First, a little history …
When we did our first Summer House Concert Tour way back in 2012, we had no idea what we were getting into. We just had this wild idea about creating unique and intimate experiences with supporters of our music, and we were curious to take the leap and see where it would lead us.
That first tour blew us away: we had more fun, shared more fulfilling connections, and created more meaningful memories than we’d ever imagined we would. Needless to say, we were hooked; and 2020 would have marked the 9th year of us taking our show on the road, performing in the living rooms and backyards of good people all over North America.
But then … the world changed.
We grieved when we realized that physical distancing measures — necessary to slow and contain the spread of the new coronavirus — would result in us being unable to do a 2020 Summer House Concert Tour. We are going to deeply miss seeing in person all of the people we’ve met over the years — people who have become friends, people whom we have come to love like family.
But also: with many of us sheltering in place — while also trying to navigate and process this great unknown — it’s clear that we need togetherness, perhaps now more than ever.
To make meaningful connections with one another.
To gather with intention.
To pause … and to allow ourselves the experience of presence, and beauty, and humanity.
And we realized … all of the reasons we’ve been so dedicated to doing house concerts for the last 8 years seem even more essential in this time.
So we’re charting new waters.
With this as context and preamble, we are very excited to announce that … this year we are debuting our first-ever Virtual Fall House Concert Tour!
This will be a continuation of our series of virtual summer concerts, performed from our basement studio here in Tacoma, Washington, and streamed out over the internet as a private, shared experience for you and your community of friends and family — wherever in the world you (and they) might be.
Every concert we’ve done over the last 8 years has become a part of a beautiful, ever-evolving story of what’s possible when we humans gather together with the intention of sharing something meaningful and uplifting with one another.
We believe this year is going to stand out as a stunning chapter in that story — because the possibility born out of gathering is more important right now than ever. Because the people with whom we’ve shared ourselves in this way over the years have absolutely changed our lives; and they (you!) are the very people with whom we most want to walk through this extraordinary time. We are committed to continuing our music-making and storytelling, with the hope of creating spaces for us all to connect more deeply with one another.
If you are someone who shares with us the desire to create that kind of intentional experience for the people in your world, then we can’t wait to partner with you.
Let’s do something magical together.
What you’ll learn in this guide:
In this guide, we’ll cover all the details of:
- how each virtual house concert on this tour will be organized
- how you’ll pick your concert date
- what you can expect from us throughout the planning process and on the day of the event
- and what will be required of you to be a host.
Here are the topics we’ll walk through together:
- THE VIRTUAL SPACE
- THE DATE
- THE GUESTS
- THE MONEY
- THE INVITATIONS
- THE CONCERT
It’s super important that you read this guide all the way through
so that we’re all on the same page as we start planning.
Thanks in advance for being a good student
and reading all the way through! A+ for you.
Now looking for hosts! Please apply within.
Once you’re done reading the guide, if all the parameters we’ve outlined are thumbs-up for you, then the next step will be for you to fill out a short application, which will give us the essential information that we’ll use to select the hosts for our tour.
Keep an eye out for the secret word!
You may be asking yourself:
How important is it that I read this entire guide carefully, all the way through?
Great question. It’s so important to us that somewhere in this guide we have planted a “secret word” that you’ll have to know in order to submit your application. It won’t be a mystery to find; we’re not trying to trick you. It’ll be obvious if you read all the way through, so don’t be the kid who messages us saying the dog ate your homework.
And also: it’s because this is the way in which we earn our living. If we can create an amazing house concert experience with each of our hosts, then we can earn the income we need to earn in order to keep on doing responsible adult things like paying our mortgage and eating food. We like eating food.
Wow, you’re not kidding. Why it is so important?
We’re so glad you asked! We promise it’s not to be a pain in the rear. It’s that we take very seriously this wild and out-of-the-box thing that we do, because we think it’s truly special when it’s done right. And we’ve learned a lot over the last 8 years about how to create the best possible house concert experience, all of which we’ll be doing our best to re-create in virtual format this year, and which we’ll be bringing into our planning with you.
