NYC open mics

Your Guide to Playing at Open Mics in NYC


Open mics are a mixed bag. While they can be fun, what with almost all kinds of acts taking the stage, they can also be a frustrating experience.

Often, open mic nights are where people just starting out playing music—or any other kind of performance act, like stand-up comedy—will hone their craft before taking on their own billed show.

But, with the loose casual nature of open mics, you can definitely have some fun on the stage. We decided to take a look at what is important to consider when performing at an open mic, including what to look out for, and how to carry yourself.

What is an Open Mic?

Open Mics are nights when the performance is determined by who signs up to play. In some cases, venues will have music open mics, whereas comedy clubs have their own separate open mic events. In other cases, it can really be a mixed bag of anything and everything.

People either sign up in advance, or take the stage one after the other. If you want to play an open mic, it’s important to build up the nerve to get on stage. Keep in mind you may be competing with the other people who have signed up or arrived. However, it’s important not to be nervous in this situation. For all intents and purposes you have equal claim to the stage as anyone. Stay bold, claim your spot, and make the magic happen.

You’ll also want to find out what kind of acts play at any given open mic. If it’s a hip-hop club, you may not want to get up there playing folk songs. Make yourself known within your specific scene, play to an audience you want to follow you, and be on the lookout for future shows.

If possible, attend an open mic at the venue you want to perform in beforehand. You will get a sense of who attends, how many people are there, and what kind of music does well on that stage.

Have Fun

Very often, the casual nature of open mics means interacting with the audience will reflect positively on you. The audience is not at an open mic for a sobering experience—it’s to find something new and be entertained.

Stage banter—within reason—is advised. You’re putting yourself out there,  people will want to get a sense of who you are. Feel free to talk about the song you’ll be playing or tell a joke or two. Open mics are a great way to create an intimate experience that can make your performance last in your audience’s memories.

Where to Find Open Mics

Many venues around NYC offer open mic nights, most often during the beginning of the week. This is because busier Friday and Saturday nights are reserved for billed performances.

Because of that, you can’t expect open mics to be packed. You also can’t expect every venue will have an open mic night. The most direct way to find out is to contact the venue, or take a look on their Facebook page. Many places will still promote the open mic nights to bring in patrons.

Also, sites like Foursquare Yelp, or other listing services have lists of places offering open mic nights. Definitely take a look there. Also try the following links to open mic calendars…Open Mic New York,NYC.com, Eventbrite

You can also check into alternative types of venues like coffee shops or other small-time businesses. You could also inquire about holding an open mic for a place that doesn’t already. An reason to bring more people into a venue will be welcome by anybody in the business.

Some Additional Tips

Open mics are great places to practice your music live. With that being said, make sure to practice beforehand to make an impact on your listener. Keep in mind, you never know who might be sitting in the audience!

Also, while playing covers can be fun, make sure to play some of your own material. Open mic nights are  great places to discover unknown artists, and again, you never know who might be listening.

Happy playing! Did we miss an open mic? Let us know in the comments!

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