House concerts are one way I get in front of audiences. They're quite special. I've done them in England, Sweden and Germany - and they always seem to work. The atmosphere is special and intimate and the after-party is usually fun, too! Here's a monatge of one we did in 2011.
I'm happy to play for a collection, but some hosts/esses have preferred to make a charge. I'm easy either way.
Food and Drink
I wouldn’t ask hosts to provide refreshments (though they often do). A b.y.o. approach on the part of audience seems to work
The bulk of the audience usually comes from the friends of the host/ess, but we sometimes have followers of the music turn up.
For the gig to work, the audience has to see the event as a dedicated musical occasion - a concert - not a party with music. But the after-party can be great, too.
We ususally have a win-win situation. I get to play in a friendly environment to a friendly audience. The host/ess gets to have some real music played by real musicians in their own home. It's usually a great evening.