Salon concerts: another name for house concerts

What is in a name? Home concert, house concert, salon concert, huisconcert, … does it make any difference if it’s established or not? How much can you charge and still get people to attend a concert in your home?


First I used “home concerts” for live foreground music that gets performed and heard in one’s home. In Dutch, home is “huis” — pronounced like house in English. When I moved to the Netherlands, I used “huisconcerten” or “house concerts” instead of “home concerts” to promote concerts in the home.

In the USA, I noticed people using “salon concerts” — and decided to investigate this further.

When I google “salon concerts” I get what looks like an established concert series called Salon Concerts. There is a link to a nice article called “Chamber music finds its modern home.” Scrolling down, I see that the ticket price begins at $40.

How much to charge for house concerts? This is the question many hosts and performers have asked. If Salon Concerts can charge $40 and get a full house, why can’t anyone charge $40? Instead, I’ve heard reactions such as

I can’t charge my friends.

I can’t expect people to pay more than $10.

The economy is bad. People won’t come if we charge more than $10.

Let’s make it free and ask people to donate.

How much do we charge to make sure we get a full house? If we charge too much, we get empty seats.

If we change the name of house concerts to salon concerts, create a professional website, get media attention, can we then charge more than $10 per person? Maybe then, it becomes affordable to run a concert series from the home.

Download the 14-page paper presented at the International Cultural Economic conference in Copenhagen, 2011: “House concerts for art music: multiple stakeholders, audience development, and sustainability

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

10 thoughts on “Salon concerts: another name for house concerts”

  1. I’ve always been under the impression that house concerts and salon concerts were basically one and the same. One difference might be that salon concerts don’t necessarily have to take place in an actual home. And another might be that house concerts used to refer to folk music (not classical) several years ago. (And yes, it would be nice to be able to charge $40 or even $10 for the salon concert. So much depends on your location. )

  2. Just a quick comment on this…

    In the US, when concerts are offered at someone’s residence, then it is appropriate to ask for a suggested donation, technically speaking. If you actually charge someone, then you are running a business. Now how those suggested donations are collected is up to each host, and there are different ways I’ve seen it being done. You could even set it up online for advance donation.

    It was my understanding that the use of the word salon was just taken from French … and the custom of salon talks for example. There are many names for these concerts and they are all the same: house concert, living room concert, salon concert, backyard concert. Any kind of music or entertainment can be the focus and it is really a matter of supply/demand as to what the suggested donation can be.

    Many house concerts (or whatever you want to call them) involve some kind of food or refreshment. Some hosts do a potluck. The possibilities are endless.

    Some hosts (or group of hosts) will collect a donation from audience members and then pay the rest of the artist’s fee out of pocket. But I don’t think that setting up a website and getting media attention makes the difference between whether you charge $10 or $40. The only question is whether you can convince the prospective concert attendee that it is going to be worth his while.

    When the host is very excited about presenting an artist’s music to others, then automatically all the cards fall into place. Sometimes you can ask for a minimum donation and people will actually offer more than what was asked.

    As for empty seats, I suggest advertising that space is limited. And before the concert remind people that if they can’t come to let you know because others are waiting. When you confirm a seat reservation remind people that there will be a suggested donation so that they are sure to bring cash with them.

    Ultimately it is really about whatever you and the market is willing/able to bear. Some hosts do invest in a website and put out a dessert tray and bear all those costs themselves, because they are not running a concert series business.

    I think that it also depends on how many people are participating in the ensemble. The reason salon or house concerts work well (regardless of genre) is because they are usually a platform for small groups or even solo artists.

    If you follow the traditional Indian baithak style of concert, it is all about people getting together in an intimate space and enjoying music. You don’t even bother with chairs for everyone. Put out some bedspreads on the floor with pillows and chairs/sofa against a wall and make sure the guests know what they can expect if you are catering to a Western audience who might find this environment to be unusual. But you can make it beautiful and inviting. What they are paying for is the intimacy and the opportunity to soak in music in a comfortable setting.

