For many aspiring artists, open mic nights are a great way to gain exposure and experience for their career in music. Gaining instant feedback from the audience (many of whom are artists themselves), breaking out into the local music scene and having the chance to network with other musicians are just a few reasons to perform at an open mic event.
An open mic night is a live music show that usually takes place a few days a week, or weekly or monthly in places like a café, a bar or a pub. These events, which are open to pretty much anybody, are mainly put on for new talents to share their gifts.
Most open mic nights are available to a variety of creatives – from poets to bands. Singers can choose whether to play an original piece, sing along to backing music or even go acapella. Not only is performing at an open mic night a great way to share your music, but it is also a great way to gain experience of performing live with an audience.
Performing at an open mic night is probably one of the easiest ways to gain familiarity with performing in front of a crowd. These opportunities give you the chance to experience certain aspects of playing live i.e. performing for a crowd who are clearly uninterested (or too drunk to understand what is going on) or even losing your voice.
Every experience will teach you new things and build you up to be a better performer.
Also, performing live is nothing like singing in front of the mirror or playing music in front of friends. It is helpful to overcome stage fright, nervousness in a much smaller crowd like the ones at open mic nights.
In a few venues that host open mics, there is also the added luxury of not having to set up. Although these shows may seem small, there is actually a lot of organisation that goes into it i.e. setting up equipment and monitoring live audio. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself in playing the crowd!
And if your first open mic night doesn’t go to plan – so what?
Unless you have fallen in love with the first open mic you play at and made some truly valuable connections, don’t be afraid to try out open mics at a variety of venues. There are loads of open mics dotted around cities, all varying in popularity, the type of crowd and quality.
Playing at different venues also gives you a better understanding of how your music sounds in different spaces and how to interact with different types of audiences.
You never know who may be lurking in the audiences of open mic nights. Artists such as Ed Sheeran and Tracey Chapman gained their way to stardom through playing at local clubs and open mics.
Your future bandmate may also be in the audience or up next waiting to perform – Freddie Mercury was once a bystander in the audience for a group then called Smile, however, following their lead singer quitting, Mercury joined bandmates Rodger Taylor and Brian May to form Queen (John Decon joined a few months after that).
You might also find yourself in a conversation with a few of the regular open mic goers. Listen to what they have to say and soak up any advice they have to offer – they have probably watched many performers come and go.
The connections you make at these events in your early musical career will also be useful later on especially when it comes to organizing your gigs and growing an audience.
Being able to capture and hold the attention of a small audience who are more interested in what drink to order next is a true test of your showmanship. Attending open mic nights will also help you become more accustomed to the interruptions and other aspects of playing live, such as microphone squeals or a badly tuned guitar.
And even if things don’t go well, a truly terrible open mic gig will make for a great story to tell your friends and family!
Chances are, you will meet a lot of other artists who are in the same position as you. If you do choose to perform at only one or two open mics, you will get to know the regulars and vice versa. Eventually, you will be part of a community who helps and support one another, and you can even develop a unique music scene along with these fellow artists.
Being a part of a community is also important for sharing ideas and suggestions and even creating projects with. For example, if you have a new song you are working on but not sure if it’s as good as it could be – these are the people to ask!
Listen to what others in your local community have to say about it and take heed of any criticisms. Also, it is always good to know you are not alone.
Performing at open mic nights is also great to build up a following for your music. If you have performed at an open mic night where you received a good reception from the audience, think about something you can offer them. T-shirts, CDs, business cards or bands’ branded merchandise are all great examples of inexpensive things that you can offer the crowd to help them promote your music.
Also, make sure that you have accounts set up on music sharing apps and social media. Members of the audience can then tag you if they have taken videos or pictures of your performance, thus allowing you to gain more exposure.
It also allows people to stay in touch with you and follow your music online – as well as see it performed live.
Many open mic nights are scattered around cities all over the globe, giving artists the chance to home their craft with minimal stress in terms of booking and organising.
If you are having trouble finding the right open mic night near you, there are many websites available to help you find the perfect one. We have compiled a list of some of the very best open mic nights and live events in your city.
One of the most well-known jam sessions in London is held in this Camden venue every Sunday. This restaurant/bar is open to all types of performers from drummers to guitarists to vocalists. Artists also get a chance to play along with the Blues Kitchen’s incredibly multitalented in-house band, The Beekays.
Established in Soho during the 90s, Ain’t Nothing But has built up a reputation for being one of the key places to perform and listen to blues in the City of London.
There weekly blues session, which takes place on Monday, kicks off at 8 pm, however, artists who want to be a part of the night’s setlist should get down at least an hour or two beforehand to secure a place – and these places fill up fast!
The Troy Bar has a few opportunities for certain artists to perform. On Tuesdays, this Shoreditch venue has a night aimed at vocalists with other musicians playing in the background. Wednesdays are also another popular night as this is their designated musicians-focused jam night. There is also some great food on offer such as their highly-rated jerk chicken.
