Open mic nights have exploded in popularity recently. Pubs and venues right across the country have been using them as an opportunity to host live music on nights when they wouldn’t usually put on any entertainment.
While some nights are only for acoustic music, it’s not uncommon for a large pub or venue to even have a drum kit and some amplifiers where a band can plug in and play!
There is some debate around whether open mic nights genuinely benefit the live music scene as a whole (covered in this LMM blog) but it is undeniable that they do still offer some benefits to individual musicians or bands.
Advantages of open mic nights
One of the best aspects of performing at an open mic night is the amount of other musicians you meet.
Potential collaborators, new band members and even sound engineers and producers could be in the audience.
As such, it’s obviously important to stick around after you perform! Keep a couple of business cards in your pocket, and get to know the people in charge or a few of the regulars.
If you are an original artist and have an EP or album recorded, it’s a good idea to take some with you. Mention them while you’re on stage, and you may be able to sell a couple of copies. It’s also a good idea to have some CD’s on hand to give out to any producers or other industry professionals you might happen to meet.
The more you perform in your local area, the more familiar you will become with the music scene and the musical community.
You’ll gradually become more established, and other members of the public will learn about you and what you do.
Often, whoever is in charge of booking the weekend entertainment at the pub or venue will source the acts from the open mic nights they hold during the week.
This means a short 3 song set at the open mic could well lead to a much longer paid gig on a Friday or Saturday night.
You also never know who is in the audience – it’s not uncommon for brides & grooms-to-be to go out to open mic nights look for people to perform at their wedding.
Tips for your performance
It’s very important that performers are prepared before they go up on stage. Just because it’s open mic night, it’s only a very short set and you aren’t being paid doesn’t mean you necessarily treat it any differently to any other gig.
Basic musicianship such as tuning your instrument before you play, unplugging only after the sound man has given you the thumbs up and saying thank you to the audience are all things that will help pave the way for a great show at an open mic.
Securing a slot
Anyone who has been to an open mic night before will know that they can be rather fickle events, with a sometimes short life span.
Unfortunately many open mic nights, due to circumstances beyond the performing musicians control, are forced to cancel or change date/time with little notice.
For this reason, it’s always best to check with the venue before travelling there.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, some open mic nights are extremely popular and it is always advisable to secure a slot as early on as possible.
Use social media to see who is organising the night and contact them for a slot. Alternatively try and turn up early to guarantee a chance to perform.
Those who turn up later on may well be disappointed – you have been warned!
Hosting an open mic night
If you can’t find an open mic night in your area… why not try and start one? Speak to local landlords and venues in your area and quote a reasonable price.
Things you might need:
- PA Equipment. It’ll depend on what the venue already has in place, but you may have to provide a PA and sound equipment. Remember, you have no idea what kind of act might turn up, so try and have as flexible a set up as possible.
- Contacts. A big part of getting hired to host an open mic night will be your ability to get acts to attend. Start off by using your personal contacts and then advertising further a field.
- Set of material. Being pessimistic, in the early days there might not be as many performers attending as you’d like. As such, you’ll have to have enough material to carry the night through to the end.
If there is already an established open mic night in your area, then find out a little about it:
- How often is it on?
- Does it have one set host or a different one every time?
- Who is the best contact to speak to about it?
On the whole, open mic nights provide an open and welcoming space where anybody can get up and perform a selection of songs. Because of this, those attending open mic nights should be courteous and considerate of others performing.
There are usually a few open mic nights in each city but they are especially popular in big cities like London, Liverpool and Manchester.
Have you been to any great open mic nights recently? Do you have any tips for people thinking of attending one? Let us know in the comments below…
Having an open mic poetry party is a great way for kids to showcase their talent while encouraging them to keep writing. Whether the children are budding poets, stand-up comedians, or just need some practice with public speaking, in a few simple steps you can provide everyone with a fun way to enjoy live poetry!
Step One: Decide on a Venue
Think about the type of party you’d like to host. Will it be a small gathering of friends, perhaps for a birthday or special occasion? Is it for your class, scout troop, or youth group? The size of the group, as well as the purpose of the party, will help you determine your venue.
There are many different places that would be great for an open mic night/party. Libraries have meeting rooms or sometimes stages that can be reserved for free or very low cost. Book stores and coffee shops often host open mic nights and poetry readings. Rooms in schools and churches can also provide a nice space. Even just your own living room can work well for small groups.