    Lastly I think that having the bathroom situation sorted out is a good idea. If you were to tie it in with a wine tasting, then you could ask for more perhaps.

    So I think that setting expectations and the host’s willingness and desire to present the artist and ensure the artist is compensated (donations/merchandise sales) really makes all the difference.

    Well, I just typed more than I intended. I’m sure you have thought through most of this already so I’m probably addressing your question and then some. All the best!

  3. Thank you Cathy & Manisha.

    I suppose it’s not attractive to call concerts located in apartments or flats as such, although I like “loft concerts.” But indeed, there is a lot of flexibility and variety when it comes to concerts in a private residence.

  4. My experience is that most people understand that a “house” or “living room” or “salon” concert does not necessarily mean that the residence is stand-alone unit of some kind that one might define as a house, per se. If it is a really lovely space, then it can be described as such. There was one place in which there were two grand pianos in the home’s music room where I performed. Other places were the living rooms of apartments where there was nothing necessarily large or fancy but the host still referred to it as a house concert and it was understood. But I do like “loft concert” in the event that the event is indeed in what is known as a loft which is common in some cities and which I typically distinguish from apartments or flats. I would think that a “living room concert” would work well as a possibility across residences if the naming is really posing an issue for some reason. I think the main thing is to indicate that this is an intimate environment in someone’s home. : )

  5. Thank you, Jan. I’ve heard of a fancy house concert series in the Netherlands but lacked the right name to search for it. Now I know thanks to you.

    Manisha, I’ve heard of “living room concerts” — I would imagine in the UK, it could also be called “reception concerts.”

    We even had a concert in our newly renovated kitchen. I attended a concert in a physiotherapist’s clinic in Alkmaar. Together with other musicians, we gave a house concert in the hallway of a converted farmhouse in Sellingen last October because the grand piano sat there.

    I can’t remember if I’ve attended a concert in the annual Schleswig Holstein summer music festival where concerts are held in barns and other extraordinary places.

    It would be interesting to collect all the unusual places that concerts have been held — and to conclude that concerts can happen anywhere as long as there’s a will to make it happen.

  6. Sounds marvelous!! Indeed! That’s exactly what I was getting at, I guess, and actually since earlier you referenced chamber music…I wanted to tell you about the The DaCamera Society Based in Los Angeles, it focuses on presenting Chamber Music in historic sites.

    In any case, I guess the real issue here might not be so much about the name, but about overall marketing strategy in order to, perhaps, raise expectations…and then hopefully meet or exceed expectations of the concert attendee.

    Ultimately it is a combination of venue and artist branding that seems to dictate price. When both are trusted to deliver, then a higher price can be asked and will likely even be offered (i.e., donations are likely to exceed the minimum) when you can establish strong talent that delivers on the musical enjoyment scale and is perceived by the listener to be worthwhile supporting.

    If the host perceives that the artist is worth more than what his friends are willing to pay, then the host might be able to make up for the difference, so as not to obligate his friends. Or the artist has to decide how much it is worth it to perform less than for what he might otherwise.

    When entering new markets, it can make sense to play for less the first time you come through and then gradually build up the fees as the interest dictates. Anyway, there is much out there on pricing and expectations and such, especially of late with respect to music (given the download environment).

    The interesting thing about a live performance is that it cannot be replicated and so I think that’s what gives it a different value from recordings. So you could set up a website and put testimonials of concert-goers on the site to encourage folks to attend.

    See this one for example from San Diego area: but when I look at that, it does indeed tell me that this is a concert series in a public venue (a yoga studio) that is trying to emulate the house concert environment. How’s that for a twist on marketing?

    Now there is an emerging/established venue trying to market itself as intimate and less formal versus the opposite proposition of taking an intimate, informal venue and promoting it in some established way. Both are employing these kinds of marketing strategies in some effort to generate more revenue. Which is a more financially successful model? Anyway, I should really go tend to some other things right now, but it is truly fun to explore interesting questions/topics with you.

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