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Open Mic or real gigs.

Kara 03 Dec 08 - 08:29 AM
dwditty 03 Dec 08 - 08:55 AM
matt milton 03 Dec 08 - 09:09 AM
melodeonboy 03 Dec 08 - 09:53 AM
The Villan 03 Dec 08 - 10:11 AM
Northerner 03 Dec 08 - 10:16 AM
Acorn4 03 Dec 08 - 11:07 AM
Acorn4 03 Dec 08 - 11:08 AM
Tyke 03 Dec 08 - 11:10 AM
matt milton 03 Dec 08 - 12:41 PM
DebC 03 Dec 08 - 12:51 PM
Suegorgeous 03 Dec 08 - 07:04 PM
JedMarum 04 Dec 08 - 12:18 AM
JedMarum 04 Dec 08 - 12:23 AM
stallion 04 Dec 08 - 04:03 AM
Acorn4 04 Dec 08 - 04:06 AM
Hamish 04 Dec 08 - 11:51 AM
Phil Edwards 04 Dec 08 - 04:56 PM
Bobert 04 Dec 08 - 06:39 PM
M.Ted 04 Dec 08 - 08:12 PM
Bobert 04 Dec 08 - 08:53 PM
Genie 04 Dec 08 - 11:41 PM
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Subject: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Kara
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 08:29 AM

Hello

Recently started a thread about getting gigs in the UK and got some great advice. One of the things said, by several people was that the best way to get paying gigs was to get out and play for free and open mics.

I am interested in doing some research on this subject with the view of making a radio documentary about it.
My questions are,

1 Does playing open mics and other free gigs lead to getting paid work?

2 Who goes to open mic night apart from musicians?

3 Is the quality of music nessecarily better at a paid gig than at an open mic?

4 Are open mics reducing the number of paid gigs available?

5 Is this a new thing or has it been going on in one form or other for ever?

and any other comments or opinions you have about it.

look forward to your comments


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: dwditty
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 08:55 AM

For me, open mics provided the opportunity to become comfortable playing "in public." It is also a great way to try out new material. I read somewhere that one must perform a song in a live setting 5-6 times before it gets really good. AT first I went to as many open mics as I could get to. Some were great, some OK, and some dreadful. I still get out pretty much every week to an unusual open mic - pub atmosphere, house band, etc. SOme of the best live music I have ever heard has been there.

With some digging, one can usually find an open mic where regular gigging musicians attend. This is a great way to network with the local community of musicians.

While there are opportunities to play "worthwhile" free gigs (charity fund-raisers, nursing homes, etc. - I play a few times a year at the Veteran's Home.), most musicians look at people who play for free as the equivalent of scabs in a union - especially those musicians who try to make a living gigging. Venues that don't pay are typically considered in the same class as karaoke clubs.


dw


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: matt milton
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 09:09 AM

funny, my experience of open mics made me think you could shoot a great documentary film about the London open mic scene. Great minds think alike and all that.

I love the democratic nature of open mics. Often they're one part Saturday night light entertainment X-Factor cheese; one part Outsider Art. They are experiences that guarantee moments that will make you cringe and wince and will have you uttering under your breath "Make it STOP!! Please, MAKE IT STOP!!!". And then someone will get up and sing something brilliant and uttely unexpected. (Admittedly, this doesn't happen very often!)

Sometimes even the people who are awful are so awful they're brilliant. But all human life is there, to a degree you just don't encounter at folk nights or rock nights or jazz nights or any genre-specific events.

on a slight digression, I totally disagree with this comment:

"most musicians look at people who play for free as the equivalent of scabs in a union ... Venues that don't pay are typically considered in the same class as karaoke clubs"

That simply isn't true in my experience. For most musicians I know, getting paid for a gig totally exceptional.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: melodeonboy
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 09:53 AM

Kara, in answer to your questions, here are my thoughts:

1. It can do (and has done in my case, albeit occasionally). For pubs who have open mike nights and who also put on regular gigs, it can be a good way for the landlord (or organiser) to see what you're like before booking you. It is, of course, also a good way to meet other musicians, which can lead to performers forming bands and, consequently, getting gigs.

2. The number of people who go only to listen is variable and, in my experience, not usually that large. Many are there for their five minutes of fame!

3.Depends. I'd like to think that any paid gig would be of a reasonable standard. At open mikes you have to take the rough with the smooth. Having said that, I've seen many people perform at open mikes who are of a really high standard, and they often attract gigging musicians anyway.

