What Makes for a Good (or Crap) Open Mic?

I’ve been to enough open mic nights in my day, specifically since my move to Seattle, to develop some concrete thoughts on what elements can make or break the event.  I’d like to have some sort of defined rubric to judge them – especially in future blog posts.  Here is the spectrum model that has been bouncing around in my head lately, and I’m hoping that all of y’all with open mic experience (performing and observing) will critique it, add your own elements, or just comment in general.   Have at it!

First of all, it’s come to my attention that many folks outside of the music world are unclear on what “Open Mic” means. To get everyone on the same page, Open Mics (or “Open Mic Nights”) are open performance spaces generally held at bars, cafés, and music venues during off-nights. Anyone can come, sign up, and perform original or non-original music, poetry, performance art, etc. They are a vital part of any music community, especially for songwriters and poets, as a place to come together, share art, connect with each other, and get feedback on their work. Sadly, this ideal community-building scenario is quite rare, which prompts my desire to articulate the factors that make for a good (or terrible) Open Mic.


Core, interwoven factors by which to judge an Open Mic (in order of importance):


1) Purpose
2) Host
3) Space
4) Audience


Two extremes of the Open Mic spectrum:  The GOOD

1) Purpose:  The best open mics are about not just the music, but also about forging real connections and friendships between musicians.  The music is the reason for getting together, and the performances make up the content, but it’s the overall feeling of community that separates a good Open Mic from a great one.

2) Host:  The host of an open mic plays a huge role in setting the tone, especially around Purpose as discussed above.  Ideally, this is a person who cares deeply about local music community, building connections between artists, and fostering a positive artistic space.  They go above and beyond the call of duty with their time and/or resources to create an inclusive and familiar weekly event – making it a “thing” and a destination spot.  They are a charismatic MC, taking on an appropriate amount of personal ownership over the event, but above all else they exhibit a clear reverence for the art and the artists who create it.  The host also tends to be the sound engineer, so of course some mixing and troubleshooting skills are a big plus.

3)  Space:  Ideally, the open mic takes place in a dedicated music space (whether legit music venue, or dedicated music room of a bar or restaurant).  A perk that generally comes along with this is a good sound system, with a good mixer, plenty of inputs and microphones, and monitors (speakers on the floor pointed at the performer so they can hear themselves better).

4) Audience:  This is often connected to the space, as described above.  If the space regularly features live music the audience is much more likely to be there for the music.  This kind of audience is very attentive and appreciative.  Furthermore, at the best open mics there are a significant amount of people there who are not performing that night, but are interested in seeing some good live music and experiencing new local artists.

The CRAP:

1) Purpose:  In the worst cases, this is a two-headed monster of cynicism wherein the venue’s sole purpose is to sell food and drinks on an otherwise dead night and the performers’ sole purpose is to play their own songs and “promote themselves.”  In this case, the venue really doesn’t care about the music itself, and the performer really doesn’t care about anyone else there, unless they are a potential fan.

2)  Host:  They are apathetic, narcissistic, or both.  They are just “at work” and not interested nor invested in building relationships, remembering people’s names, or making the event a success on the whole.  They avoid the soundboard, do not pay attention to the music, and are generally devoid of any reverence to anything that happens that night.

3) Space:  An empty or overly noisy bar with a bad (if even functional) sound system and microphones that smell like 30 years of beer and cigarettes.  Plus, the Open Mic goes from 10pm – 1am on a Tuesday night so no one who play early in the night sticks around to see those in late slots.

4) Audience:  Either an audience composed entirely of people performing – just waiting for their turn to play (see Purpose above) – or a room full of non-performers who are there despite the fact that it is Open Mic Night and really wish they didn’t have to talk over the music. But they will.

Wildcard Factors:

1) Number of songs / time per artist

I almost made this a primary factor, but I recognize that my strong opinions about it may be shaped by correlation as opposed to causation.  All of my favorite open mics only allow 1 song / 5 minutes per person per week (unless there are only a handful of people there, in which case it would end too quickly).  In contrast, many (most?) Open Mics allow 2 or 3 songs (10-15 minutes) per act.  I vastly prefer the 1-song rule for several reasons:

A) It’s way more fun to watch.  Most open mics last 2 or 3 hours beginning to end, but getting to see 20 or 30 different acts in that time helps it fly by.  The variety keeps it moving and keeps the audience engaged – especially non-performers.  This, in turn, makes people more likely to stick around until the end.  There are few things more frustrating than being at the end of an open mic list and watching a full house dwindle to just you and the MC by the time you finally take the stage.

B) It encourages performers to come back and become regulars.  If I go to an open mic for the first time and can play 3 songs, I’m going to play my 3 best songs and unless everything else about the night is amazing I will consider that open mic “done.”  If I only get one song and it goes well, however, it makes me really want to go back next week and see how song #2 goes, and so on.  There are drawbacks, of course, such as being defined that night by only one of your songs, but I feel like the things that matter most (community, relationships, etc) cancel this out over time.

C) It leaves them wanting more.  For the best performers, just doing one song – a taste – really encourages the post-show “Hey that was really good where can I hear more” conversation.  The result is a much more authentic means of promotion for their website or an upcoming gig – as opposed to the inevitably tacky URL shout-out before on the mic.  It also encourages return trips for artists and spectators eager to hear more.

That’s all I can articulate right now.  I figure this might be an issue people have a lot of different opinions about, so please leave a comment below and get the discussion going!

2) Average talent level

If the overall quality of music, poetry, whatever is high, this is obviously going to make the Open Mic more awesome.  A high level of talent is definitely a necessity to be considered one of the best Open Mics around.  It cannot, however, save an open mic that is 4-for-4 in the “crap” category above.  Quality is certainly an incentive for both artists and spectators to go out on a weeknight for a few hours, but if all these really talented people are there just to show off their talent, as opposed to appreciating and being influenced by their peers, the Open Mic just becomes a side-stage variety show with no hope of larger music community development.

3) Contests and competition

Some open mics have a formal competition or contest element – judged either by the host or the audience – with prizes, opportunities, or money attached.  I have mixed feelings on this.  Sometimes it totally works, sometimes it totally sucks, and sometimes it kind of sucks but the pros outweigh the cons.  I think it risks adding more passive-aggression to an already unspoken and stupid competitive dynamic between music-makers. But it does help achieve certain worthy goals, such as an incentive to staying until the very end of the night, coming back next week to try again, and creating recognition and some financial support for the best local artists.  What are your thoughts on this?  Are there certain contest structures that are more positive than others?