What if I’m a return host?
Wonderful! Read on, dear return host, because details are obviously somewhat different this year, and we want you to be all up to speed with us as we charge ahead into this new terrain.
We hope this guide will inspire you and get you excited for what we hope will be a truly unique and meaningful experience together. Ready?
#1: THE VIRTUAL SPACE
We’ll be performing our songs and stories from our basement studio in Tacoma, Washington, and beaming them out live via a private Zoom stream, exclusively for you and your family and friends, wherever you, and they, happen to be in the world.
This will be a private Zoom gathering, meaning that only you and your invited guests will be able to join the event. Because it’s a private gathering, it won’t be at risk of being hacked – we know that’s a concern at the moment with some Zoom meetings.
We chose Zoom because it will allow us all to have an on-screen view of everyone in attendance at the concert — each one of us in our own little Brady Bunch-style window on the screen. This is one of the ways in which we hope to create an atmosphere of togetherness, even though we’ll all be joining in from our own homes.
We’ll take care of setting up and managing the Zoom stream, so you won’t have to worry about anything technical. All you’ll need to do is to join the concert via the link we’ll provide you, and send that same link out to all of your guests so they can join in on the night of the concert, too.
We’ll be asking that each guest attending the concert use headphones or earbuds to listen, if it is possible for them to do so. This will help us to optimize the sonic experience that we’ll be able to deliver to each guest, and to create a listening environment that is as intimate and focused as possible. We’re going to do our best to make it feel like we’re all in the same space together, even if we’re gathering in a virtual medium.
While there are a number of challenges this virtual medium presents to us, also there are a couple of really cool and unique opportunities that a virtual house concert tour gives us:
- No matter where you live in the world, we can do a house concert with you. We’re not limited by a physical tour route! So, if you live in Ireland, we can do a house concert with you! Australia? No problem! We can do a concert with a host in California one night, and North Carolina the next. The internet is like magic.
- You don’t have to have a house! Unlike our in-person house concerts, where we require a physical space for 30 humans to gather, the virtual experience opens up the possibility of hosting a concert to those who don’t have that kind of physical space in their homes. Live in a small apartment or condo? No problem!
#2: THE DATE
Because we are unconstrained by physical routing concerns, this part is super easy: once you’ve completed your application and we’ve reviewed it, you just get to pick your date. It’s that simple.
Because of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, we’ll be opening up dates on our tour calendar one month at a time. Once we’ve received and reviewed your application, we’ll email you with a list of the open dates remaining in the current booking period. We’ll ask you to reply with your top three choices from those available.
If your top choice is still available when we get your date choices, we’ll book it and confirm it with you. If there are multiple hosts requesting dates simultaneously, we’ll assign top choices on a first-come, first-served basis. So if someone else has already snapped up your top choice by the time we get your choices, we’ll move to your second choice, and so on.
Omg, HOW EASY.
A thought about weekends vs. weekdays
First of all: does anyone even know what day of the week it is anymore?
We kid, but, the point is: we will be scheduling virtual house concerts nearly every night of the week. We understand that it might be tempting to think that weekends would be best. But a) our experience has taught us that that’s simply not the case; and b) even if it were, weekends only make up two days out of the week! And we work nearly every night when we’re on tour. Imagine if you tried to tell your boss that you were only going to work two days a week. That wouldn’t fly at all, would it.
Even during our regular “in-person” house concert tours, our “school night” concerts are some of our favorite and best shows of the tour, so don’t shy away from hosting a weeknight concert. Especially in these unusual times, we need little moments of joy much more often than in normal times! Certainly not just on the weekends.
The bottom line is that if you have a good group of people, we will have an amazing time, no matter the day. And, this is not a particularly lengthy event; the time from guests joining the concert until the music is done will only be about an hour and a half (more on this in THE CONCERT section, coming up) — making this the perfect event for a unique weekday evening virtual gathering.
