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 and casual nature of open mics, you can definitely have some fun with it. 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 do so. In some cases, venues will have music open mics, whereas comedy clubs will have their own separate open mic events. In other cases, it can really be a mixed back of anything and everything.
People will either sign up in advance, or just take the stage one after the other. If you want to play at an open mic, it’s important to build up the nerve just to get on stage, as you will be competing with the other people who have signed up or arrived.
It’s important not to be nervous in this situation—for all intents and purposes you have equal claim to the stage that anyone else does. 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. As a great way of making yourself known within a specific scene, you want to play to an audience you want to have follow you, and potentially be on the lookout for future shows.
Definitely 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 the stage.
Very often, the casual nature of open mics means that interacting with the audience will reflect positively on you. Most of 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 thrusting yourself out there, and people will want to get a sense of who you are. Feel free to tell a joke or two, or to talk about the song you’ll be playing. Open mics are a great way to create an intimate experience that will make your performance last in the memories of your audience.
Where to Find Open Mics
Many venues around NYC offer open mic nights, most often during the beginning of the week. This is because the 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, pages like Foursquare have lists of places that offer open mic nights, so definitely take a look there, Yelp, or other listing services.
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—any excuse 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, but with the potential to make an impact on a listener, make sure to practice beforehand. You never know who might be sitting in the audience!
Also, while playing covers can be fun, make sure to bring some of your own material. Open mic nights are a great place to discover an unknown artist, and again, you never know who might be listening.
Happy playing! Did we miss an open mic? Let us know in the comments!