This is already a hugely epic post so I will leave it at that.  Based on your input and the discussion that hopefully comes from this, I will soon attempt to create a concrete “ratings” point-system for the above factors and do a couple case studies to see if it works.  So please share all of your thoughts in the comment section below!

Comments

  1. Matt,

    Wow! A loaded (and very enlightening) blog post! SO much here! I want to only pontificate on one valid point (I may come back to elaborate on more as time goes on for me to digest everything that I have read:)

    I didn’t agree with the 1-song rule…at first. I was (and have been, up to this point,) a 2 to 3-song man. However, the 1-song/5-minute rule brings back the idea (both to me as a performer and as an audience member) of “less is more.” So, I am definitely walking away with a new perspective to ponder on for myself as a musician and a supporter of local music (and in regards to Open Mics in general.)

    Nicely done!

    • Hey David thanks commenting! Your post also made me think of another reason I like the 1-song rule: the very low ratio of “time I play” / “time of event” really weeds out a lot of the performers who really only care about their set. Because you don’t really get a set. You get your few moments, and so if you can’t get enjoyment out of watching everyone else’s moments it’s not going to be a great cost/benefit outcome on your evening.

      which I think is sweet.

  2. Valid points, and I agree with you on just about all of them! My thoughts on contests: any given performer might come to an contest-based open mic with the hope of “winning” — but the most genuine artists tend to realize that the relationships they forge and the music they play is far more rewarding than any title. Contests keep people coming back for more, like a game, which can be a very useful for the quality of the open mic, as long as the individual artists gain the maturity to realize that any award or title is for the most part arbitrary. The whole business is arbitrary. So it’s good to remember that there’s really no value in being competitive, even though we may be temporarily attracted to the allure of the “win.”

    • Heather! Great points all around – especially labeling it as a “game” which is spot on. I wouldn’t go as far as to say “arbitrary,” but certainly “irrelevant.” Well… depending on who’s judging it can certainly seem arbitrary! (there I go down that road…)

  3. First, thanks for the great write up – and from a performers point of view, so many good points.

    Of course 1 song vs 2-3, is a toss up for me. If you want to have a fun night, and you don’t have a lot of performers, having more songs is a plus. One thing I did learn after the 4+ years at my first Open Mic – the venue has to make a few bucks to keep people coming and the doors open, so the longer the music the better. That said, I like to switch things up if we have a lot of performers and go all the way around and then come back and do it again. You do get to see a different side of people as they listen and change it up the next time around. (We will be doing that in the future at my new open mic)

    Now for the contest part of it all. I used to think it was a great thing, then I didn’t, but then I came back around and thought – “Seriously, what do solo artists have when it comes to ‘battle of the bands’ type of performances?” And the honest answer is – not much. It is tough out there being a solo performer. I have not had to deal with it, instead I have seen it. I am a drummer, so it is unlikely I would be a solo. So for me, putting something out there that gives solo artists something to “achieve” and to better themselves and to make a buck or two, well, that is what I believe in. There are not enough “idol” type contests for singer songwriters to get them noticed, and I *know* the kind of talent that is out there, and sadly, I know the kind of $$ they are NOT making. So why not make it a win-win situation all around. The bottom line though, is it is a contest, but like a “limbo” contest, you are only competing against yourself to do better, and be better than you were the last time out. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    Talent can be hit or miss. It is an open mic and sometimes you get people that will just never be good enough, but just like any “open event”, they come to have fun. Then there are others who take weeks or months (or more) to work up the courage to even come to an event – and they suck the first time – because of nerves, BUT, and this is the big issue, *IF* they are encouraged and the audience supports them, maybe the 2nd or 3rd time out is all it takes for them to find a true talent they had hidden. I have had the pleasure of watching performers grow and mature over the years and have just sat back in amazement at the level of talent I have seen.

    I am truly blessed in what I do and the musicians and artists I have seen these past 4-5 years. I will continue to do all I can to improve Windy City Open Mic, myself and encourage every artist I see/hear, no matter how good or bad they appear. I myself know, I can always be better, so I think others know they can too.. To all the “hosts” who just think it is a job – well, they need to find another one, because music is about passion, and I just can’t see how any host could not have that same passion that the artists have…

    Just my 2 cents – sorry for being too wordy.. 😉

    • Thanks so much for taking the time Kat, I was very hopeful you would share your thoughts on it! All great points, and very cool to get more of a host perspective. I think it’s pretty obvious that much of my thinking around “Good Host” is heavily influenced by you!

  4. True. I’d say the “arbitrary” factor is mostly that it’s up to the tastes of one or two individuals — and too many artists get discouraged or angry when they are not chosen as a winner. Irrelevant is probably a better term.

    Kat, good points all around!

  5. Matt – This is a great critique; you’re on your way to a sweet rubric! I totally get your point about competitions being lame sometimes, but I kinda like em because it can add a sense of faux-drama to the night which keeps the audience entertained and can help them stick around longer because THEY want to vote and see who wins at the end of the night. While it can be not a big issue to performers, it’s one extra thing to engage the audience.
    My two cents! Good work, man!

  6. GREAT posts and comments, Heather, Kat and Mike. If only to add one more point that’s valid for me:

    I have (& still can) get caught up in the competitive aspect of such Open Mics. However, I have Always learned more about myself every time I have gone through such contests. I learned more because I opened myself to do so. I wanted to learn more. Furthermore, I have to IF I’m going to make it in this cutthroat business (however arbitrary and/or irrelevant some aspects may, can & will be.)

    Thanks again, Matt!

  7. Carey French says:

    Sweet post, Matt.

    I have a few thoughts to throw-

    1: Competitions at Open Mics seem out of place to me, but probably because I’ve never seen one happen. I also am not a competitive person (unless it comes to card games) and I prefer to have a community space that does not anticipate ‘winning’ as part of the night. However, I am not entirely sure about my resistance to competition in any part of my life anyway, haha. I will let you know if that thought matures.

    2: I am not convinced that your top 4 need to be in order of importance. If you have an incredible space and audience and not such an awesome host, couldn’t that spin it? I guess the point is not that they may be out of order, but that they can just be the top 4 factors instead of being placed by importance.

    3: You have convinced me that 1 song per person, with repeats once the list is done, is the best way to go. Well argued.