#3: THE GUESTS
The guests for a house concert … are your people! Your friends, extended family, neighbors, and co-workers; your kid’s soccer coach, the people in your book club, and other folks in your community with whom you want to share an evening of music, storytelling, and connection. And because this is a virtual event, your guests don’t even have to be in the same time zone as you! Oh, the world of possibilities in internet-land.
To create the best possible scenario for a successful show in this virtual forum, we ask that you have a Goldilocks number of adult guests at the concert.
What’s a Goldilocks number? Good question. It’s not too few, and not too many; it’s juuuuust the right number of guests. Like this:
We ask that you have a minimum of 20 adults in attendance. (Kids don’t count toward attendance minimums or maximums.) There are two reasons for this:
- Fewer than 20 adults, and the concert doesn’t feel like the exciting event it can be.
- In our donation-based concert model (more on this in THE MONEY section), 20 or more adults contributing to donations is what will make it a financially successful night for us.
We recommend …
invite double the number of people
you’d like to have at the concert.
If you’re aiming for 25, invite 50; and so on.
This is new and unique to the virtual house concert experience … we also ask that there be NO MORE THAN 30 adult guests in attendance. (Kids don’t count toward attendance minimums or maximums.)
Have you ever heard of an artist requesting a MAXIMUM number of guests at a concert?? Neither have we. It’s a first for us, too.
But! There is one very important reason we ask that there be a maximum of 30 people in attendance: we’re going to try our darnedest to create a real sense of connection with all the people gathered for the concert.
The limit of 30 people will allow for us and for everyone attending the event to see every other guest on screen simultaneously, to get as close as we can to the feeling of being in the same room with one another. It’ll also be a manageable group size for pre- and post-concert discussion, when we’ll want everyone to have a chance at being part of the group interaction.
If you have a larger friend group, and you think you may have more than 30 people who will want to join a virtual concert experience, that’s great. In that case, you can simply request two dates, and host two separate concerts, spreading out your guests between the two nights. (Like a double-header! Yay!)
Can we get real for a minute? ☛ We’ve heard from previous hosts that getting the minimum number of guests to come can sometimes be the toughest part of the job. So … we encourage you to take the over-inviting advice seriously — heck, invite more than double if you need to!
Also, we have some tips on the topic of effective invitation practices, which we’ll send you during our advance planning period and which we have heard dramatically improve the rate of RSVPs.
All that said: if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to get 20 adults to come on your own, a great option is to “co-host” the show with a friend who also has a group of people to invite, and increase your overall attendance. We LOVE co-hosted concerts, because of the way they bring friend groups together and create new connections between people. And also … they’re a great way to create a smashingly-well-attended and exciting house concert.
If you decide you want to do a co-hosted show … ☛ Please make sure your co-host also reads through this house concert guide. You know, so they know exactly what it is that you’re roping them into. (“We’re doing a what? On the internet?? Ok, I’ve read the guide and that sounds awesome!”)
People who have attended one of our house concerts in previous years will remember that we typically have a strict “no kids” policy. As much as we love kids – SO MUCH! – they can prove distracting in a group setting.
Well, great news – because of the changing circumstances we’re all finding ourselves in, we’re changing that requirement for this tour! Parents are invited to have their well-behaved kids of any age watch the concert with them. We will just ask that everyone keep in mind that they’re going to be on video, and that everyone can see each other – and we’ll give you some verbiage for your invitations to help communicate this.
Kids don’t count toward attendance minimums or maximums – so keep that in mind when counting your RSVPs!
#4: THE MONEY
You may be wondering:
They’ve already said that doing house concerts is how they earn their living, which makes it sound like they aren’t just in their basement doing this for kicks and living high on a trust fund (true, true, friend, there is no trust fund … sigh); so, how do they get paid for the concerts, and who’s paying?
This is a fantastic question, and here we’re going to let you in on the (somewhat counterintuitive, risky-feeling, faith-in-humanity-building) crux of how we make all of this work. Here goes:
We do most of our concerts on what we call an “open donation” basis. What that means is that when you send invitations to your people to come to the concert, you’ll tell them this:
“There is no ticket price for this out-of-the-box community event;
it is an entirely donation-based concert. You’ll be asked to decide, after you’ve experienced the concert, what it was worth to you.