Once you decide on a space, you’ll have to call ahead and book it, as sometimes locations require reservations weeks or even months in advance.
Step Two: Create an Invitation
If your open mic is a birthday party, you’ll want to get your invitations out several weeks ahead. However, if it’s for your class or other organization during regularly scheduled hours, you just need to give your students or members enough time to gather their words. A week should be fine.
Your invitation should include the name of the event, time, date, location (including map or directions), and a number to RSVP. Also tell guests to bring a poem to read. It could either be one of their own, or one of their favorites!
A simple invitation might look like this.
The party is on.
Cake, games, poems read out loud.
I hope you can come.
What: Celebrate Jack’s birthday with an open mic poetry party! When: Saturday, March 10 th , 2:00pm – 5:00pm Where: Smalltown Public Library
Meeting Room B200
West Main, Smalltown, MI (map included)
RSVP: To Mary at 123-456-7890
Please bring a poem of your own to read, or one by your favorite author!
If you know all of your guests’ mailing addresses, you can send an old-fashioned paper invitation. If not, an e-mail or online invitation (such as Evite) works just as well.
Step Three: Gather Supplies
Prepare for your open mic party by gathering all of your supplies well in advance, except the perishables. No-one likes stale cupcakes! You’ll need:
- A microphone: This can be hand held or on a stand, plugged into speakers, an amplifier, or stereo. Think about your space and what kind of acoustics you’ll have.
- Seating: Most venues will provide plenty of seating. But if you’re doing it at home, just make sure there are enough chairs for all the guests and space enough to line them up in rows.
- Sign-up sheet: A sheet of lined paper numbered down the side works fine, or you can create a document on the computer. You’ll want kids to sign up when they arrive so they know their reading order ahead of time.
- Activities: If you plan on having games in addition to the reading, make sure you have them ready. See below for suggestions.
- If you are serving food, you’ll need cups, plates, napkins, and utensils.
Step Four: Party Time!
On the day of the party, set up the mic and seating. Make sure all of the food is prepared and supplies are on hand. Test the microphone to make sure it’s working. Once you greet your guests, have them sign up for a slot to read.
You can organize your party time any way you like. If it’s a younger group, you might want to start out with some activities to get their creative juices flowing and help them get comfortable with each other. If it’s a meal time and you have food, you may want to let them eat first. That part is flexible. But it’s best to have everyone get seated at the start, take the mic yourself, explain the course of events, and tell them how “snapping is clapping” at a poetry reading. Kids love this!
Poetry Activity Ideas
Here are a few ideas to help your guests get excited about poetry!
- Magnetic Poetry: Have several sets of magnetic poetry and magnet boards. The kids have fun creating silly or meaningful poetry, then let them read it to each other.
- Poem Search: Gather a bunch of poetry books. Spread them out among the kids. Call out a subject (like “love” or “homework”) and see who can be the first to find a poem about it. The first person to find one gets to be the next caller.
- Poetry Around: Put the kids in a circle. The first person says one phrase, like “My dog is small.” They can say any phrase they want. Then they pass a “talking stick” to the next child in the circle, who says another phrase. When it gets back to the first person, he or she ends the poem. You can make this more challenging by requiring phrases to rhyme or by doing just one word at a time. You can also record it on an audio recorder and play it back, or write down their poem as they create it.
Finally, send your guests home with a little blank book as a thank you gift so they can keep their very own poetry journal!
Taking you back to a simpler time… with music
Are you here to read all the dirty and dirty little secrets about Open Mic Nights? Well, you came to the right place! So get comfortable and read on…..
Where shall I start? I am assuming that you know what an Open Mic is and know the difference between an Open Mic and a Jam Session. If you don’t, this post will help Jam Session or Open Mic – What’s the Difference? . My comments, observations and opinions here come from many years of performing at Open Mics, as well hosting a few and listening to feedback from everyone involved.
Let’s start with the venue. Assuming the venue is a place of business, their goal is to make money. From my experience, the only venues that usually make money on Open Mics are bars, for obvious reasons. For the most part, a venue should consider Open Mics a form of advertising because, there is only so much money people will spend while waiting to perform and listening for several hours. You will attract new potential customers to your establishment and, many will become regulars who will bring their friends and talk it up. Venues should understand that the folks coming to Open Mics genuinely appreciate your hosting it. For those of you attending the Open Mic, please understand that most venues are not making money from the one or two drinks you order. In fact, some venues will stay open later than normal and have to pay staff to be present. I only mention this so everyone knows what to expect.