    4: I want to make the plug for another wildcard factor titled ‘Diversity’. However, I understand that this may pertain only to what I am seeking in a great open mic, but I think that having a diverse group of performers (old and young, serious and silly…) and all kinds of different acts (music, poetry, singing, group jams, rapping, comedians, essays, performance art, storytelling, dancing…) makes the night much more interesting, stimulating and enjoyable for audience members and performers alike. I find that I am inspired and enlivened by many different forms of art, and to see a wildly diverse show all in one night is a real treat. Of course, if you are a musician just looking to experience music and play music, then this may throw an open mic the opposite way on your chart. But for me, this is an important factor.

    Well done sir!
    More jamming soon please.

    – Carey

    • Carey, thanks for jumping into this very Chicago-centric discussion. This is especially wonderful because we met at an Open Mic!

      You make great points. As for the top 4 in order of importance thing, I think what will end up happening is a points system. For the big 4 (or howevermany there end up being) wach would be worth 0-3 or 0-4 points. The ones I see as more important would have a higher capacity for points. Then I think the Wildcards will be +/- 1 point each – so they can help or hurt depending on the circumstances. Primarily, whether it “works” or not – cuz if for some reason 3-songs per person totally works that night, it deserves a point even if I usually prefer 1 song. We’ll see how it develops.

      DIVERSITY definitely deserves a Wildcard spot! And the nice thing with that, and how I see it fitting into a points system, is that very different scenarios can still get points.

  8. Emily P. says:

    Wow, what an awesome discussion about open mics! Nice way to open it up Matt! I have two thoughts, for now:

    On contests: Having regularly attended at competitive open mic for a few years, I have to say that I really enjoy this format. Even though it’s a tough pill to swallow when I don’t get as far as I would have liked in the competition, I have *always* grown immensely from the experience. Perhaps most specifically because having a competition with real prizes DOES draw amazing talent. It provides incentives for artists to get their butts out there and write new songs and try different things and put it all on the table. I have found open mic championships to be some of the most inspiring evenings of my musical life. And over time, one does eventually realize the “arbitrary-ness” of the decision. In the end, everyone is amazingly talented, and who ever takes first prize is irrelevant compared to the musical connections made- both personal and social. That being said, I definitely enjoy open mics with no built in competition as well. It’s just the contests enable the open mic to become a truly stand-out occasion for an artist.

    On community building: I agree that one of the most rewarding parts of playing regularly at an open mic are the connections I have made with other musicians. And all I would say is that perhaps the open mics that seem to be lacking this community feel are simply the ones you have not attended enough… It takes a while to build relationships with other musicians, as it does with anything. There may always be musicians at an open mic that are there solely for the purposes of self-promotion. However, the ones that keep coming back week after week are the ones who have something else going too- some kind of desire to grow in their own art and draw inspiration from other artists. Granted, however, the right host can expedite this process greatly!

    Last little thought: I dig two song nights! Three can be awesome too, or can be a little slow depending on the level of talent that has shown up. One song nights often feel like too much pressure to get it right. So many times I have heard musicians play one song that was alright and then another that was AWESOME. It’s like making a batch of pancakes, as Mark Brink and Matt Ryd said at my very first Kat Fitzgerald open mic. You almost always screw the first one up. Though, perhaps it’s just more fodder for improving one’s game…

    • PALMERRR!

      All good points. As for your comment “perhaps the open mics that seem to be lacking this community feel are simply the ones you have not attended enough” this is of course fair and true, but I would argue that some spaces are more conducive and welcoming to different kinds of community, and some… just aren’t. But I will say that this community-oriented piece can be at a quiet attentive place or in a noisy bar.

      and I LOVE the pancake analogy!

  9. Mattatattat.

    KICK ASS BLOG. I am a fan!

    Open mics….what a topic to tackle….

    I have been to my fair share of open mics, and I have found that the enjoyment I get from the experience (while definitely affected by the factors you have chosen) boils down to the attitude I have stepping into an open mic. If I’m grump-master 5000 on my way in, I’m probably going to be grump-master 5000 during the open mic, and after I leave. Open minds, open hearts, and open ears. that’s what makes an open mic.

  10. hey Matt!
    Thanks for including me in this discussion! First of, surpassing all the mushy stuff about heart and attitude etc..YES of course open mics can be better with better talent but as for myself some of you know through my personal experience I can owe my start in the Chicago Music biz through initially going to open mics where I made my first musical connections in a new city. Its really important to get out there for two reasons if you are a serious musician:

    1. Networking- super easy way to meet other musicians for future shows, writing, band members as well as a way to get yourself out there. You won’t really score to many “fans” being that for the most part its other musicians hanging out but who knows who might sing on a recording of yours, co-write a song or get you a gig in the future. I think its essential in towns like Chicago where everyone only cares about sports, i find most people at live gigs/shows are musicians themselves. They act as fans as well while still being involved in the scene, its like a self-sustaining scene.

    2. Getting Better! Damn how i can honestly say that being a regular at open mics helped me improve my own singing/playing. So much inspiration to draw from. Oh I like that song or that word worked well in that verse or that vocal inflection was very effective to portray that particular emotion.

    or oh shit that guy/girl was awesome and I quit! or damn i just need to get better!!!

    Lastly I have to comment that i HATE open mics with a competition involved. Why judge art? as well as the fact that most open mics might have a seasoned veteran play after someone trying there first song out ever. I agree with Matt that most music makers are passive aggressive competing against each other already so why should we crush dreams so early when getting out to an open mic is on the lower end of a music makers time line of there respective career anyways it should be fun! On that note as well I think open mic goers should understand that open mics are great but they are not the end all be all of a career. You might get better and make some friends in the process but that usually is it! no one gets a record deal or scores tons of fans or makes records at open mics. Open mic is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this business and if you want success you need to go out and make it happen for yourself by writing, recording, touring, promoting, and all the other million things you have to do to become a success these days.

    and yes i’d rather have two songs than one *insert pancake metaphor”

  11. Excellent work my friend. I would add maybe the all ages in th GOOD category where you can see a 14-15 year old kid killing it. Granted sometimes its back to the drawing board after seeing something like that BUT its always great. Also a goo drink deal is pretty key… at least I think. Good luck on the west.

  12. Hey Matt!
    Thanks for saying something last night — good blog so far as I’ve read anyhow — you have good thoughts and ideas about music and the surrounding subject matter. This one is pertinent to my thinking today — Victory’s open mics are purposed as places for musicians to try new things, to get up and perform, to be supported and heard and appreciated. Some nights are better for that than others, depending on the personnel, performers, and situations, but that’s the stated goal of the organization. I think folks really appreciate that overall.

