Ryan Spearman lives to share music. He's a folk musician, speaker, teacher, writer, podcaster, and the co-founder of the St. Louis Folk & Roots Festival
Spearman is the author of Quit Your Day Job: A Musician's Guide to Better Living.
Ryan is also the creator and owner of PlayBetterBanjo.com and the 30 Days to Better Banjo eCourse.
Find out more about Ryan Spearman and all of his musical exploits at: RyanSpearman.com
I’m frequently approached by fellow performers in my local music community asking for ideas on how to attract larger crowds to their shows. A few have noticed that I often neglect to even hang up a poster in town to promote my performances, yet these events tend to be quite well-attended.
Some of these observant colleagues have suspected that there is a method to this madness and have asked me to share my promotional “recipes” with them.
Therefore, in the words that follow, I will attempt to reveal and explain the strategy that has proven most effective for me. May this info prove equally useful to you:
In this inaugural episode of the Acoustic Living Podcast I give a quick introduction to the mission, format, and goals of the podcast as well as a brief personal hello before diving into the topic of diversifyingone’s musical income streams. I talk about why I think you should diversify your musical portfolio and I’ll give you some ideas and personal examples to show you how you might integrate some of these hacks into your own music career.
Diversification lies at the foundation of my personal strategies for a more satisfying and profitable musical life.
Since diversifying my musical income streams, I’ve seen exponential growth in my bank account and my general quality of life. Also, my creative reach and my professional skill set have dramatically grown as a result of adopting this more open approach to professional musicianship.
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. Continue reading →
So you’ve decided to take my advice and host an open mic night of your own. Great! Let’s get started.
Below is a three step check list to get you off the ground in an informed way. Familiarize yourself with each idea and you’ll be well on your way to making your own event a reality.
Step 1 Understand the format
Let’s start at the begining. What is an open mic night?
An open mic night is an event in which amateur performers are allowed the opportunity to share a short set of their material on a public stage. Open mic nights commonly feature music, comedy, or poetry. For our purposes, we will focus on the idea of an open mic featuring music. Here’s how a typical evening goes down:
The event is usually staged in a bar, coffee house, or other type of performance venue.
The host arrives early and provides a sign up sheet.
The sheet is placed in a prominent place and interested parties sign up on a first-come-first-serve basis.
At start time, the host kicks off the show by providing a short set of music.
Then the host starts inviting the registered performers to the stage to perform a short set of their music; usually just two or three songs.
The evening continues in this manner until all of the performers on the list have had a chance to perform.
Step 2 Understand the open mic from a business perspective
When you start your own open mic and enter into a partnership with a venue, you need to understand the business imperatives at work:
Open mics are generally conducted on “off” nights when sales are slow. Open mics can provide a major increase in traffic to paricipating venues on these otherwise unprofitable evenings.
Let’s say on a given night you attract ten performers and they all bring a friend or two to watch them play. Then you’ve got 25-30 new customers in the house.
The venue will likely be quite happy becuase they’ll have more customers and a whole night’s worth of entertainment for one low price.
The bottom line is you must be providing a consistent customer base to the venue if you expect them to keep handing over money to you on a weekly basis.
Never forget this reality and you’ll be well on your way to success.
Hosting open mic nights has been aboslutely critical to my personal musical success. Here I’ll give you three reasons why you should consider adding an open mic night to your musical portfolio:
Make Steady Money on a Weeknight
The performance business is primarily a weekend business. We all know how hard it is to get a decent paying gig on a weeknight. That’s where the open mic night format comes in to play.
Monday thru Wednesday is the prime window for open mic nights so, if you host a successful one, you’ll be earning money on an “off” night. And, since open mics are recurring events (usually weekly) you’ll be consistently creating income on an otherwise dead night.
This can make a big difference in the overall scheme of your musical income. Here’s a personal example:
I hosted a weekly open mic night for almost three years in my hometown of St. Louis, MO. I was paid $100 a night plus a meal and a couple of drinks. That’s $5,200 a year that I earned gigging on what is arguably the worst night of the week for performers.
Gain Fans and Contacts
Another invaluable benefit of hosting an open mic night is the opportunity to meet new music lovers and musicians. You can gain a significant amount of friends, fans, and business contacts as a result of your hosting a weekly open mic. I used to have a column on my sign up sheet for registrants to include their email. With these emails I created a mailing list. I would send messages to the list to remind patrons to come and participate in that week’s open mic or to inform them of any special goings on. Continue reading →
The first step is to decide where you’re going to teach. There are a lot of variables to consider once you’ve made the decision to hang your teaching shingle. Here are four common options along with some of their attendant advantages and disavantages:
Teach from your home
The most obvious advantage to teaching out of your home is the commute…or lack thereof. It can be quite convenient to have your students come to you. The amount of money you’ll save on fuel, car maintanence, etc. can be quite significant. You will also-presumably- feel quite comfortable in your own space. Comfort is an importatnt consideration, especially if you’re teaching for long periods at a time.
One disadvantage of teaching out of your home is liability. You’ll want to make sure your insurance coverage protects you against any possible injury to visitors in your home and on your property. You’ll also want to make sure that operating a teaching business out of your home is legal in your city/state. If you rent, you’ll probably want to clear the idea with your landlord, as well.
If all of this sounds like too many hoops to jump through, you may want to consider one of the other suggestions in this article. If you are determined to teach at home and want to make sure you’re properly insured and licensed, talk to a lawyer!
Getting started as a private music instructor is pretty simple. Remember that you don’t need a degree or some special certification to be an effective teacher. All you need is some patience and the desire to share your particular musical knowledge with others.
If you meet those requirements then all you need to do is to follow these three basic steps to launch your teaching career:
What if I told you that I had a job opportunity for you. What if I told you that it was within your field of musical interest, that the hourly wage was twice as much as the average U.S. worker, that you could set your own hours, and be your own boss?
Would you want me to tell you more?
Well, then…keep reading.
Below, we’ll explore some of the ways teaching can enhance your music career. I’ll also share with you some tips and secrets that will show you how to get started right now!
In an earlier article of mine, Secret to a Successful Music Career, I talked about the importance of diversifying one’s income sources when seeking to make a living as a musician. I also provided a list of suggestions for how you might go about earning “extra” cash with your musical skills.
Teaching is at the very top of that list.
Here are a few reasons why you should seriously consider teaching as an income source: Continue reading →
If you asked me to distill my twenty years of musical success into a single word of advice, that word would be diversify.
Savvy financial advisors have been giving that same word of advice to investors for years.
Because by diversifying your investments, you reduce your overall risk of loss and create a more secure scenario for your interests.
How does that advice apply to your music career?
Your investing your valuable time and your hard-earned musical skills into the creation of your ideal job. Spreading that investment out across a wide range of income opportunities will create a nice safety net. This net will provide a feeling of confidence and security when facing any unexpected financial challenges that may pop up and try to get between you and your musical dreams.
Since a large portion of my audience is presumably made up of folk musicians, I’ll restate this idea in a more colloquial manner:
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
It’s a simple formula. If all of your eggs are, indeed, in one basket and something happens to said basket, you might just loose all of your eggs. Continue reading →