10 Ways to Supercharge Your Open Mic Night

Now that you’ve got your event off the ground, it’s time to take it to the next level.

In order to run a truly successful open mic, you’ll want to consider, ahead of time, the technical and emotional needs of everyone involved.

Below are a few essential tips:

Be Organized and Prepared

First of all, have a plan! Make sure you’ve decided on a format, a start and end time, etc. and that you properly communicate this to all of the folks who show up.

Also, make sure you get to the venue early enough to properly set up the sound system in a relaxed manner.

A lot of performers like to show up early to claim a spot on the sign up sheet. If your sound system is already set up and troubleshot, you’ll be less distracted and, as a result you’ll have the freedom to focus your energy and attention on the participants as they arrive. We’ll talk a little more about accommodating your guest further along in this post.

Start and Maintain an Email List

In order to generate the numbers that will keep your open mic afloat, you need to build a core group of returning performers and music lovers and the best way to do that is to keep in touch through the use of an email list. Make sure to have an email sign up sheet available in a prominent place and make sure to announce its presence regularly.

After you’ve committed to creating and growing your email list, then you simply have to communicate regularly with the members so that you (and your event) stay on their radar screen.

Bring Along Neat and Professional Printed Materials

Use a computer to create an easy-to-read sign up sheet with time slots clearly marked…and bring it with you!  

This pre-meditated, clean-lined, document will communicate a professional and official feel that can only help the flow of the evening.

Show up with your papers in order and you’ll impart a sense of professionality; something that can be rare among musicians and something that the staff, management, and patrons will likely respond to positively.

As I mentioned above, you’ll also want to have an email list. This can be on a separate piece of paper or you can add an email opt-in line on your sign up sheet. It’s up to you!

Create a Webpage for the Event

Create and maintain a web presence for your open mic. It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t need to be a computer programmer. You can always use a site like facebook to build and host a simple page.

Through the site, you can post regular announcements, audio, and more. I use my camera phone to make videos of select performers that I later post to the open mic page. Performers get a great kick out of the exposure and it creates fresh content for the page. The more fresh media you can add to your page the more often people will want to check back in at the site to see what’s going on.

Be Attentive

The people who come to participate in your open mic are probably just getting their feet wet as far as public performance goes. Most of your guests will be in varying states of nervousness and anxiety leading up to there chance on stage. Keep this in mind during your interactions. Talk to them as soon as they arrive. Run them through the mechanics of the evening. Let them know what time you’ll be starting, how long they’ll be expected to play and any other details they might need. The fewer questions they have the less anxious they will be.

Give each performer plenty of heads up before they’re expected to take the stage. It’s not a bad idea to make the rounds every fifteen minutes or so and check in with the people on the list to make sure they know when they’re going to be called. That way they can be tuned up and prepared in anyway they need to be, this will cause them less stress and make for a more comfortable and rewarding experience. That leads me to the next commandment.

Be Supportive to Performers

This is a bit of an extension of the previous tip, but probably the most important aspect of being a truly effective host. You absolutely must do your best to make every performer as comfortable as you can.

It’s important to be welcoming and open from the get go. As soon as you’ve presented yourself as a friendly facilitator the sooner everyone can relax into the evening, enjoy themselves, and perform at their best.

Take time after each act to thank the performer(s) for participating. Their presence is crucial to your success so don’t hesitate to make them feel welcomed and appreciated. Also, try to think of something positive to say to each performer after they’ve presented. You don’t have to be disingenuous; just encouraging. Maybe their music wasn’t your cup of tea and you didn’t really enjoy it…I bet you can still find something positive to say despite these challenges.

Example: “Thanks so much for coming out tonight and sharing your music!”

Put on a Good Opening Set

Work hard to present fresh, professional sounding material every week during your opening set. If you consistently provide an entertaining opening set, then you increase your chances of drawing more bodies to your event on a regular basis. Also, many of the performers may start coming early to catch your part of the show and the venue owners are happy if you can get people out early.

Invite the Pros

I like to invite well-known local talent to come and join in on the fun. Open mics are on “off nights” by design, so there’s a good chance that many fine musicians in your area will find themselves free to stop by and play a little. There are many benefits to having high-caliber talent involved in the evening.  For one, it adds a bit of legitimacy to your event and sets you apart from other presenters. It’s also appealing to music lovers who come to watch and listen. They get a rare chance to see well-known, local musicians performing in a unique and casual setting. This kind of intimate experience can be priceless to a lot of concert-goers.

Be Courteous to Staff and Management

This seems like a no-brainer to me, but it must be said: Be super nice and respectful to the staff! Even if they are rude to you. You are a guest in the venue and you should act accordingly. Be nice to the bartenders, baristas, bar backs, servers, janitors, or whomever you interact with.

Tip well and encourage your people to do the same. Always ask, never demand, and remember to express thanks when you are helped in any way. This may seem like common sense, but I’ve seen too many performers and presenters forget all of their manners and decency (maybe they never had any to begin with?) when in a gig situation. In open mics as in life…do unto others.

Provide a Premium Listening Experience

If you don’t have basic knowledge of live sound engineering, then seek the guidance of someone who does. Ask a friend, read some books, or take some community college classes. If you’re not interested in optimizing your sound engineering skills, then arrange for someone else isrun your sound for you!

Great sound will help to insure a successful evening. The performers are more likely to enjoy the experience which means they’re more likely to return and to spread to good word. Also, the audience will get a lot more enjoyment if the sound is run properly. Make it your endless quest to provide the best quality sound reinforcement you can at each event. Don’t just turn on the mics, throw the performer in front of them and walk away. Make adjustments as needed during each set and dial each performer in as best you can. It might be a whole lot more work on your part but you’ll be honing a specialized skill and also doing your part to make everybody’s listening experience a pleasurable one.

A Final Thought

If the thought of any of the above sounds tedious and unappealing, you may want to think about whether hosting an open mic is right for you. I think that in order to be an effective host you’ll have to genuinely care about the people you’re working with and you’ll need to genuinely care about making the live sound as technically presentable as possible. If you’re not a people person, then you should consider some of my other suggested income stream options like making videos, online lessons, songwriting, etc.

I invite you to share your thoughts on this article with me. I look forward to hearing from you.



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