    Interesting thinking about the one song night — I agree on most points. The one drawback for me is that it often takes a performer a song or two to get over their nerves, if they’ve got em. The good thing about that is – get up and do one song often enough and you’ll get over the first song nerves!

    Hey, good thread — let’s talk about how to get some of your ideas into the “pages” of the review. Can’t hurt either of us, I think!!

    • Hi Lynette,

      thanks so much for coming over to my part of cyberspace! The Victory open mic was definitely a barometer for “good” as I wrote this, but I’m sure you could sense that from my frequent appearances. :) And, yes, the 1 song rule does go against the “Pancake Principle” noted in the comments above

      I’ll be in touch,

      -Matt

  13. I just found this blog and wanted to chime in. I live in Wichita Falls Tx and I hosted an open mic nite for 3 years. Before and during that time, I played another open mic in town religiously for over 3 years so my viewpoint is from player and host.
    For me, open mic night is a step towards the realization of a dream. Being on the stage, with a microphone and an audience and your chance to shine. I’ve seen everything from homeless people with only a guitar to their name get to “be somebody” to nervous 1st timers who now are on the road full time.
    As a performer, open mic nites made me a songwriter by sheer drive to keep my set fresh.
    As a host, I saw so so many performers come out of their shells through the excitement of the experience.
    For my area, a one song set doesn’t work because real talent draws the crowd and real talent (around here) won’t come out to play one song, so here’s my approach:
    4 songs for the 1st hour and 3 songs for the rest of the night. That way, the early performers are rewarded for playing 1st and they are allowed 1 song each if time allows. Around here the crowd shows up after 10 even on week nights. My open mic night ran as many as 150 in the audience so late in the night, the idea of “one more song” would keep players there, which also kept the room full.
    As for contests, my open mic was held twice a month with a contest once every two months. And here’s the secret to making a contest work:
    Do NOT announce the winner that night!! If you have performers at 15 tables and 1 winner, you wind up with 14 unhappy tables! Let them enjoy the night, leave with 15 happy tables, and call the winner the next day. They WILL get the word out, and all the rest are sober when they realize they weren’t chosen. This will work miracles for a contest!
    (btw most of my contests were to open for a known band playing on a weekend)
    Anyway, those are my windy ramblings. Ha!
    -Paul Shults

  14. By one song if time allows, I meant one more song each at the end of the night. (If the room was full, I kept the music flowing! Sometimes until last call.)

  15. Stuart Wainwright says:

    I’ve stopped going to open mic nights for a few of the reasons you mention. And you’re right about the social thing being the most important part, I always used to end up playing to a vastly depleted audience as I couldn’t get there til late, and then my girlfriend would always, and I mean always, without fail, insict I play one or another difficult to play and unrehearsed song, which I would know I wadn’t going to be able to play correctly. On the odd occassion I did relent to the pressure and attempteed it, she’d then say I’d got it wrong on purpose to prove a point! Sometimes people would shout out for songs, but I’d have to say no because I’ve been told to play this or that. Overall it became a nightmare so now I avoid them.

  16. Thanks for the pointers! I’m hosting my first open mic this week, and I’m kind of lost with the music aspect. I’m a comedian and was asked by the owner to “help out” on Wednesdays. I go to so many open mikes with so many different talents that I had no problem filling the list, but I wouldn’t have even thought about monitors or anything. The regular DJ is always drunk and won’t be there to show me how to work the equipment, but in a similar circumstance where I was expected to run my own sound at a show, I made not knowing what the hell I was doing part of the act. I’ve also done shows before where the sound guy with all of the equipment didn’t show up, so we all told jokes into a big spoon real loud.

    As far as the competition thing goes, yeah, egos might be bruised a little, but that’s a good thing. You don’t want people around who will cry over not always being the best, and the people who stick around will work to be better. The best tactic is to make the prize something worthless. My first open mic I went to was a contest, and the prize was a Fresca; so, no hard feelings to the idiot who won. I really love Fresca though.

  17. Hi!

    that was a great read. thanks for sharing across the circuits! As another open mic lover, I’d like to ad my 2 cents….

    ***1 song: not worth my travel time.
    as a performer/songwriter I’d like to be able to play MORE than one.. and also not feel like I have to play only my most catchy song. I’ve always like the 3 song as a performer. Its fun and educational to build a ‘set’. such as… start w/ the catchy song to pull in the listeners (who were waiting between acts, going to the bathroom etc) , then play a song that is a deeper (more for the appreciative, now paying attention audience) and then try a new tune (which is one purpose of an open mic for performers). For networking purposes, one song flies by too fast, your potential new friend could be ordering a new beer, meeting another performer or going to the bathroom. Add in the possible travel time, and its just not worth one song.

    ***contests. I don’t like them.
    as a host of 2 open mics and a singer/songwriter as well, I can attest to the insecurity performers feel. Adding in a contest, especially where there are ‘regular performers’ is intimidating. I prefer the open mics to be a welcoming environment where all levels are appreciated.

    thanks for reading!

    keep rockin’!

  18. I just want to add a couple of major gripes of mine that no one else has mentioned: 1) I hate it when the host allows people who sign up in advance to pick their open “best” time slot — then they show up right before they play, making a grand entrance, and then leave right after they’re done, which you already mentioned. Then they get so tight with the host that it sort of becomes their own special time slot, That’s a real turnoff to me for the whole deal. 2) Another thing I hate is when two individual performers, who like to play together, get up and do both of their sets together, taking up the stage for however long it takes them to do their combined sets. That’s where the 1-song limit would really come in handy. I’ve seen two-guy groups hog the stage for upwards to 45 minutes, with six songs. Thanks! Good blog.

  19. Hi Matt,

    I cam across your blog looking for popular open mike songs. I have my own strong opinions on what makes a good open mike or a bad one. I think you brought up most of them in a succinct manner. Of course there are the other things that make any social setting difficult or intimidating.

    Purpose- Spot on. I would add that sometimes the purpose of the open mic is for the venue to make money, especially on off nights. What I see happening though is the poor musicians don’t have any money to buy anything. They will order water which is difficult for the venue to profit from. It requires other promotions to bring in people who do buy stuff. I have also seen the musicians all sitting around outside tuning up or playing together and not paying any attention to the performer or the ambiance inside the venue. These performers show they only care about themselves. Often they are the best performers and have some big egos They will show up late and leave when their time is done with no respect for the other performers. That attitude ruins the purpose.