Please come prepared to make a donation to the artist
at the conclusion of the show.”
This phrase will be part of the prepared language that we’ll send you to use in your invitations. (More on that in THE INVITATIONS section, coming up.)
Did you notice that we don’t include in this language anything that suggests a donation amount? That’s the “open” part of our “open donation” model, and it’s on purpose. We have two reasons for it:
- In our experience, we do better financially at shows where people can contribute what they are moved to, in the moment, without any previous expectations.
- Perhaps more importantly: if you have a friend who is cash-poor and in need of a soul-filling gathering with friends and music, it’s important to us that they feel welcome to enjoy the evening without feeling any financial pressure. While it is true that this is how we make our living, sharing this experience with open-hearted people is the most important thing.
Okay, wait. You mean: you’re going to put on a private concert, exclusively for me and my friends, with no guarantee of what you’ll earn in monetary compensation?!
Yep. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Isn’t that, like … scary?
It sure is!
Remember that ice-breaker activity many of us did in middle school orientation called the “trust fall?” The one where you fold your arms across your chest while several of your classmates line up behind you, and then you allow your body to fall backwards, trusting that they’ll catch you before you hit the ground?
Well … that’s pretty much exactly what it feels like we’re doing every night on our tour: we show up, pour our hearts out into the performance we’ve prepared for you and your guests, and then wait to see if we fall to the ground or if we’re caught in open arms.
But … why put yourself through that?
It’s really important to us that we’re able to make it so that these concerts are possible for just about anyone to host — we don’t want to limit the experience only to people who have the means to pay our full performance fee. That’s where the donation model comes in: essentially, we’re creating a situation where the concert is paid for in a crowd-funded way. Like a micro-GoFundMe art experience with your friends.
Does it actually work out for you?
Yeah, it does. And it’s done a lot to build our faith in humanity. For the last 8 years, we’ve shown up wherever our hosts are, given our all through our music and storytelling, and … we’ve been caught by open arms, over and over again. I mean … how cool is that?
🚨 Deep thoughts alert! ☛ We believe we’re living in a time where many of us crave meaningful, shared, community experiences; and, using the tools we have, this is a way that we know how to create that in the world. We also believe that when people participate in something that’s meaningful to them, it also becomes meaningful to them to give back in support of it, and to be a part of making it available for others down the road.
So yes, it’s scary; and yes, it’s amazing; and yes, we’re coming back for more.
Occasionally we have hosts who prefer not to ask their guests for donations, preferring instead to personally sponsor the event for their guests’ enjoyment. If this approach interests you, please let us know (there’s a place for this in the application), and we’ll discuss the process for preparing for a sponsored show. The fee to sponsor a concert on the 2020 Virtual Summer House Concert Tour is $500*.
*Please note that this rate is applicable only for private house concerts on the 2020 Virtual Summer House Concert Tour. If you represent a company, non-profit, or other organization that wishes to sponsor a concert during this tour, or if the people attending your concert will primarily be business associates or clients, we would love to do this with you — please contact us for the rate applicable to that scenario.
#5: THE INVITATIONS
In the days right after we’ve confirmed a date for your house concert, you and I will immediately take care of a couple of advance planning details:
- We’ll choose the perfect start time for your event; and
- We’ll prepare the invitations that you’ll eventually send to your guests.
We will provide you with some precise language for you to use in your invitations — which will include:
- a description of the show we’re bringing on tour this year,
- the timing of the evening,
- the great news about kids being able to attend, and
- an explanation of the donation-based funding of the concert.
Besides that, we want you to have fun telling your friends why you want them to join the awesome event you’re hosting! We’ve also learned that there are some good ways to send invitations as well as some not-so-good ways; we’ll send those best practices to you during our advance planning time. For instance:
Generic Facebook event invites to every person you know:
doesn’t work well 👎🏼
Personal invitations: works great! 👍🏼
Thumbs-up & ready to go
During the advance planning period, we’ll ask you to create your invitation and then send it to us, so we can make sure it’s ready for prime time. Once we’ve approved your invitation, we’ll set a send-by date (typically about 4 weeks in advance of the concert date) and mark it on our calendars. We will feel so girl-scout-level prepared, having our invitations ready to go that far in advance. Merit badges for everyone!
