Imagine you drive up to a strange house – it’s dark outside. You approach the door with cash in your pocket, and hear music coming from inside the house. A stranger greets you at the door and invites you to have a drink. This scene might sound like the beginning of a horror movie – but musicians and their fans are calling it the future of music.
In an age of giant performance arenas, house concerts – intimate musical events in people’s homes – are growing in popularity. The Texas Standard spoke with some of the people behind the house concert trend.
“Whether it’s a small or a big group of people, they’re all in this thing together, and it’s kind of different than what you would normally find in most other concert experiences,” says Roy Park. On a recent Sunday in Austin, he and his friend Daniel Swayze teamed up to host a classical concert in the home of some friends.
Swayze, the concert’s main organizer, says he was inspired to host this event by an organization called Groupmuse, an online network that matches classical musicians with people who want to host them. Although Groupmuse is only two years old, founder Sam Bodkin is providing a new take on a very old concept. Chamber music house concerts began in aristocratic courts well before the 1700s. And for most of music’s history, people have been playing songs for each other in small-group settings.
But Groupmuse isn’t the only company modernizing the house concert concept. Sofar Sounds is a global network that hosts secret concerts of every genre in homes worldwide. Founded in London in 2009, its Texas presence has grown in the past few years from only Dallas to Austin, Dallas, Denton and Fort Worth. “As far as popularity and interest in our shows, it’s definitely picking up,” says Texas leader Joanna Jurgens.
House concerts tend to be popular with musicians because they generate an audience of dedicated fans ready to drop money in the hat. Singer-songwriter Will Johnson, who lives in Austin and performs regularly in a house concert touring series called Living Room Shows, praises house concerts as economical touring venues. He doesn’t need to wrangle with sound equipment, and he can reach dedicated fans with only a little Internet and word-of-mouth advertising.
As Johnson sees it, house concerts are a cost-effective way to revive an ancient music tradition. So the next time you attend a concert, you might find it’s not in a giant Texas stadium…it could be in your friend’s living room