    Host- Same thing. Sometime the host is the ego centric performer who will open and close the show and instruct others how to play. That is annoying. It is good when they can fill in dead time if needed but preferable for them to encourage other performers. They also have to promote the venue and make sure the sound and setup is desirable for the performer. That is work but it can be done with passion.

    Space- Having a good spot to perform with room for people and room for setup is important. Tuning guitars and getting that last bit of practice in before the show can be very helpful. Being on top of the audience in a small room can also be annoying to the audience. Not all performers are actually good in open mics and some screeching can be overwhelming. Having room to store your equipment while not playing is important and a good room for food, drink, and conversation is needed.

    Audience- Some places I have played have audiences that came only for the food. They don’t like the loud music. Other places are mostly performers and their close friends. They can be very encouraging and friendly. I like it when there is a mixture of both performers and people who come to listen to the talent and enjoy it or those who can appreciate the venue with the entertainment. They are people who don’t talk loudly during the performance and clap at the end no matter how awful the performer might have sounded. We all had our first time.

    Contests. They are ok but often the same person wins because it is political and they are superstars who come to open mikes to show off and run off with the prize every week. In that case, it really isn’t a contest. Prizes do make people stay to the end which is really important in my estimation. You need to stay and see the other talent.

    # of songs- I do not like the one song rule. The travel and effort to pack my instrument, prepare it and load it when finished is not usually worth one song. However some people don’t have 3 songs and may do something lame just to get a 3rd song in. Most I go to have 3 which I like per the above where you play the good one, the different good one and then try something new. One song seems to be not worth the travel and equipment hassle. Two songs is good because I get a chance to do different styles and the host can always call us back up for one more at the end to keep us hanging around so I favor 2-3. More than 3 can be boring especially if the performer is not all that entertaining. On the other hand, if they are really good, I want to hear more than one from them to make sure they aren’t just one hit wonders. Also for duos, I always felt it was bad in a 3 song per performer situation that duos only get 3 instead of 6. Two people showed up so they deserve their time. I would split the difference and allow 4-5 songs for duos.

    Lastly making music is an awesome fun thing to do. Playing in your living room to your spouse of best friend is one thing but getting out and playing in front of others is a learned skill. I love the open mic venue which allows me to take my own songs or cover songs and go out and have fun with them. I love to encourage others who might feel intimidated to get out there. They will get better. They will learn new things and meet people with a similar interest. Not everyone will like you and you might not like everyone else but playing music trumps all that. Music is the universal language so enjoy it and enjoy it with others. Play on!

  20. Hey Matt

    Great little article with a lot of response. I have been running open mics for the last 3-4 years and I agree with most of what you had to say

    Usually because of set up time I’ll give musicians 3 or 4 songs – switching over instruments and adjusting levels for 1 song can be tough and like it was noted above sometimes there is a warm-up factor. For me the shows run usually 4-5 hours so time usually isn’t too tight.

    ‘The Crap’ above was a good one. Another thing about the host – playing favourites is another pet peeve for me. Around here some of the open mics are very cliquey. I have waited for open mics to start up, helped with setup (being the first person there) and waited 3 hours to get up because ‘my friends need to leave early so they have to go before you’.

    The way I do it is first come, first served. If you need to leave early I can ASK the people ahead of you if they mind letting someone else go ahead. You know how musicians are – most times there is never a problem.

    Finally – I run it as a showcase for local talent – and any skill level is welcome. I have a great core of followers now that come because they feel comfortable and they have fun – by the end of the night all guitars, drums, harmonicas etc are out and everyone is jamming together. The one thing above you didn’t mention – some bars/establishments use open mics as a venue to scope out new talent for gig and shows. That’s how I started playing live and I have had numerous friends come through my open mics and done the same.

    Thanks for the info – and the place to vent and laugh a bit

    All the Best

    J

  21. Michael Kennedy says:

    Hi Matt,

    Great blog. I’d like to offer a couple of comments and then add a list of 26 suggestions about playing open mic’s and jams.
    A year ago I came to Portland from Minneapolis and I just finished my 100th open mic in this city. Right from the beginning I kept a journal of these experiences for reflection, for a place to vent, laugh, and to build on what I’ve done. As with anything, the start was bumpy, occasionally embarrassing, and humbling. However, over time I’ve learned a few things and I wrote some of them down with the hope of helping others through some of the practical elements of performing in open mic venues.

    A. Number of songs – I play in a venue that offers a two song set and, for me, that is an ideal number of songs. It gives the performer a bit of range, and it does keep the evening flowing. Two songs – as opposed to just one song – tends to ask the question, “That was good, what else have you got?” it lets the performer stretch a bit while at the same time keeping the pace of the evening rolling at a good clip.

    B. Host – Recently I went to a venue where the host was a band. There were only 3 or 4 of us there to play that night. Now, at every other venue the host would play two or three songs at the start of the evening. This would get things started, and would also be a good sound check for the equipment. Well, this host band went on for 10 songs. Their rationale was that they were waiting for more people to show up. I left. If you host, don’t do this to the musicians who came to play. If there are few people – and some nights that may happen – you allow them to play expanded sets. You don’t take the low attendance as a reason to expand your own set. You are a host, not the star of the evening. I left after the eighth song and their announcement that they were going to do two more songs. I won’t be back and I doubt the other three will either.

    C. Space – I’ve played a lot of different spaces. Some are perfect, some are less than perfect. I don’t know if that matters as much as the tone of the venue. I played in a coffee house where at least half the people spent the evening looking at their electronic devices. I’ve played bars where one night I was singing to people while the watched t.v., and other nights they were into what was happening on stage. I’ve played restaurants where I’m background music. The best places were where the host got up, often more than once, and told the audience that it was an evening for the musicians, to please focus on what was happening, to put away their electronic devices, and to limit talking to between sets.

    D. Audience – well, to extend what I said about “space” the venue and the host set the tone for the evening. if the venue keeps the t.v. sets on during the show, the audience will be split in it’s attention. Some places are physically set up to place the stage as the primary focus of the venue. Others have the stage over in a corner, or no stage at all. The audience will do what they are set up to do. I played on a great stage one night and the eight people who were there either sat talking to each other, walked around, or as in the case of three people, stood with their backs to me ten feet away from the stage! The irony is all of these people were going to play that night! And the people with their back to me were the hosts. Lame.

    E. Contests – I don’t have any problem with these. I think it raises the bar. If anything, they push things up a notch so performers don’t become complacent in their work. Community is great, and I agree with you on its importance, but it’s also important to feel challenged.

