Getting the best from performing at an open mic

Open mics are music events run at venues, pubs and bars where anyone can turn up and get the chance to play live. The same phrase is used to refer to live poetry or comedy but this website focuses on music so that’s what we’ll be discussing.

Finding open mics

You probably know what open mics are running in your own town. However these can change so keep an eye on the local press and social media for new events or changes to current open mics.

This website has only really started and we are adding new events all the time. Some events run weekly, some monthly, or some on a particular day of the month e.g. last Friday of the month, 2nd Wednesday of the month etc.

See these Facebook groups for more information:

Midlands open mic

Open Mic Guide

If you’re traveling a reasonable distance, check with the venue or organiser that the event is on. You could also ask about practical details such as timings, length of slots and whether it’s amplified or not. It’s also worth checking what sort of music is played and audience, although open mics are generally there for anyone to to play anything.

When you get thereopen mics running order

Make sure you arrive in good time, introduce yourself to the organiser and agree a rough time slot. The best organised open mics have a board with a running order or the organiser will at least tell you roughly when you are playing. Make sure you you know how long you have to play (don’t ask the number of songs as this can mean anything!) and let the PA person know what instruments and effects you might be using and if is these need power. If you are using effects or extra instruments, bring some spare leads just in case. Always be polite and friendly, even if those around you aren’t!

When you are playing

Here are some random tips for playing:

  • Tuning, Tuning, Tuning – make sure you are tuned up BEFORE you hit the stage. You will still need to tweak things just before you play.
  • Turn your instrument down before plugging in, just in case the PA person has left the volume up.
  • Check you can hear yourself and your instruments.
  • Be friendly and introduce yourself clearly – if you have a joke or two¬† that’s great, as long as it’s funny and you feel confident you can deliver it well.
  • Try to introduce each song, giving the story of why you are playing it, whether it’s original, why you like it, what it’s from.
  • Tune your instrument.
  • Never ask for requests – this rarely ends well.
  • Thank the audience for their applause and, at the end, thank the organiser.
  • Check with the PA person that it’s ok to unplug.
  • Tell people if you have a website, social media sites, a CD to sell or other final message.
  • Stay for as long as you can, preferably to the end so you hear the other acts.
  • Don’t talk while someone else is playing – listen and applaud at the end of each song (even if it’s the seventh version of the same song you’ve heard that week).

Generally, if someone is attending an open mic as a punter they tend to be a friend of one of the musicians or organiser or simply there out of curiosity (or by mistake). Either way they will be a music fan and have an open mind about hearing new music.

Don’t be put off if all you see is a sea of glum faces. Sometimes people are just listening.

See also this blog post – How to make the most from an open mic