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So how do open mics work in your neck of the woods?

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by champbassist, Aug 25, 2012.

  1. Where I come from, club culture has only very recently started to gain a foothold. As such, there are few places that have open mic events.

    A few days back I played at one such place (it's actually a pub) that conducts such an event once in a while. The open mic there goes something like this: an announcement is made 2-3 weeks prior to the event and the artists have to send in a recorded piece to the club's mail within a deadline. They listen and select artists from among the entries sent in and inform the respective artists. At the open mic, each artist gets to play one song and may play another if the audience gives them a thumbs up after the first one.

    I'm wondering if that's how open mic events actually work in places which have a much stronger club/pub/live music tradition than we have here.
  2. nickbass79


    Nov 11, 2009
    North Carolina
    When I was in college, an open mike was like an open jam. Lots of improv and lots of musicians jamming.

    Where I live now, its acoustic singer/players playing covers or bands playing a few rehearsed songs. It kind of sucks. Not nearly as fun as the open jams.
  3. That's a very different way to run them then is typical in the US of A. An "open mic" night means that anyone can play, and there is no screening process at all. Sometimes the performances are great, but often they're terrible. In bigger cities, certain open mic nights have a reputation for better, more perfessional sounding acts. As such, first timers and beginners shy away. Other places are great for letting those first timers play and figure out what works for them on stage.

    There's a few ways that they are run, but here's typically how they're done: Usually, they have one guy (a good or pro musician) running the open mic. On the night of the open mic (not any time in advance), the show organizer will somehow make a list of everyone who wants to perform.

    It's usually first come, first served. If you're the first to show up at the club or bar, then you usually get to pick which order to go in. Other times it's done randomly where everyone puts their name in a hat. The organizer will play a few songs at first to warm up the crowd (which is usually only comprised of the other performers). After that, you usually get 15 minutes or 3 songs (plus or minus depending on how many people sign up). If you get your band in there and you can set up and tear down in that time, then that's OK, but doesn't often happen.

    If a band does show up, they still only get 15 minutes or 3 songs. The instruments typically get plugged in directly to the PA and the drummer plays a djembe, congas or other acoustic percussion instruments. Most of the time, it's singer/songwriter types and the occasional comedian or other single person act.

    What you described would probably be considered a "showcase" performance. That's usually done where you know that there's industry people in the audience that may be looking to fill slots at a festival or something like that. These are very rare, though.

    I don't go to them too often, but I used to go to them more. They're good places to network, as sometimes some killer players show up. When I go, I leave the bass at home (unless there's a solo piece that I was working on and want to try out), and I bring my acoustic guitar.

    What you described is not at all an "open mic" night as typically defined anywhere in North America or probably most of Europe (I'm guessing). If they screen out musicians a week or so in advance with recorded music, it's not at all considered an "open mic" night here.
  4. Thanks! Really informative post :)

    I guess the 'terrible' part is the reason why there's a screening process in place. Though that ends up making it a 'closed' mic if anything :p It's still open in comparison to the usual scheme of things, as only the very best and most firmly established of the bands from the city (often from the entire country) get to play there on a regular basis.
  5. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Around here some places have open mic nights, you just got to register beforehand, sometimes if there isn't many people they take walk-ins. You get to do a couple songs if you'd like.

    And at least one place provides anybody who does an open mic song a drink, I don't drink but the gesture is nice.
  6. sharp8874


    Jan 10, 2011
    theres a coffee shop up by me that has open mic bluegrass jams every other week. you basically go in with your instrument play along with 5 or more other people and if you want to play a song you just step up to the front and play and everyone else jams to it with you. it was really cool because one time me and my friend went to play and played a country/rock song and they added some great mandolin parts to it.
  7. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    That's not what we would call an OPEN mic ... that's an invitational showcase. The pub owner gets vetted, free entertainment ... the participants get ... I dunno, whatever they get out of it.

    Around here an open mic has a host who puts out a sign-up list, performers sign up, and the host either puts them on stage in the order they signed up, or however else he pleases. As you might expect the performances range from brilliant to abysmal.

    Another event, called an "open jam" (but often mistakenly billed as an open mic) usually has a house band who will back up any comers (sometimes even if they don't want to be!).
  8. Chef FourString

    Chef FourString

    Feb 4, 2011
    Around here, people just show up. Everyone goes a round and by the end of the night it the 5 or 6 best players left standing. Mostly it sucks. There are a lot of has-beens and never-weres around here that think they are owed something from fellow musicians and the community.
  9. spz8


    Jan 19, 2009
    Glen Cove, NY
    This is pretty much how an open mic that I occasionally attend is handled, except that the organizer(s) provide a full drum kit, small bass combo, and small guitar amps. Everyone brings their own basses, guitars, and pedals. Some guitarists will bring their own small amps if they are quick setups. Once in a while, a keyboardist, conga player, or saxophonist will show up which can be pretty cool!