    F. Staying all night – I have a personal rule. I will stay and listen to all my fellow musicians who came on time. Those who came an hour late, who skipped hearing everyone who went early, won’t get me in their audience. Tit for tat. I’m not going to be polite to people who blew off the early performers. Show up on time like the rest of us and I’ll listen to your work. If not, I’ll try not to slam the door on my way out.

    G. What I really can’t stand are people who come late to an open mic, but who have arranged for the host to add them in to the sign up sheet before the sheet was even posted for everyone else. To come late, do your set, and then leave, is the height of self-indulgent playing.

    Anyway, here is a list of 26 suggestions that may help people at open mic shows.

    1. If you’ve never been to the venue, call them on the telephone to make sure there will be a show. Even though their website says there is a jam or an open mic, it may be an old post. A quick phone call can save you an hour of driving to and from an event, or in some cases an entire venue, that doesn’t exist.

    2. Carefully read the schedule before going to a venue. Know where it is, what time it is, and what is expected. I rehearsed something for an entire afternoon only to learn I’d looked at the wrong month on the schedule and subsequently, my selections were completely wrong.

    3. Know the venue and choose songs that fit the atmosphere of that venue. Doing soft, quiet, sensitive songs in a bar where people are talking and having fun is a waste of time. The same is true for hard rock songs. Think of the movie This Is Spinal Tap when they did “Big Bottom” at a quiet cocktail party. Connect with the vibe of the venue and the mood of the people who are there.

    4. Don’t do anything you haven’t rehearsed, and rehearsed well, several times. Other than improvising in a jam, there isn’t anything good about “winging it”. If you’ve never rehearsed it right at home, don’t think you will suddenly get it right on stage in front of a bunch of people. The gods aren’t that kind. Indeed, they can be very unforgiving in a situation like that. I’ve fallen under the illusion that the pressure will make it right. I was wrong, very, very wrong.

    5. You will always get nervous before each performance. Don’t let the nervousness win. Don’t walk away from the venue, don’t play little mind games with yourself, and don’t convince yourself that this isn’t the place for you, (unless it actually isn’t). Just let that feeling come, acknowledge it is there, and then let it dissipate. You’ll be fine.

    6. If the place doesn’t feel right, leave. It doesn’t take long to realize you may be in a venue that, for whatever reason, just doesn’t fit with what you like to do. Don’t waste your time. This has nothing to do with being nervous. Some places are just awful. Seriously. I’ve been to some pretty lame open mics and jams. If they don’t start on time, if they play favorites, if they act like pretentious jerks, if they don’t pay attention to what the musicians are doing, leave. There are too many places around here that ARE good and disciplined and focused.

    7. Don’t drink alcohol before performing. If you want to have a drink, have one after you finish. Alcohol may take the edge off, but in reality, that edge is something you need to keep your head sharp. Don’t dumb yourself down with a couple of drinks.

    8. Keep the instrument in tune. People appreciate this. If it won’t say in tune, take it in to a luthier to get it set it up correctly.

    9. Memorize what you’re going to do. Yes, it’s a lot more work than taking the music up on stage with you, but it’s worth the effort. Once you know the song, and have it well rehearsed so singing it is like breathing, you’ll be able to concentrate on what your doing with the song. Growing dependent on having the words on stage can become a real crutch.

    10. If you do bring music, and again, it’s better if you don’t, put it in plastic sheets and clip it to the music stand so it doesn’t blow all over the place when someone opens a door. One night I had my lyrics all set up for myself on a music stand. When I started someone opened the door to my left and the music blew all over the floor. The rest of the set didn’t go very well. On the other hand, this is what convinced me to memorize the songs.

    11. Sing standing up. Do this for two reasons. First, you’ll sound better and your voice won’t get tired. I’ve tried sitting down for half an hour and I almost lost my voice all three times. Second, you’ll make a better visual impact on the audience. Sitting down automatically dissipates the visual energy of the performance. It pulls it down. Now, of course there are exceptions. B.B. King sits and plays. John Lee Hooker could sit down and do an entire evening of great music, but then again, both of these guys were (and in the case of B.B King still are) in their 80’s. Seriously, stand up and you’ll be a whole lot better.

    12. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. The odds are good you’ll mess something up at some point, but just play it through.

    13. When you do make a mistake, and you probably will, don’t think about it while your performing. Let it go. If you spend time up on stage thinking about the mistake you just made, you’ll probably make ten more because you’ve lost your focus on what your doing.

    14. Most of the time they won’t know you screwed up unless you let them know you did. Audiences are very trusting. If something unusual happens, most of the time they’ll believe it was intentional. How will they know it was a mistake? Only if you let them know. Just act like its part of the whole thing and they’ll probably buy it.

    15. Trust your instincts. If it feels good, it probably is. If it doesn’t, think about what you can do to make it better.

    16. Applause is nice, however, audience responses can’t be trusted as an indication of how well you did. There is a of venue around here where everybody pays attention to everything on stage, applauds wildly, whistles, whoops it up, and acts as if they love it all. The problem is they do this to everybody no matter what happened on stage. You could fart on stage and they’d probably love it. They patronize you like a soccer mom giving everybody a prize for just showing up. Hence all that applause is meaningless as a way to judge how you did. I’ve also played one place where people pay attention and then don’t clap at the end. That really sucked. Likewise, I’ve even been to places where nobody seems to pay any attention, and then claps wildly once you’re done. None of it makes much sense so be grateful for the applause, but trust your own instincts. Some people want to make you feel good no matter what, and some others haven’t the slightest idea what is going on. Get a thick skin, maintain your perspective on all of it, and be your own best critic.

    17. At the same time, when people come up to you and tell you they like what you did say “thank you.” I like to believe they actually mean it. Don’t go on and on about how much better it could have been, or how the sound system wasn’t what you expected, or where you messed up. Don’t be such an ungrateful jerk. Look, someone just said something kind to you, so why dull the moment with your whining? Be grateful someone took the time to let you know they liked what you did.

    18. Not all restaurants are alike. There are a couple of places that ask the audience/patrons to be quiet and respectful of the musicians while they play. The whole evening is organized for the musicians and how they communicate with the audience. That’s great. However, most restaurants and bars are not set up for that. Just deal with it. People come to restaurants to eat, drink, and enjoy each other’s company. That’s how it is. Indeed, in some of these places you will be little more than background music. Don’t take it personally. In fact, if a young couple are actually paying attention to what your doing, if they are sitting there in silence locked onto every note you play, it’s probably because they are on a shitty date and don’t have anything to say to each other. They’re probably having an absolutely miserable time. Now if you don’t mind that, that’s great. But if you actually want to say something with your music, if you want to get something genuine across to the audience, you’re in the wrong place.

