Grass roots work-arounds are popping up all around the music biz. It isn't just the major labels that are failing the needs of many music fans:
- At the end of a tree-lined cul-de-sac in Falls Church, I park and make my way up the winding brick path to the front door of a house I've never been to.
Through the window I see a crowd of people, wine glasses in hand, and I don't even knock before turning the doorknob and walking in. I'm a stranger but don't feel at all out of place among these folks, who ignore me as I walk among them. I wander over to a dining room table filled with food — cheese, chips, dip, lasagna, chili — and load up a plate. I pour some excellent merlot (Lindemans Bin 40, not cheap) into a plastic cup and make my way down a short flight of stairs. I join a few dozen people in a rec room lit by two standing halogen lamps and plop myself onto a folding chair, one of about 50 aligned in rows.
I smile to the couple next to me, and when they both smile back I ask, "Do you go to many house concerts?"
House concerts are exactly what those two words say — concerts that people hold in their houses — and they've become something of a nationwide phenomenon during the past 10 years. While there has always been live music in homes — classical drawing room salons, rural front-porch hoedowns, Harlem rent parties, rock bands in basements — the current style of house party has flourished because of a confluence of circumstances, the primary one being the graying of the baby boomers.
These are people who grew up with music as a central part of their lives, who used to hit the club scene regularly, who still buy new music and who have succeeded enough in their careers to own a decent-size home.
But these are people whom the machinery of pop culture routinely ignores. They're too old for Britney, they don't care about Celine Dion, they prefer their music mostly acoustic, they don't like smoky clubs where it's hard to find a seat or a parking space, and they're proactive enough to search for an alternative.
The second key factor in the rise of house concerts has been the Internet, where people can find musical acts that might be up for playing a house concert, where they can find like-minded folks to become potential audiences, where they can promote shows and, in some instances, where the initial inspiration for a house concert can be found.