How To Host a Music or Poetry Salon

Spoiler Alert: music and poetry salons are just glorified house concerts with a bit of creative formatting, so don’t overthink it!

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you have talented artists in your community and you know that you’re the one to give them a safe, small-group platform to get back on the live performance-horse. Or perhaps you love the idea but are struggling to think of who could perform – some light social media sleuthing is likely to yield many brilliant artists in your area, and hosting a salon is a great reason to reach out. It’s an honor to have your art appreciated, particularly by people you don’t know, and any performer is likely to be flattered by your invitation.

A Caveat

From one salonista to another: we recommend sticking to inviting established artists to perform, and by established we mean artists who’ve been doing it for at least a few years and have published some work. At the risk of sounding snobby, we have to look out for our fellows hosts on this one so as to avoid the excruciatingly awkward experience of enduring a genuinely bad performance. Imperfection is beautiful, but a full-blown trainwreck in your living room isn’t fun for anyone.

Our exception to the above rule of thumb is if you’re thinking of hosting a poetry salon showcasing some nonlocal (or even non-living) talent. Obviously you won’t always be able to get your favorite poets to come over, so who in your poetry-loving peer group shines in the spotlight and would enjoy reading some passages for the class?

Re: How To Structure The Night

We encourage a less-is-more approach, especially if it’s your first time hosting. Two or three performers doing 15-20 minutes each with time for stories and questions feels like a manageable place to start.

One performance is also perfectly sufficient to bring your music or poetry salon to life. Any impactful work of art always inherently begs the question of its origin, so why not format the evening so performers have time to introduce each song or poem with the story of where it came from?

Another fun approach is to give artists carte blanche to do what they want within an allotted amount of time.

Particularly for musicians and poets who’ve been performing for sometime and have any sort of following, often there’s an expectation from the audience to play their most popular published works, the so-called “hits.” It’s a rare treat to be given a captive, curious audience who are open to hearing something new, and most artists will revel in the opportunity to showcase what they’re passionate about at the time.

And it means a lot, particularly in the wake of Covid decimating the entire live events industry, to offer artists any financial compensation you can afford. Even if it means letting your guests know ahead of time and passing the analog or digital hat at your salon, it’s a gesture of deep respect to your performers and ensures they’ll happily return to future salons and hopefully invite their equally talented friends next time.

When It Comes To The Technical

Aspects of hosting particularly music salons, you are not a professional venue and do not to be an expert on live production in order to be successful at hosting. If you let performing artists know in advance they’ll need to bring all of their own equipment, then the only things you need to make sure of are that you have enough physical space and electrical power to support their set-up. Beyond that and possibly a three-pronged extension cord or two, there’s no need to fuss over performance logistics.

For all the hosting pro-tips, see our Why and How to Host article that includes a complete breakdown of every essential ingredient for hosting a delicious salon.