    19. It’s great if you write and perform your own songs, but make sure the venue is right for the song. Performing your own songs can be great. I like doing the songs I write, however, not all venues are right for these songs. Be judicious.

    20. It’s great if you write and perform your own songs, but please don’t go on and on and on about the song you wrote. Just sing it. Don’t go into a monologue about why you wrote it, how important it is, it’s history, and so on. No offense, but nobody really cares. Actually, if you have to explain all sorts of things about the song, if the song can’t speak for itself, you’ve got a problem.

    21. It’s great if you write and perform your own songs, but don’t dismiss playing covers. Covers are a lot of fun. Don’t become a lame jerky holier-than-thou songwriting snob about it all. Sometimes you’ll want to do your own stuff and sometimes you should do something else.

    22. One more thing if you write and perform your own songs. Be careful with cute novelty songs. We’ve all done them, and they can be fun, but don’t depend on them all the time. Only two people can get away with these songs on a regular basis – John Prine and Weird Al Yankovic. They may be fun to do, but they send a secondary signal that people shouldn’t take you seriously. If you’re comfortable with that distinction, then fine. However, if you want to be taken seriously as a writer and singer, do those songs sparingly if at all.

    23. Mix up in what music you play, and where you play music. Playing to the same crowd week after week can get numbing. There is nothing wrong with playing to and with your friends, but challenge yourself and go to places where you don’t know anybody. Keep the edge there.

    24. Jam with people who play better than you do. Push yourself. Find people who have experience and learn from them. If you want to get better, challenge yourself to push the envelope and play with people who know more than you do, who play better than you play, and who work hard.

    25. Don’t play with lazy people. Why bother? If you find a group of people who take the work for granted, who presume their talent alone will win the day, who don’t think rehearsals are very important, who don’t show up on time, and who settle for getting through something without really working on it, walk away. Who needs that kind of nonsense?

    26. All of this leads to the most important rule: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up and have fun with all of this. Life is a little too short to become some sort of diva. Someone will always be better than you. Someone will always be worse. Just do your best, keep your guitar in tune, and be grateful these places give you an opportunity to sing.

    • Michael Kennedy says:

      Buy the way, all my comments are on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUBVIQnl6_E

    • Real Marsha says:

      Greetings to all,
      I must say, “I am so happy that I found this blog”. I’m R al Marsha Hostess for Higher Frequency @ The Villa Lounge in North Miami, Fl. On the 11th of every month we have a night of Oneness. There is a theme every month. We have diverse talents, from drummers to singers to dancers to poets of all nations…it’s just natures art work. This is a place where we bring knowledge to the community while sharing each others talent. We want to network and grow the community in Oneness and we feel the best way is thru Love, Music, Art and Warmth. Everything I read today was AMAZING. I learned so much, took notes. Matt, Thanks for starting this post, tho it was posted 5 years ago, It is still relevant and helpful. Michael Kennedy, that post is awesome, very informative and makes sense…Thanks. We all Live and Learn for a reason, that is to share it with next generation to keep the good vibes flowing. Check us out on FB @ Higher Frequency or Real Marsha. Peace and Love to all that read this!!!!!!!!!!

    • Charlie Harwell says:

      What the bloody hell, man…your list is longer than the blog post, like a solo that goes on and on and on and on…

      That said, i will make sure i call a venue, as you suggested, “on the telephone” to make sure the open mike is happening as opposed to, you know, sending a smoke signal, using a Ouija board or, “logging onto” the “world wide web.”

    • Great points, Michael. Thanks!

  22. Such a great thread. The comments thus far have been spot on. I am relatively new to open mics, having performed at 7 open mics thus far, and relatively new to playing/performing music. I would add one comment. I think the open mic “music community” experience is hit or miss. Simply put, there are a many ignorant, bias, and petty people who attend these events and perform (often poorly) regularly. Hence, you should invest your time wisely. Just because a person has a guitar in their hands, does not make them a member of your music community — a person worthy of your time, worthy of your support, or partnership. How might you address this problem? The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to play at multiple open mic venues — this has provided feedback regarding my songs/performance across different audiences. It also expands the network of my music community. Also, the “host” is a huge factor, perhaps more prominent than “purpose”. A good host establishes and maintains the purpose. A crappy host has little grasp of purpose, continuity, or community.

    • Michael Kennedy says:

      Good questions. i think it’s important to remember that the term “open mic” really has the accent on the word, “open”. Anybody can get up there and play, and that is an all inclusive situation. It’s something you have to accept as part of the whole deal. Look at open mic’s as a training ground and a passage to longer gigs and more sustainable situations. A lot of people who sing at open mic shows may not be very “good” but they are doing their best. Yes, you have to sit through their set of two or three songs, but it won’t last forever. Part of the charm of these evenings is the joy in discovering someone who is talented, charismatic, and who can pull it all together. Plus, there is a reason these people are not a dime a dozen. Like the old saying goes, “you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your real prince”. So let it go. I’d say the best open mice for people who want to advance in the profession are those that are set up as competitions. That alone tends to weed out the people who perform for the sake of having a good time, and those who want to take it further. The host is important. I’ve been to open mic venues where the host sits and talks to his friends through the set. I’ve been to others where the host concentrates on every nuance of the performance and makes encouraging comments at the end of the set. It is important to remember that nobody is paying you to be there. It’s free and open for everyone to get up and do their best. Keep it light, keep it fun, and know it’s a stepping stone for some and the entire journey of others.

  23. Daniel Johnson says:

    Hey Man. I just want to say I really appreciate you taking out the time to help others like myself out. I’m arranging an “Open Mic” and I definitely needed pointers like the one’s you gave. I truly appreciate it and hope the best for you. Thanks again.