4.Possibly, but most of the places that I know of tend to have open mikes during the week and paid gigs at the weekend, so they compliment each other rather than compete. Open mikes may be a good way of filling a pub during the week when perhaps many punters wouldn't make the effort to go and see a band.

5. I can't say for certain, having only relatively recently returned to Britain, but my impression is that they are fairly new, certainly in terms of how widespread they are. This may be related to the hard times that pubs have been going through and the need for landlords to be more inventive in getting punters into the pubs in order to stay afloat.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: The Villan
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 10:11 AM

>>1 Does playing open mics and other free gigs lead to getting paid work?<<

No, it allows people to see how good you are. If people like you enough, it could result in a paid gig.

Have a look at some of the professional performers who are on the road the whole year through, and ask yourself, if you could entertain the audience as good as them. They get paid gigs becuase they have a lot to offer. If you are sure you can do as good or even better, it won't take long until you have a full paid gig diary.

Ask yourself - Can I entertain an audience for 2 x 45 minutes. Do I have enough to keep people interested. If I get a paid gig, that is a guarantee or 80% of the door, can I get the bums on seat for the organiser, so they don't lose any money booking me.

There are an aweful lot of very good performers who have to have a day job to keep the roof over their head and do the paid gigs on the weekends etc.

The other question is, who do i want to perform in front of. A folk club with maybe 20/30 people, a pub, a concert venue. They all require a different approach.

Its a tough old world.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Northerner
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 10:16 AM

In my experience open mics are not simply for musicians.   I go to folk clubs but also find the open mics a valauble place to go and get experience or try out new material. I'm a storyteller as well as a singer and find that song/music venues are not always accepting of what I do. I also go to venues that are literature-oriented. There is a growth right now in poetry readings and allied literature activities. My stories go down very well at these venues. It probably helps that I've had training and am now starting on paid bookings so my work is of a good standard. Songs and music go down well too. I find the standard is variable but there are some very good performers out there in these open mic slots.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Acorn4
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 11:07 AM

Worst experience at an open mike:-

This actually happened to us at an open mike attached to a folk festival but I won't name any names:-

We went in at the time that the session was supposed to start, but no one was there in charge, but about ten minutes later, another duo came in and about twenty minutes after that the "organiser" came in.

There was himself, us, the other duo, two old ladies who were asleep, someone selling cakes and a bloke setting up the beer barrels for the concert later that night.

The "organiser" shuffled off ( I think this best described his manner of moving)somewhere for another ten minutes, then came back in and asked if anyone wanted to play, so we got up on stage and started and the "organiser" shuffled off again in the middle of our first song.

In the middle of our last song, the fellow behind the bar, who was obviously having a bit of a problem with a barrel, started to bang the said barrel loudly with some kind of blunt object, but at least he woke up one of the old ladies thus increasing our audience.

After we finished (we thought three songs probably enough in the circumstances) the "organiser" was nowhere to be seen, so we suggested to the other duo that they get up and do their spot, and decided we would stay and listen and give them a bit of moral support.

They did four songs and still no "organiser", so we suggested they carry on as we were enjoying it. By the time they'd finished that song the said "organiser" had re-appeared, and one of the duo asked "how many do you want us to do?" to which the reply was "oh, just go on until people get fed up with you." ..and he shuffled off again to unknown destination.

On a serious point though,learning to perform in public and learning to use mike/PA are two different skills, and even though you are permorming in front of "one man and his dog" it still gives you that opportunity to listen to what is coming out and adapt -it can take a long time to learnt to use PA equipment effectively.

We've recently moved and our new local has an "open mike" tonight, so we are going to give it a go!


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Acorn4
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 11:08 AM

...oh, and I forget, there was a dog there!


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Tyke
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 11:10 AM

Learning a trade is learning a trade be it open Mike or Acoustic. Acoustically the artist has less to worry about, as a PA performance is a skill all on it's own.

Practice and making sure that you do not need a prompt so that you can then learn to take on board the reaction of your audience is a must for an Artist. Having the three cords written down on a crib sheet plus the words is not helping anyone improve. Not considering which songs you would most like to perform and going out to sing with a folder full of songs so that you can perform a different song after song each week is even worse. It will not soften the hearts of the performers who have spent the time to learn how to sing one of those songs without prompts. Other performers will be in your audience they may have spent weeks getting ready to sing that song out.

