Open mic venues ....
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that the
owner of the open mic venue is getting away with free
entertainment. He or she is taking advantage of you by
getting you to work without pay.
This is a situation that works against you and can also
work to your benefit.
There are two types of venues; first, there is the
nightclub, restaurant, bar or tavern who can obviously
afford to pay for entertainment and is hosting an “Open
Mic”. They are not just taking advantage of the performer
but reducing the value of entertainment itself to nothing.
This reflects in the pay scale offered by the clubs that are
willing to hire entertainment.
The second type of venue that promotes an open mic
stage is the coffee house style of room that really wants to
promote local entertainers and candidly enjoy the sharing of
their fan base, family and friends that turn out to see them
and become new coffee house customers.
So why do this??
First, the advantage goes to the performer who has
never been on stage before and needs to get the bugs out, so
to speak. This is an opportunity to find out if you can
handle being on stage in front of people. It also allows you
to become encouraged or discouraged. Some people believe
they have talent when they really do not. Others blossom
with these first exposures to applause and recognition. This
reaction from an audience provides the impetus that drives
the novice musician to practice and learn the craft.
It is during the performances from participants that
were unrehearsed, or unblessed with a voice, that the open
mic venue gets to take the beating they deserve, because
they can’t say no: they have to let everybody who signs the
performer list go up on stage. However, it doesn’t seem to
empty the room and even the worst performer tends to bring
Some seasoned performers go to open mics to perform as
it is more satisfying than rehearsing at home. To their
advantage, the clever ones supply a sign-up list where the
crowd can write in their emails to get on the entertainer’s
newsletter. This helps the performer gather a fan base.
If you are touring in a town where you are
unknown, try to hit as many open mics as possible just
before your event and mention where you will be
Here again is how you can make this open mic format work for
you. If only the open mic houses would be a bit more
generous; include a couple drinks and/or a sandwich. They
would still be paying a lot less than what it would cost to
supply the kind of variety show the open mic concept affords
There are many performers that have not experienced the
changes, but there was a time when getting paid very good
money to perform was common. It cannot all be blamed on open
mic facilities and I am certainly not doing that here, but I
will say that it has caused the up-and-coming artists to
underestimate their value. The recording artist who once had
an enormous monetary worth has suffered during the fall of
the recording industries heyday. No one, except those at the
top of the food chain, are making the money that once had
been offered. Merchandise sales are often needed to
bolster the income of local and touring companies and the
overhead, and lack of paying venues has been crippling. That
said, the industry lives on and you can do very well by
applying the assets of social media, and keeping your nose
to the grindstone.
Play well, and prosper.
Professor Douglas Fraser