  24. Thanks for this awesome article. I wish you could come to Georgia and review our open mic. I had already considered many of these points but you have put them all into concrete ideas and worded them do well that I used this to get my partners on board with things like keeping the vibe and the purpose in mind. For example, the host welcomes each performer to the stage by name and again when ending to encourage a round of applause. We use the same stage and equipment that headlining shows use so the performer gets the real rock star experience. We also hold a jam session which allows musicians to meet and play with each other. Thanks again for your dedication to live music and open mics. :)

  25. Hey Matt, great blog, I wanted to thank you for your insight and the forum for others to comment as I have found many valuable insights there as well. I am an amateur performer that is just starting to host an open mic night at a local restaurant and bar. I am nervous about creating the right atmosphere for the musicians and the music lovers, but I feel much better about it now and believe me, I have taken copious notes. I am going to open with 1 song for a sound check and then I am thinking of a 2 song limit, 4 for duets. Introducing each act and asking for a round of applause afterwards, each hour I will do a shout out for the venue. I am also thinking of saving time at the end for a jam for whoever wants to join in…I am on the fence about contests, I want to give musicians some incentive for showing up, I also have a substantial investment in equipment and I am hosting for beer and food, but would anyone out there mind giving me feedback on maybe a tip jar that I would get a percentage of and maybe raffle two or three other cash percentages for the musician pool that is left at the end of the night. I want to reward the musicians without having to spend money out of my pocket and I don’t want to always just reward the best players with a people’s choice award. I want even the most unpopular act to feel like they have a shot at winning something and maybe they will come back again and again. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to this conversation, it was very enlightening and inspiring for me.

  26. Darryl Turpin says:

    Hi,

    Great Blog, Open Mics helped me become a part-time musician and introduced me to my playing partner.

    I’ve seen some of the negatives occur such as extended set lists and setups that led to other musicians losing an opportunity to play.

    I just got a provisional green light to host a new open mic and this thread has been helpful. Thank you.

  27. Tony Raven says:

    Thank you for posting this, & for keeping it around so long.

    We had a Sunday open-stage night here for almost two years, 2010-2012. It raised the bar’s Sunday-evening patronage from maybe 20 to over 100 on a regular basis. The show launched at least two popular area acts, Local pros would stop by to chill & sometimes join in. I dusted off my bass, got MUCH better, & backed nervous kids & retired pros alike. Sure, some nights were mediocre, but some were total magic.

    Then the guy who ran it fell ill, & the whole thing hit a wall. Your pointers have helped me begin to understand what (else) went wrong.

  28. Keyboard Steve says:

    Yes, excellent blog, and lots of great comments. Something nobody has made much of a distinction on, however, is the simple host with some PA available, versus Open Mic with a host band, and the range in between.
    My first experience was a regular, long-running blues oriented open mic, with time slots, and a regular drummer and bass player to supplement the guitarists, singers, and sax or horn players, although any drummer or bass player could jump into a time slot. Guitarists all had their own amp, and every song was blues, no rock allowed. A friend who was a regular brought his keyboard for me to play, but I can only play so much blues before it all sounds the same.
    A better one I went to was similar, but a little less structured on who and how many got up there, but still with drummer, bass, and a keyboard that I got up on a few times. Music was more rock, but still mostly basic blues-based so nobody really had to know a song that well to follow along.
    Then I went to another that was nothing but the host with an acoustic guitar and a couple of mics, and other regulars either played solo on their own acoustic guitars, or did duets with the host. I borrowed the hosts guitar for a couple of songs, but that doesn’t give me the same kicks I get jamming with a full-on band. I prefer the “host band” approach, but it has to be the right thing for the venue.
    I found this blog while looking for some good tips to help two friends who are getting an Open Mic started. There are one or two of those low-key acoustic type open mics already at some smaller places in town, but this is a Thursday night at a bar that has quality hard rock bands on weekends, so they’re looking to give it some punch, but without splitting the money with a whole host band. For now, they’re not allowing drums, but I’m thinking a cajon box might be a good way to go. Otherwise, one of the guys sometimes uses the drum machine on his keyboard either with a pattern or manually. I’m in a local rock band with the other guy, and we’ve all played together a lot, so I figure I’ll help them with their open mic now and then.
    So anyway, besides sharing my own experiences, mainly I wanted to thank you, Matt, and all the folks who posted comments, for all your thoughts and observations, especially Michael Kennedy with subjects A thru G and 26 key points from the perspective of a seasoned Open Mic enthusiast. I tease, but really it was all great info and it will help me help my friends to make this project as good as it can be.
    Thanks again,
    Steve

  29. Toni Washingtin says:

    Great information, I hosted an Open Mic In Philly for about a year and a half. It was a great Experience. Yes there were ups, downs good and bad. When my Open Mic started many said that it wouldn’t last a month. I was the only Woman in Philly hosting an Open Mic Blues Jam it was fun, rewarding and a great learning experience. It ended in Dec. 2014. I was asked to start another one and again I am still the only woman in Philly hosting an Open Mic Blues Jam. We Love all music but we truly Love Rockin The Blues!!! Thanks again I am working towards making this open mic Jam The Best For Everyone!

  30. i agree Matt! all of this is good. I wish more open mics did the 1 song per person thing like we do.

  31. Charlie Harwell says:

    Thank you for this insightful blog about Open Mikes.

    Three things that bug me –

    1. House band who insists they will “jam with you” when you play your own material, which, unless you a blues artist from the Delta or they are mind readers, ensures quite the mess. I don’t know what kind of idiot thinks he can “play with anyone” but they can’t.

    2. There is one open mike in my town where, for the past year, the same people show up at the at same time and play the same three songs. They get up there and feel free to go onnnnnnnn and onnnnnnnnn and onnnnnnnnnn with “Knockin On Heaven’s Door” or “Learning To Fly.” They are off-key, off tempo, never get any better or worse and it’s a painful experience to tell friends to come and watch you play and make them have to sit through absolute amatuer hour.

    Nothing to be done about it, of course…I just sincerely wonder what on earth people like that get out it – nobody claps, and there is one guy who is actually a nice fellow who does this awful loops, each “song” goes on for five minutes at a time and frequently people stand up and leave- I’ve seen him empty the place more than once. It is upsetting to see people who are oblivious to their own lack of talent.

    3. People who come late and ask if they can have your slot or use your instrument when you get their on time right after work and signed up. I actually had a mom come up to me a month ago and ask for my slot for her daughter. Why? Because…she just did. I had to say “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” What I should have said was “It’ll cost you $50.”

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  33. great observation…key point not addressed: size of the community . i live in a town of 13K. insane talent content. and several groups on I-tunes etc from the local coffee shop venue.
    some of the best performances are not from the best talent-skill wise.
    you hit the nail on the head in the “crap” dept. competition? no..ex: Ruben Studdard got the trophy.. but Clay Aiken won.
    a deciding audience on no players is scary. been there done that. LOL

    * additional point: in areas where musicians fail to invest in themselves . having ?pics, working gear, their own gear, being tuned while playing…simply taking themselves seriously translates to the audience. if you don’t care? why should they?

    thank you for the article

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