OK, what about the host? This is usually a paid gig for the host. The host determines the “rules”, such as who plays when, how long each set is, etc. For more details, check out Open Mic Etiquette which I used at my Open Mics. Typically, Open Mics will run until the last person gets their stage time. If the turnout is heavy, the venue stays open and the host stays…. wait for it…. without any extra compensation. Hosts don’t get paid based on how many performers show up. They charge the venue for X hours and that’s it. The host also gets to be the brunt of complaints when a performer accidentally gets overlooked, cut short, doesn’t like the way they sound, had to wait too long to perform, the crowd thins out before their turn, etc. By the way, the host is also responsible for making sure there is music for the duration of the Open Mic. So if performers dribble in and listeners are there, the host will fill in the stage time. In short, the host is trying to keep everyone happy (including the venue) and coming back.
Ahhh, performers… an interesting breed. I know, because I am one! Performers will run the gamut from rank beginners to “unbelievable, I can’t believe I’m seeing this person for free”. Open Mics are typically a “safe place” for performers and many will try out new material. It is your responsibility to ask the host what the rules are. For a sample check out Open Mic Etiquette which I used at my Open Mics. So, what should you expect? You should expect a heads up before your turn and the host will either introduce you or ask you to introduce yourself. You should also expect the host to keep track of time and let you know when it’s your last song in the set. I promise there will be nights that are incredible and others that aren’t up to par, for any number of reasons. Try to roll with it and come back again. One complaint that is often heard is that people play their set and leave (also their friends leave). To that I say, you want an audience, you be an audience. You should also remember that this is a paying gig for the host and often, if the venue books gigs, they will have the host do the screening. If you are interested in a gig, please ask the host what the policy is.
Listeners/Fans….. we love you! Playing to a room of our peers is nice, but you folks really make the stage time rocof re. Open Mics are a great way to have a night out with live entertainment and not break the bank, which is so important these days, isn’t it? By the way, it really helps if you let the venue know how much you appreciate making their location available. They expect the performers to be grateful, but your feedback can make all the difference in keeping the Open Mic going when things slow down a bit, and it always happens at some point.
If you don’t know where Open Mics are in your area, check my post Jam Session or Open Mic – What’s the Difference? for resources to locate the ones in your area.
If you would like to host an Open Mic and want to know what is involved and what to expect, feel free to contact me and I will help you as best as I can.
Well, there you have it, Open Mics Exposed!! Leave a comment and let me know what you think or what your experience has been.
Taking you back to a simpler time… with music
Songwriter, Musician, Entertainer, Instructor
Interested in taking Lessons in person (locally), or worldwide (via Skype) or booking Steve for a Private Party, House Concert or Office Function? Just leave a comment and I will contact you by email (your address shows on my admin panel).
Steve started playing guitar in ‘69, and has been performing regularly since ’90. His involvement with recording and sound engineering began in the early ‘70’s.
Steve, and his bands, have always given back to the community, supporting Special Needs Families, Christian Outreach, Food Pantries, Homeless Shelters and Medical Research.
As a songwriter and registered artist with BMI, Steve’s songwriting and gig sets span the Blues, Rock, Folk, Country and Christian genres.
2009 was the start of a busy solo performing schedule as well as sharing his love of music by teaching both Guitar and Live Performance Techniques. Steve teaches his guitar students to play the music THEY want to play, right from the start, without getting bogged down with music theory. With Live Performance Techniques lessons, students learn how to move from the living room to a live stage.
Written by Bandzoogle member Robin Yukiko. Robin is a Berklee College of Music grad, singer-songwriter, pianist, and music educator in San Francisco. She hosts the SF Singer-Songwriters’ Workshop at the Musicians Union Local 6.
After going to open mics for years, I decided to compile a list of “rules” that I sadly see broken all the time. Maybe this can help some of you!
DON’T play and leave.
DO talk to EVERYONE and remember their names. You can even write their name and description and review it at the end of the night. They will be so impressed the next week.
DON’T expect to be discovered. This is a networking opportunity with other musicians. Open mics only lead to gigs if you work your contacts and follow up.
DON’T just say “Good job”. Be specific and sincere like “I really liked your hook” or “Your low range sounds great!” so they know you were paying attention.
