert. She is owner of Shaika Cafe in NDG, a popular coffeehouse that features live music nightly. Ian is welcome to contact her to book a gig.

Smiles on everyone’s faces when they left and lots of praise for Ian’s talent and thanks for my hosting of the event


Was it worth it for me? Definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed hosting it and hearing the concert.    Was it worth it for Ian? He shared my sentiments. He seemed to have a lot of fun and left with a little extra cash and a little bigger following.

Would I do it again? Without question, Ian is welcome to play here if he needs a venue next time he’s in Montreal. I might even host other artists because I have the space and it was fun.  I am not plugged into the music scene though so I am not sure where the next artist will come from.

What would I do differently? I would plan the concert a little earlier, sell tickets in advance for a fixed price (as I believe this would generate more revenue for the artist and encourage people to buy a CD the night of the preformance as well), and aim to have 30 or so people in my space (again to make it worth it for the artist).

If this post has sparked your interest in hosting a house concert, I say go for it.  You will be building community, encouraging creativity, helping an artist/ solopreneur and you will make yourself happy in the process. What’s to lose?

Here”s a little bonus…Ian performing a portion of Dixieland Dirt Bovine last night from his first album (the video is shot sideways and is very dark. I am a coach not a producer!).


  1. Greg on October 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Hi Lisa,
    This is a great idea (and very generous of you to host)! I hadn’t thought about the house concert concept dating back to chamber music recitals, but now that you mention it the link is obvious.

    What I love about the idea is that it’s part of the changing face of the music industry: the wasteful packaging of CDs is being phased out in favour of digital downloads, and the “top-down” business model of music production, distribution, sales and profits is putting control of the music back in the hands of the artist.

    I recently read a Globe & Mail feature about Jane Siberry (remember her?), who got fed up from the red tape of her label and severed those ties. Then she, her dog and her guitar set off across Europe, performing in the homes of fans along the way. She used her website, social media and fan community to promote upcoming “tour stops” and the fans contacted her to offer their homes as venues.

    She was paid about $30 per gig (mostly for travel costs to get to the subsequent show), along with a dinner and a bed for the night.

    She didn’t make any money, but travelled the highways and byways of Europe at little if any cost, while connecting with a growing fan base in an organic and engaging way. Very cool.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Lisa on October 22, 2010 at 10:48 pm

      Hi Greg
      Your comments are great. The house concert idea feels so democratic and organic as you say. I would have loved to count you and Tanya among the guests (Lauren would have been into it too). We had one 12 year old attend. She seemed to really enjoy herself (even when a few songs had some mature subject matter!).
      I am pretty confident that when Ian swings through Montreal again, he will have a number of people who would be willing hosts and I also believe that a few people left wondering how they could host artists in their own homes too.

  2. Anne Kostalas on October 22, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    You forgot to list – that as hostess you got to pick which songs you wanted to hear. A real live musician playing requests for you. It was a great night. Great idea. Thanks.

    • Lisa on October 22, 2010 at 10:50 pm

      So true, Anne. I completely left that part out even though it had occurred to me that I got the best concert of all the guests since a) I knew some of Ian’s music and b) as you point out, he played at least half a dozen songs that I requested before and during the show. Hopefully next time he comes by, more people will know his music and he can cater to requests from many 🙂

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