How To... Start Your Own Open Mic Night

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Are you a solo, singer/songwriter? Start your own Open Mic Night - a great way to socialize, meet other musicians and promote your music.

How to start an Open Mic night

Open mic nights are all the rage now. In bigger towns and cities like London, Liverpool or Manchester, you can pretty much play every single night of the week at one Open Mic event or the other, if you know where to look. Most of these nights are organized by musicians themselves. Why? Precisely because it's a great way to play on your own terms, for an audience! Musicians are always looking for an opportunity to play, so most open mic nights, if promoted enough, should attract a few people who want to perform.

Open Mics are where many acoustic, singer/songwriters craft their skills, and are usually a lively affair. Solo performers don't get to play events such as the Firestone Battle of The Bands, but, on the other hand, open mics is where the solo, acoustic performer reigns above all!

It's great to play other people's open mics if you wish to gain experience as a performer, and also to see how it all works if you want to organize your own. One of the biggest advantages of starting an open mic  yourself, is that  you can be the "host" and play a full set at the end, rather than the usual three songs or so.

OPEN MIC DO'S & DON'TS

  • Find the right venue. Any pub, cafe or bar is a potential venue. Open mics are great way to attract a few customers, especially on quiet weekday nights... so just approach a few places!
  • Never charge entry! Open mics should always be free to the public, it's not about the money...
  • Never pay for the venue! Because you won't be making money, it's not advisable to choose a place that charges you for putting the night. There are plenty of places that'll be happy to have you setting up a regular open mic. As far as everyone is concerned, you're actually doing them a favour!
  • ...But do offer something to the performers! It's a great policy to offer musicians something in returning, such as a free drink, or at least discount at the bar. It's a nice gesture... and helps attracting more performers! So talk to the venue and try to cut a deal - it could make a difference between an OK and a great event!
  • Talk to the performers. Talk to the best ones you liked and invite them to come again, or even to headline one of your future events. It's always good to have a few regulars - it's what gives an open mic its own vibe and buzz!
  • Don't be judgmental. Open mics can also attract people with, let's say, limited talent. It's part of the experience! An open mic should, as the name say, be open to anyone, and if sometimes you let someone play 3 horrible songs, so be it!
  • Promote your event wherever musicians hang out! Cafes, bars, vintage clothes shops and record shops are all great place to leave flyers and advertise your Open Mic. And don't forget to drop a few flyers at your local PMT Store, too!

OPEN MIC ESSENTIAL GEAR

Alto portable PA system A portable PA system is good enough for open mic nights.

Some venues might already have a basic PA that you can use free of charge, but if not, you must be prepared to take your own basic PA setup. The good news is that you don't need much for an open mic night, because you won't be dealing with drummers and full bands, but just (or mostly) acoustic performers, playing at a small venue. Here's what you need:

  • If you can afford it, get a good Portable PA System. By far, the best option.
  • Get a couple of dynamic microphones, at very least! To be on the safe side, 4 is ideal, so you can have spares in case you need them. Get some mic stands and cables, too.

Don't let a limited budget get on your way, be creative! For instance, ou can get a small mixer, plug it to a single PA speaker or even a small combo amp and there you go - a small PA! Considering you'll be playing in a small place for maybe less than 50 people or so, that should be good enough, especially if you EQ things well and use a bit of reverb.

PA & Live sound

3 Comments on “How To... Start Your Own Open Mic Night”

  • Presuming Ed
    24th September 2018

    Good article. Though I disagree with the 'you won't be getting paid' part.

    Get paid!

    You're working for a night putting this on, you're providing the gear and you're bringing paying customers into the venue. The performers needn't be paid (though a free drink is a nice gesture) but the organiser should definitely be seeing £50-£100 a time at least.

  • Emily
    9th July 2019

    This article is so helpful! I’ve been looking for one like this. I do have a question though.

    If the event is free how is the organiser able to ‘work’ and get paid for the event?

    • Lee Glynn
      11th July 2019

      H Emily, usually the organiser has an agreement with the bar owner regarding a flat fee. The bar owner would pay the organiser a sum to arrange the event and, if successful and people turn up, then they could perhaps negotiate a bigger fee next time. From my experience the owner would usually expect the organiser to play in between sets or "fill in the gaps" if other people don't get up to play, so they are still entertaining other bar patrons. I hope that helps. -Lee

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