DO introduce others. Even if you aren’t interested in collaborating with someone, maybe you can give someone a good lead.
DON’T heckle. No one wants you to request Free Bird.
DO be gracious. If only one person is listening, play just for that person, and yourself.
DON’T talk loudly over a ballad. Everyone chats, just be respectful about it.
DO play contrasting songs. (One slow, one fast, one in major, one in minor, etc.)
Similarly, DON’T play two songs in the same key back-to-back. Even if an audience doesn’t know, their ears will start to get bored.
DON’T apologize before you play a song. People want you to be excited about your song, not hear excuses for why it’s going to suck.
DO make friends with the host, bartenders, and all staff. People like to work with their friends, so be a friend to everyone you meet.
DO have fun! If it’s not fun, what’s the point?
Looking to host an open mic? Be sure to read How To Organize and Promote An Open Mic
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How to Start an Open Mic Night. If you’re interested in music and entertainment, love people, late-night crowds and lots of fun, an open mic night might be something you want to consider starting. The open mic format can vary from comedy to bands playing music and even poetry readings. Think about what you want the event to feel like and follow some of these suggestions to make it run as smoothly as possible.
Find a location to host your open mic night. Talk to barkeepers, coffee shop owners and even the folks who run community centers. Figure out logistics, including bathroom use, fees and any rules.
Choose a date and time for your event. Make the open mic night a repeating event. You gather a small crowd the first night and the people who enjoyed the experience bring their friends back the next month and so on. It’s good to hold the open mic night at least once a month.
Select a catchy name for your event. Consider the crowd that you expect to gather as well as the entertainment that is being performed during the open mic night. Choose a name that people remember easily and are intrigued by.
Set guidelines. You want your artists to know exactly what time they’re playing, how long they’re allowed to play and what other things are expected of them. If children are going to be present, check that the artists know to keep their entertainment clean.
Advertise early. Give the community enough notice to show up for the event as well as featured artists time to prepare for their open mic performance. Some community papers allow you to advertise free of cost. Leave fliers around town, especially at the site that event is to be held. Take advantage of the Internet and word of mouth to spread the word.
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Uncommon Ground is committed to supporting up-and-coming local independent artists. Our open mic nights are known to be some of the best in Chicago and we have the longest running open mic night in the city! All of these events are open to the public, FREE to attend, and proudly sponsored by Shure Microphones and organic Greenstar Brewing. Follow Uncommon Ground Open Mic on Facebook HERE!
Our weekly Open Mic Nights are held on Mondays at Uncommon Ground Lakeview and Tuesdays at Uncommon Ground Edgewater. We open up our stage to artists and musicians of all ages and backgrounds. All of our open mics are hosted by Eric Quigley.
HOW IT ALL WORKS:
Lakeview sign-ups: 7pm | Lakeview show: 8pm – 10pm or whenever the list is completed.
Edgewater sign-ups: 6pm | Edgewater show: 7pm – 9pm or whenever the list is completed.
It’s highly recommended that all artists arrive on time for sign-ups to guarantee a spot. The length of stage time for each artist ranges from 5 minutes (1 song) to 15 minutes (2-3 songs), depending on the number of performers that night.
NOTES ON PERFORMING AT OPEN MIC
We can play any backing track or MP3 file from any portable electronic device that has a standard headphone jack (including cell phones, iPods, iPads, tablets, etc).
No more than 1 – 3 people per act. Full bands are not permitted to perform during Open Mic. No drum kits.
We have an outstanding sound system with a PA, but we do not have any house instruments onsite. Artists are expected to bring what is needed for their performance.
OPEN MIC COMPETITION
Winners are chosen at each of our Open Mic Nights each week. Twice per year, in January and July, all of the winners are invited back to compete in our annual Open Mic Finals Competition.
In order to perform in the finals, you must be invited. All of these events are open to the public and since crowd participation is important, we ask performers to bring along their family & friends!
Finalists will get 5 minutes of stage time (or one song each), and original material is encouraged. Even if you are invited to both, you may only perform at one.
Winners are chosen based on the following categories: Performance, Song, Musicianship, Crowd Reaction/Participation, and Other.
Prizes for top 3 performers usually include: Shure microphones, cash money, Greenstar Brewing & Uncommon Ground merch, Bloodshot Records merch, radio play, on-air radio interview with WZRD Chicago, your own show at Uncommon Ground, and artist exposure through press & media.