Located in the upper west side, every Monday this bar holds an open mic night from 9 pm-midnight. The energetic lounge with Jazz Age-themed décor also has a long list of unique drinks. Don’t forget to try a few cocktails while you wait to play to the crowd – just don’t get too wasted!
One of New York’s longest-running open mic nights is probably Pete’s Candy Store. This Brooklyn based bar is a true patron for underground artists. For almost 20 years, the venue has been hosting events specifically aimed at artists who write and create their original music.
Although it costs $15 to perform at the open mic night at this Greenwich Village bar, you may actually get the chance to see a few celebrities and even perform alongside them! This venue is well-known for the number of celebrities who have graced their stage including Mariah Carey and Chaka Khan.
Free Times is the perfect place for those looking to ease into the open mic scene. The cafe’s intimate performance space allows the audience to really pay attention to the performers. Regulars usually ask about your songs’ messages and take a genuine interest in your performance, making this an ideal place to try out new music.
Looking to add a saxophone part to your original sing? The in-house band at Grossman’s is what attracts many artists to play here. They have also a wide knowledge of rock classics so if you want to simply do a cover of a classic with a band to back your vocals then make your way down to Grossman’s Tavern.
The equipment at this bar is concert quality, so playing here will also give you’re a real feel of what it’s like to perform live on a grand scale.
Want to meet like-minded artists in the city of Toronto? Every Sunday and Tuesday, the Cavern hosts a casual open mic evens that are open to all artists from all musical backgrounds – from playing the piano to the tambourine.
The open mic that takes place every Thursday at Sam’s Chop House is probably the biggest open mic night in Manchester and plays an important part in the music scene in the city. With a beautiful atmosphere set inside a Victorian-themed building and a free drink of choice if you decide to perform, if you are looking for a place in Manchester to play then Sam’s Chop House is the place to be.
The Whiskey Jar is without a doubt one of the best showcases of new live music in Manchester. This bars’ open mic night stands out because of its laid -back vibe and warm wooden interiors.
The Whiskey Jar also has its own musical space which can be rented, The Still, which features many musical acts on a regular basis. It’s also a great place if you’re thinking of filming a live concert or music video. The whiskey on offer doesn’t hurt either.
Every Tuesday from 10 pm to midnight, this Culver City cafe has hosted an open mic night for the last 10 years. Open to all creatives from poets to pianists, the Industry Café & Jazz is a great place to showcase your talents, draw on inspiration from others and feast on a delicious plate of Ethiopian food!
Situated in Santa Monica, this bohemian-style coffee house holds a selection of events during the week for comics, artists, and poets. Every Friday evening between 9 to 11:30, Unurban supports local Santa Monica artists and welcomes both new and old performers for an evening of performances and entertainment.
Head over to UnUrban for a memorable night fuelled by creativity with a strong community feel.
The Douglas Corner Café, opened in 1987, is a popular spot in Nashville that hosts a great open mic night on Tuesday evenings from 8 PM. Greats like Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Blake Shelton have all played at this café at least once in their early music careers.
The open mic night at the Douglas Corner Café is hosted by Donnie Winters of the Winters Brother Band, a group that once toured with the likes of Charlie Daniels and the Marshall Tucker Band. If you want to see how it feels to play alongside a band that has toured the states, then don’t miss out on your chance to perform at the Douglas Corner Café
The Bluebird Café has always been a popular spot for upcoming artists on their way to stardom, however, the success of the TV show “Nashville”, has raised the profile of this café in Tennessee.
The open mic night here is now one of the hottest in the country and has become a must-see destination for tourists visiting Nashville. At the famed Bluebird Café, the open mic night is on Monday from 6-9 PM. Aspiring country artist? Then this is the place to be as nearly every country singer has played on the renowned Bluebird stage
Those who make their way to the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar can listen to some of the most iconic blues music ever made as well as performing their music alongside an experienced jazz band. And once you’re done showcasing your work don’t forget to order a plate of some of the best Cajun-style food in town!
Hosted by MC Robert Lee every month, Speak Fridays taking place at the Light Box was started as a way to celebrate creativity and develop a community of aspiring talents in Miami.
This event hosts a variety of performers at all different levels from first-timers to regulars. Tickets are on sale for $15 and they usually go quickly, so if you want to be a part of this monthly event make sure to sign up well in advance.
Making it in the music industry will always be a tough process, but going to open mic nights are a great way to break into the music scene and grow your fan base.
Attending at least one or two open mics a week will allow you to quickly gain experience as a performer and build up a useful list of connections – networking is key.
After performing at these events, also make a note on how well it went. Keep a track of the number of CDs you gave away, or the number of people that you talked to who showed a genuine interest in your music. Reflecting on these factors can give you a useful insight into what to do for your next performance
And even though performing at these events are to help you progress in your career, don’t forget to have fun!
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