Two of my good friends, The Tyler Bryant and Dane Page, have begun blogs about their music and musical careers. They’ve both written on the topic of Open Mics, so I thought I’d add my own piece into the discussion.
You can find Dane’s post and blog here
And Tyler’s here
I want to echo what both of them say in terms of the performance aspects of open mics and rather than spend time revisiting their advice, I wanted to speak to the networking potential of open mics. In October I wrote a piece about the way social media has changed both open mics and the way audiences interact with musicians and performers. So this post explores the connections between musicians that open mics help foster.
The first show Welch & Penn played was at an open mic. We hadn’t tested our idea in front of anyone besides our close friends and before we dedicated time to this as a serious act Penn and I wanted to see how a live audience would receive us. More importantly, we wanted feedback from the musicians who were there since it was a new project. We wanted to know what could be smoother and if poetry and acoustic music really made any sense together. Here’s a video from that open mic:
Open mics are an important testing ground for fledgling acts. Penn and I were able to gauge our dynamic in front of people for the first time and run a three song set without the pressure of an actual gig. This kind of experience is invaluable for beginning bands, all of the practice in the world can’t replicate the stress and adrenaline of a live performance.
Another advantage to open mics is that it’s a good way to get your foot in the door at venues. If the host of the open mic isn’t the establishment’s manager then chances are they have a say in the booking process or can put a bug in the manager’s ear since they handle the music first hand for the venue on specific nights.
Finally, open mics give musicians the opportunity to meet other acts and bands they might want to perform with. As great as videos and recordings are, until I see a band or performer live, I’m never absolutely sure how compatible we’ll be. Videos can be filmed at home venues and recordings can be taken and re-taken, I want to see how a musician will act and re-act in person. For example: will they freak out when the volunteer sound guy turns their guitar too low? Will they purposefully get too drunk to create a persona? These are things I want to find out for myself. Open mics are an invaluable way to find acts I want to create bills with.This networking is essential for booking and being invited to play shows with other local acts.
While some musicians I’ve met feel that open mics are beneath them, I think that’s a self-destructive attitude. Unless they have a manager willing to research and connect them to other acts for every show they play, reach out to venues, and give them rehearsal feedback, they need to change their mind-set. Open mics are a necessity for any independent or DIY act. So get out there, get playing, and most importantly, keep listening.