I have seen many discussions that mention Open Mic nights, but I don’t know how they work.
As a drummer, do I just show up and hope there’s someone to play with? Also, I play left-handed. Will they let me switch the kit around? Do they have a kit?
Some information would be very helpful
- Aug 7, 2014
some you have to sign in and they call you up
if you can play and the people running it dig you then keep going and you will get more playing time. great way to meet good players if you go to the right ones
. but honestly the lefty thing may be a slight pain in the tail for you
I used to go to a lot of jazz jam/hangs
some are great and the players just burn and we would go until 4am then all go to breakfast talking about how we couldn’t wait to play together again.
and some are absolutely terrible where they would want me to sit back and play nothing but time while 45 mediocre sax players blew 20 choruses each over Take the A train changes
so maybe go have a beer and check one out before you sit in
- Aug 7, 2014
- Aug 7, 2014
I believe WhoisTony is describing more of a jam night instead of open mic. There is usually a kit provided although bringing your own sticks is a good idea.
The open mics around here usually don’t involve a bunch of musicians looking to play with other players. It’s usually a singer with a guitar maybe with another player of some kind (cajon shows up sometimes). Open mics can be good but some are just awful. I have a regular monthly gig where I am paid to come play with an actor who likes to play, is actually pretty good at guitar and singing, and is happy to pay the band to make sure he has a good time. We play at a little well known dive in L.A. We play right after the open mic so I hear some REALLY interesting stuff while setting up.
However WhoisTony is very right about some of these are good and some not so good. I guess that’s OK since everybody has to learn somehow and beginner players are just happy to play with anybody. The lefty thing is an issue but you should talk to the organizer before the jam even starts to see if you would be allowed to move anything around and then back to it’s proper place. Maybe even email before you show up if you can score the host’s email.
There is also the other side of the coin where it’s labeled as an ‘All Star Jam’ night (or something like that). That usually points to being controlled by someone who has a circle of players that he intends to put together in some format who are probably all pros. Unknowns may not make it up until late if at all.
You have to find one that fits. Doesn’t have to be perfect but one that works for you preferably resulting in networking with some other players that work for what you want to do.
A poetry slam is a competition between poets to win a cash prize. If you are interested in hosting such an event, there is an easy process to follow to make your slam a success.
Find a venue. Speak to the owners or managers of local coffee houses, theaters, auditoriums and cafes. Many businesses are willing to let you use their space to host if it means it will generate more business. Have information about dates, times and the expected number of attendees and competitors before you make your proposal. Poetry slams are usually not free events. These competitions depend upon of drawing in a crowd of people who pay to watch the competition.
Generate interest in your event. Make sure you include information about where the event will be and what the competition requirements are. Post your information in places where it will generate the most interest, including places where local artists and poets might frequent. Try posting flyers at bookstores, coffee shops or at other weekly venues that host weekly open mic nights. Visit local night clubs where local artists and writers frequent, and hand out flyers by hand. Many cities also have local spoken word artists who are well known within their “poet” community.
You may draw a bigger crowd by extending a special invitation to well-known artists, especially if he or she is going to compete.
Most poetry slams require competitors to prepare a selection of poems. You also need to include information about how much the event is going to cost to attend and enter. Many times the poetry slam’s cash prize is obtained from the money made at the door. If you plan to give a cash prize of $100 you will want to make sure your door entry fee accommodates that.
Find qualified competition judges. The best judges for a poetry slam are artists and poets. Components like word play, delivery, flow, creativity, originality and stage presence make all the difference in a competition. A fellow artist will understand how the blending of these components can make or break a performance.
It is also a good idea to have a diverse selection of judges. Poetry comes in all forms. Some spoken-word artists have a style that is very theatrical and animated. Others can be rather soft spoken. Others have a very abstract style. It’s best to get a variety of judges to represent all different styles.
Judges should also be aware that they should not hold any biases for the competitors to ensure a fair competition.
Set up the venue the way you want it to be. Make sure to have plenty of seats for your guests, and include a row of chairs on the “stage” for the competitors.
Rules for slams vary depending on the event, but most slams ask competitors to choose another competitor to battle. This means each person will recite a poem. The judges will decide who gave the best delivery and select a winner. This process continues until their is one poet remaining. That poet receives the grand prize.