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Recently, I’ve adopted the habit of frequenting open mic events. An open mic is an event where all types of performers go to perform in front of an audience. Anyone can perform. There’s no need to get booked by an agent or call anyone in advance. All you have to do is sign up when you get there (but you might want to show up early).
The great thing about most open mics is that the audience, mostly performers themselves, are really kind and encouraging to newcomers. It’s a wonderful environment to build your confidence and stage presence in front of a crowd, and get useful constructive criticism along the way.
Below are the strategies I use during an open mic night in order to get the most out of every experience. See if you can apply any of them to your music career.
Note: This guest post is by Reyshizz and added to my David of Music Industry How To.
How Do Open Mic Nights Work?
While the general idea behind open mic nights is to turn up and play your music even if you’re not booked, the exact details can vary from venue to venue. For example, some open mic nights will allow you to turn up with your own equipment and band, and perform one or two songs before the next musician gets up to play. Other open mic events, particularly Rap/Hip Hop open mics, will have a DJ or two spinning tunes on the decks. You will then be able to go back to back with a host of other rappers for say eight or 16 bars each.
You may want to call ahead and find out the exact details of how each open mic night works. By doing this you will know if you have to bring your own backing tracks and/or instruments, or if you can simply turn up and perform. This process should also help you find open mic events that are right for you. Not that you can’t attend many different types, if you feel you have something to contribute. You can also just attend to meet people, and not to perform.
It’s always a good idea to bring along a CD of backing tracks you can perform to, just in case. You never know what’s going to happen at these events, so if an opportunity comes your way, you want to be ready and prepared to take it. For instance, lead players can sometimes be invited up to play on many people’s sets.
How To Find Open Mic Nights
When I decided to perform at open mics, the first problem I ran into was not knowing where to find them. This problem was easily solved though with the power of the internet. I decided to use Google to search for open mics near where I live, and focused on finding clubs or lounges that held these events on a weekly basis. For each club that I found, I called in advance to make sure the information was up to date. The results were broad, but it was a good start.
Along the way, I found another tool I could use to find open mic nights. This tool was a website called Eventbrite. On Eventbrite you can search all different types of events, and filter these events by your location. Again, I called each open mic night that I found to confirm the details.
You can also check classified sites, local entertainment magazines, online open mic directories or listings, and so on.
Once you find a few promising options, mark your calendar with a date to go to each one of these events. As they’re generally “turn up and perform”, you don’t have to worry about booking before you go. You might want to simply call up on the day or the day before just to confirm that the event is still happening. Other than that though, it’s just about making the time to go.
If you don’t have musician friends already, you will make new friends at open mic nights. And the people who play at open mics generally go to multiple locations, and not just one. As you begin to meet more people, you can ask them where they like to play. This is a reliable way to find new performance opportunities, as anyone that’s performing regularly knows where the local hot spots are.
Practice Before You Get There
At open mic nights, you get all different levels of talent. While people are generally understanding of those less talented, and will give them a chance, you don’t want to be one of them. Even though this is still practice time for you, you also have the opportunity to build up some good connections in the music industry if you’re prepared. Because of this, you should make sure you’re at a decent level beforehand.
Self-examination sometimes isn’t enough, so I would suggest asking some trusted friends what they think of your music. And get them to tell the truth – ask them to leave their polite comments at the door. Otherwise, you won’t get an honest answer.
There are a number of ways to prepare for a gig. Practicing in front of a mirror using your hair brush as the microphone isn’t quite the same as performing in front of an audience, but it’s better than nothing. At the very least make sure your lyrics are firmly memorized. You’d be surprised at how quickly your words escape you when you have a crowd waiting for you to play and sing.
At most open mic nights, you will not have the opportunity to play more than one to three songs. So practicing is easy. You’ll want to go through each song a number of times, remembering to identify any problem areas as you go. You can then work on those rough areas until they’re smoothed out, and then do a full run-through again just to make sure you’ve got everything down. If you’re going to be singing, then remember not to sing your voice raw before arriving at the venue.
Lastly, you’ll want to stay off the alcohol before you perform. I’ve looked at why in the following guide, so check that out if you want to find out why: https://www.musicindustryhowto.com/should-i-drink-alcohol-before-a-gig/.
An open mic is the place to practice in front of an audience, and you will hone your craft as you perform more often (it’s the best practice you can get for free). But do yourself a favor and practice alone first to get your act together. Mistakes can happen, but if you’re well-rehearsed, you’ll be able to minimize them.
Bring Giveaways And Business Cards
If you have a CD or something with your music on it, bring a few copies to the open mic event to give away or sell after the show is over. Also bring your business cards, a pen and something you can take notes on (If your mobile phone doesn’t have these capabilities). Open mics are great for networking and you should be prepared for this.
If your performance is any good, people may come up and compliment you after the show. This is your opportunity to network and/or gain fans. Give them your CD and ask for their email address in return. Also give them your business card so that they can visit your website to find out more about you.
You should also approach any performer that you enjoyed seeing. Compliment them and ask for their information. Hopefully that interaction will start a working relationship that is beneficial for the both of you. This can lead to collaborations, the swapping of links, and the sharing of useful information. They may know about another open mic night you haven’t heard of before, and bring you in there. They may also bring you in on other things, as you could do for them.
But try not to be too forward in your networking, as that can send the wrong signal to people. For example, if you just go from person to person, table to table handing out business cards, most of those people will simply throw them away. If you have no intention of building honest, sincere connections, others will sense that, and not want to connect with you.
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P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and make people WANT to hear it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free music marketing ebook emailed directly to you! Or for an in-depth fool proof guide on how to get people to listen to your music, get our online music business course here.