We want to give you good tools to make the invitation process easy and successful for you, so 4 or 5 weeks before your concert, we’ll send you a reminder that it’s time to send your invitations out, followed by a weekly series of easy copy-and-paste “teasers” that you can use to remind your guests about the event, stoke excitement about it, and drum up RSVPs.
Following your concert, we will provide you with one final email to send to your guests, containing links to our social media, web store, Love Letter list, and donation platforms. All the juicy details that they might miss in the excitement of the moment!
Bringing RSVPs back in style
THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT: Please be sure in your invitations to ask your guests to RSVP.
We’ve discovered that when guests are asked to RSVP, there is a much better turnout rate as opposed to a “join up if you can” approach. So nail your people down! Follow-up phone calls and personal emails work best for this.
Because your concert will have an attendance cap of 30 adults, you can let your guests know that they should give you a “firm RSVP” (the no-flaking kind of RSVP) as soon as possible, to reserve their space for this one-of-a-kind event!
#6: THE CONCERT
So you’ve invited everyone, RSVPs are in, and you’re ready for the show — here’s how it goes down!
- 15 minutes before your guests are scheduled to “arrive,” Jamie and I will join just you on the Zoom call so we can have a few minutes with you to say hi, run through the schedule of events to come, and make sure the audio and video are working well.
- Guests will begin joining the call at the scheduled start time, and we’ll greet each of them as they pop on to the screen.
- Once everyone you’re expecting to join us is on the call, we’ll spend the first few minutes having everyone do a brief introduction of themselves. Their names, how they’re connected with you, and from where they’re joining the concert. That way, we’ll all get a sense of who we’re sharing the event with.
- At the end of the guest introductions, you’ll give a brief introduction of me and Jamie. Your introduction could include how you met us, or what our personal history is with you, and the reasons you wanted your guests to be a part of this concert experience.
- Next, it’ll be time to start the concert! At that time, we will mute the audio feeds of all the guests, so that the inadvertent bonking and rustling that can happen during an online video call won’t interfere with the guests’ experience of the music and stories.
- At the conclusion of the concert, Jamie will make an announcement about the ways in which people can make their donations — PayPal, Venmo, etc. He’ll also share a link to our web store, where your guests can purchase CDs and t-shirts if they want to, and he’ll provide the link where people can sign up for our Love Letter list.
- Once that announcement is done, we will have an opportunity for you and your guests to interact in conversation with us and with one another. Since a group chat in a format like this might feel like a difficult environment for natural conversation, we’re developing some book club-like discussion prompts related to the theme of the concert, and we’ll invite people to share their thoughts, or ask their own questions of the group.
- And then we’ll hang around and chat with people on the call as long as they’d like to hang around with us!
The flow of the event, and an example schedule
Let’s say you want your event to start at 7:00. In that example, here’s how the schedule would go:
6:45 — you connect to the Zoom link with Jamie & me for our pre-concert check-in before guests “arrive”
7:00 — guests begin connecting to the Zoom link; we greet people as they pop up on-screen
7:10 — we’ll go around the “room” for introductions
7:15 — concert begins
8:30 — concert ends
And then, we’ll hang out as long as people would like to for post-show chatting!
A few notes about the performance
If you’ve attended one of my house concerts before, you’ve experienced firsthand the intimate, emotional, and vulnerable performance that I work to bring every night. Even though we’re going to be gathering virtually, we’re going to our very best to recreate that experience for you and your guests.
Because of this spirit in the performance, it’s essential that we have your wholehearted commitment to creating an environment that’s appropriate for that kind of experience, and your assistance in leading your guests into joining in that intentionality with you. Experiencing music in a virtual setting like this will likely be brand-new for many guests, and so they’ll be looking to you for cues on how to conduct themselves.
