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Making The Most Of Every Open Mic

Updated: Jan 9



Open Mic performer and crowd

“Let’s give him a warm welcome!” The emcee says trying to enthuse an otherwise tepid audience. I walk on to scattered applause guitar in hand. I am suddenly blinded by the stage lights (were they always this bright?) as I fumble with the mic stand. “Hi!” I say, my voice almost breaking like a teenager’s. “This is a song I wrote.” I manage. “Should I say more, or should I start playing?” I wonder. “Wait, how does this song start?” “Forget that, how does it go?” “Am I in the right key?” “How do I play guitar?”


We’ve all been there. The awkwardness and uneasiness starting in the open mic circuit. It’s a brave new world, but you are a musician: Jump in first, swim lessons later. Fortunately for you, the reader, I have three tenets for thriving in the scene and making the most of all your open mics.

 

1. Be Supportive


It’s not all about you. Roll credits.


Whether you are a seasoned professional, or just starting out, we all come to open mics with a shared passion and love for music. We all come from different backgrounds, genres, skill levels, and goals. Pay attention. Clap, woop, holler, cheer, snap (looking at you, poetry nerds!) when appropriate. If you’re feeling it, approach the performer after their set for a simple “Hey, great job!” It could make their night.


2. Be Courteous


Are you talking loudly with other musicians during an acoustic set? Are you sneaking in an encore song on a full list night? Do you still make the “FREEBIRD!” joke? But, seriously, proper etiquette can be so underrated until it's on the other foot. Golden rule principle: treat other musicians and audience members how you’d like to be treated. While we are all human and some egos are bigger than others, a level of respect should be given to everyone.


3. Be Bold


It takes guts to put yourself out there. Even just signing up for an open mic slot takes courage a lot of people can’t conjure. Even if you’re past that initial stage, open mics are a great opportunity and place to try out material that’s not perfected. A lot of times these performances will leave a bad taste in your mouth, but it will also give you a feeling of accomplishment, and determination to keep at it.


 

Whether I make new friends, gain more confidence on stage, encourage a fellow artist, or bounce song ideas off other musicians, all are equally valuable and worthwhile. Navigating the open mic scene can be intimidating, but with these tips, I believe you now have the necessary tools to thrive, flourish, and make the most out of every open mic you attend.

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