    Yeah, what the OP describes is definitely NOT an open mic night.
  10. Here the "open mics" or "showcases" work pretty much the same way. Bands or solo performers come and play for free with the promise of "exposure". The bar sells drinks to all of the performers' friends and families who come out to hear them play. At the end of the night, the bar owner goes home with money in his pocket. The bands or performers go home wondering where the exposure was.

    (The times I've been to or played in these events, there were no "industry executives" there or anybody there that actually gave a rip about hearing the bands)
  11. There was no incentive for us to go and perform other than performing on stage at one of the best places in the city and probably the exposure. No free drinks, etc.

    What's funny is that despite the whole screening thing, there still was a band that performed poorly and was openly called out by the guy running the open mic (who's a pro musician around here, just as ubersheist mentioned). He even went so far as to say "This was nothing like the recording they sent me" to absolve himself of the blame :p (he had selected the performers from the recordings he received, as I'd mentioned in the OP).
  12. SeaBassSteve


    Nov 14, 2008
    We have open mic and open jams here where I live. Open mics tend to be the forte of humdrum singer songwriter types whilst the jams attract everyone. Have had some amazing jam sessions before like a reggae version of Spencer Davis I'm a man , or playing some stevie wonder ( we did I wish last week great fun)
  13. Corbeau


    Dec 14, 2011
    Open mics here require registration before you can go on, so I guess in a way, it's not really that "open". Semi-open, maybe. I can't think of an open mic here that allows walk-ins, because usually the slots are filled up for weeks ahead. I guess it's "open" in the sense that if there is a slot open at a certain date, then you can go on after registering and it doesn't matter how good or bad you are. I've played at a few open mics and it seems to be a format for the singer/songwriter types. It's less common for bands to play, although sometimes you'll get a few bands.

    I think the open mics here generally prefer singer/songwriters or duos, rather than a band setup. I think it's partly due to the person running it, and from my experience they tend to have limited resources. You'll get a basic PA and that's about it, which suits smaller acts.
  14. Yeah... that's pretty common, too, where the club/pub/bar essentially has a house band that the performer(s) can use or have back them up. There's actually two out this way that are run that way.
  15. Not yet

    Not yet

    Mar 26, 2012
    Places like Chicago you get known around the circuit and if good they'll let you up on stage pretty much when you show up and get to sit in w major players like a Buddy Guy or one of the Brooks...but that could take some time
  16. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    My singer runs a few open mic nights. It's a weekly thing at a few local bars. He brings the PA and his guitar. Any musician(s) that wants to play signs up, so they can go in order on the sign up sheet. He'll play a few songs to get things started then hand it off to the next musician(s). They usually each get 3-4 songs depending on how busy it is, sometimes more. He tries to make sure everyone gets a few songs...

    Most of the musicians that go to one particular open mic all know each other. So they'll jam together, I'll sit in for a few of them, other guys will sit in, basically whatever anyone feels like doing,. It's fun!
  17. Mike11121


    Sep 17, 2007
    Around here (Bali) it's a tourist mecca, so there are heaps of open mic places where any drunk can walk up to a band and borrow an instrument to sit in (singly or in groups) - and it almost always sucks! Don't get me started on drunks asking to borrow my bass. There are some great players occasionally, but you gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince!

    A better way is at the Bali Guitar Club. Around 300-400 members and members-only on stage gigs - anyone can watch. There, an MC (pro muso) will assemble impromptu bands in different styles on the fly ("We have 2 guitarists and a drummer to play blues - who wants to play bass?"). Backline, kit and PA is provided. All players are sober (or they don't get on) and members of a genuine music community, so generally of pro or semi-pro standard. Each combo gets 3 songs max.

    Great events!
  18. TRyan5289


    Jul 18, 2012
    Davenport, Iowa
    For the open Mic nights I've been to around here, here's usually what happens; the house band plays their first set and then takes a break. The musicians who show up with their instruments (or drum sticks) ask the house band to play, and usually a timeline is given. This includes groups or singles. From here the wannabees and havebeens play. Everyone has fun and then the house band closes out.

    I find this more to be a meet and greet among musicians and constructive criticism time, as well as networking for "the band," though not in one currently.

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