Not-so-good cues: You, visibly distracted, moving in and out of your video frame,
or checking in on other things on your phone or computer. 👎🏼
Very good cues: You, front and center in your video frame, headphones on,
giving your full presence and attention to the experience. 👍🏼
It’s going to be a challenge — for all of us — to navigate these new waters of how to connect meaningfully with each other in a virtual setting. So, every bit of energy you bring to help us create, and lead your people in, an intentional and engaged environment will make it easier for me to give the kind of openhearted performance I aim to bring. And it will greatly enhance your guests’ experience as well.
The show we’re preparing
Over the last few touring seasons, we’ve challenged ourselves with creating performances that take the traditional concert experience and elevate it to a new level of immersion, using theatrical sound design and wow-factor enhanced storytelling techniques. This year’s virtual show will feature those same elements, although it’ll have its own distinguishing personality, delivery, and theme. It will be a scripted, narrative piece, with the songs tied together seamlessly as an enveloping whole.
We’re excited about bringing new stories and songs to you in this way. It also means that we will be unable to honor any specific song requests. Thank you for understanding. ❤️
A bonus mission, for those willing to accept it
For the last three years, we’ve challenged our hosts with an optional “bonus mission,” born out of the recognition that we all, as humans who share a society with one another, might benefit in a big way from getting to know more people who aren’t like us. To reach beyond our places of comfort, and to embrace the common humanity we share with people who might exist outside of our identity groups or our immediate social circles.
We and our hosts have loved the experience over the past few years of this intentional reaching out — and it feels like it might even be more important in this extraordinary time. So we’re offering the challenge again this year: we encourage our hosts to invite to their concert — in addition to their regular circle of friends — a few people who fall outside of your normal social circle. These might be people you know superficially from work or the neighborhood, the parents of a kid your child goes to school with, someone who looks different than you do, a person who lives in a different part of town than you do, or someone with whom you interact casually but with whom you’ve not yet had an opportunity to connect.
This is, like we said above, a bonus mission, and not a requirement for hosting; but we think it’s a pretty cool hands-on opportunity to expand our horizons, encourage the growth of our collective community, and enrich the experience we’ll all be sharing with one another.
So … you’ve been reading our house concert host guide thoroughly and diligently (gold star for you!), and you’ve been waiting for the secret word. Well, at long last, here it is: clouds. Remember this — you’ll need to know it in order to successfully submit your application.
All these details — from the invitations, to the lead-up to the event,
to the flow of the evening — serve the singular goal we have for this event:
To create a truly unique and special night —
an intimate virtual concert experience —
where we will make meaningful connections with your community
through stories and music.
We can’t wait to do this with you. ❤️
If all of the parameters we’ve outlined in this house concert host guide seem good to you, and you’d like to apply to host a concert on our 2020 Virtual House Concert Tour (hooray!), then the next step is for you to fill out the application, located here:
Because of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, we are booking this tour one month at a time. WE ARE CURRENTLY SCHEDULING CONCERTS BETWEEN OCTOBER 1st AND OCTOBER 31st. This will be the final month of the 2020 Virtual House Concert Tour.
Once you’ve completed your application, just hit the “submit” button and it’ll be delivered to us electronically. You should immediately receive an auto-generated email confirmation that your application has been successfully submitted. (If you don’t receive that confirmation email, feel free to check with us to see whether it went through.) You will not be able to submit the application until all the questions are complete, so make sure you’ve answered them all!
As soon as we’ve reviewed your application, we’ll send you an email with the remaining available dates in the current booking period. We’ll ask you to reply with your top three choices from those dates. If your first choice is still available when we receive your reply, we’ll contact you to book and confirm the date and begin making plans for your virtual house concert! How fun! If your first choice is already taken, we’ll move to your second choice, and so on.
We’ll be accepting applications for this final round of virtual house concerts on a first-come, first-served basis — so get your application in ASAP, to ensure you get the date you want! Thank you!
If you have any questions for us at any point before or after you complete the application, please feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can’t wait to do a virtual house concert with you. — ❤️ Shannon & Jamie