Open mic nights are cropping up left, right and centre, and the musical world has mixed feelings about it. The open mic night is a steadfast tradition in the live music community, and is for a lot of musicians the first foray into performance.
All it takes is a decent space, some decent sound equipment, a few decent people, and you’ve got a ready made community. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourselves attracting more and more inquisitive listeners and adventurous drinkers, and, next thing you know, a scene is born.
This is, of course, the best case scenario. Woefully often, nascent scenes succumb to cliques and elitism, which, coupled with stalls in development, can discourage newcomers, leading to their stagnation and eventual demise.
Nevertheless, any stage can be a platform for you to propel yourself into the musical stratosphere, and, in your capacity as an intrepid and curious musician, you will always find people worth talking to at such events. And, at any rate, you only get as involved as you want to.
The Benefits of Open Mic Nights
Here are a few ways to use the open mic circuit to your advantage, as, like it or not, they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future. And if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Testing the Waters
When you’re just starting out, there are some things you need to experience first hand, like breaking a string, losing your voice, or playing to crowd who clearly don’t give a monkey’s (and remember – three can be a crowd, so you can only ask everybody to put their hands in the air ironically).
Better to know what it’s like to find yourself nervous, unready and even mildly humiliated at this stage than on one that takes a lot more organisation to reach. Here, you can turn up, plug in, do you bit and sit back down. You eventually realise how much of a luxury it is to not have to be responsible for your own mixing or set up your own equipment, so thank your lucky stars. Then thank whoever actually set it up.
It’s also worth mentioning here that you shouldn’t get too attached to the first open mic you play at – there really are loads of them, of varying quality and popularity. By all means remain loyal if you make some real friends, but don’t let that stop you venturing out. At any rate, there are fresh pairs of ears waiting for you at the next venue, so don’t deprive them of the privilege!
Chances are your local open mic is going to run by someone in the know – or at the very least on the outskirts of the know.
They’re bound to have seen many acts come and go during their tenure, some of whom perhaps having moved on to greener pastures, but adopt a friendly approach, show an interest in their story and you can rest assured that they’ll tell you it.
You never know – your future bandmates may be sitting right beside you, just as unsure of how to make the first move. Ask open ended questions and be prepared to be asked a few too.