If you do get a paid gig from your performance on an open Mike night or and Unplugged Night first of all well done. You have a new set of skills to learn including singing songs that you are not keen on singing. You should also make sure that the fee that you are being paid is commercially realistic. That the gig has been properly promoted so you are not singing to an empty room and getting the blame. Try to be aware that the Landlord whilst having to make his or her living should not be ripping you or his customers off.

Doing a support for an established artist so that you have the same kind but changing Audience each night will help you polish your performance. No one should support Pay to Play. If you are supporting an artist with his own PA and or Sound Engineer make sure that you know enough about PA to make sure you get the sound that makes you sound at your best.

Better to get out there and enjoy your music and let others share in that enjoyment. Is worth far more that any money you will ever be paid so do have Fun! Just make sure you are not playing with yourself when you are on stage.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: matt milton
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 12:41 PM

Open mics I like in London:

Tuesdays: Needle & Thread open mic at the Herne Hill Half Moon (
Tuesdays: The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell/Vauxhall
Wednesday: Easycome Acoustic at the Old Nuns Head (though not exactly an open mic and a bit shambolic. some great regulars though)
Thursday: Lantern Society at the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon (fortnightly)
Thursday: Bat Country at the Hideaway Bar in Tufnell Park (once a month)

excellent listings source for open mic info up and down the UK:

www.thevac.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: DebC
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 12:51 PM

In 1997 I decided to try to do what I have always wanted to do and that is sing for a living. This career is still- a work-in-progress and I think that is true no matter how successful a person is in the music biz.

1 Does playing open mics and other free gigs lead to getting paid work?
For me it did. When I first moved to New England I was going to as many open mics as I could within a 100 mile radius of where I was living at the time. I still attend them every now and then, even when I am touring. In the UK, I will try to do floor spots or participate in Singer's Nights.

2 Who goes to open mic night apart from musicians?
A couple of years ago, I had a feature spot at an open mic in the Boston, MA area. I was a bit surprised that some of the folks in the audience actually came to see me! So, a lot of times there might be people there who just come to listen.

3 Is the quality of music nessecarily better at a paid gig than at an open mic?
My answer to this question is pretty subjective. In my opinion, for the most part, the quality of music at open mics is pretty low. However, sometimes there are suprprises and you never really know who will turn up

4 Are open mics reducing the number of paid gigs available?
I am not seeing that happening in my experience

5 Is this a new thing or has it been going on in one form or other for ever?
It's been going on forever, it seems.

I hope this helps.

Deb Cowan


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 07:04 PM

Open mics have been fantastic for me - a great way to learn how to perform, gain confidence, learn stagecraft, try out new songs, etc etc. And I've met some wonderful musicians that have led to some valuable collaborations.

In Bristol UK, we have a thriving open mic scene, with several every night of the week, and an excellent dedicated website.

As already said, they do vary hugely in terms of quality, atmosphere, content, emphasis and so on. At some you can barely hear yourself if it's a crowded noisy pub with no one listening and a mediocre PA; at others, you can have a great sound engineer and a silent listening audience (a challenge in itself if you're still getting used to getting up there!). Some are mainly singer-songwriters, others seem to favour/attract more poets. But there's almost always an interesting mix of material and genres. Huge variation in quality though - as others have said, it can be dire, tedious, or absolutely unexpectedly stunning.

I'm nearly always the only acapella trad folk singer, which has its pros and cons. Sometimes I imagine no one is appreciating it, only to have the most unlikely people come up after and say they loved one of the songs. I rarely sing more than 2 or 3 songs, as I always feel that more than this in acapella would be too much for the audience. Yet what I do is different to everyone else, and often surprises people used to the usual singer-songwriters.

I'm not sure about them leading to paid gigs - often the organiser only comes in that one night to run the open mic and has nothing to do with the venue or its other music events.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: JedMarum
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 12:18 AM

If you want to get paid for performing music, you've got develop your craft; your music chops, your voice and your presentation or performance skills. Open Mic and jam sessions are great for getting started. You should play every chance you get. You learn every time you do.

1 Does playing open mics and other free gigs lead to getting paid work?

Rarely do open mics and free gigs lead to getting paid gigs. They help you develop your skill, your confidence and your reputation.

2 Who goes to open mic night apart from musicians?

Typically at open mics there is a small crowd local to the venue. The audience will be mostly other musicians who are often too focused on their set to hear or appreciate much of yours. BUT that does not have have to hurt your chance for success. Be as good as you can anyway, and play as if the room had 1000 music lovers. Give them your best.

3 Is the quality of music necessarily better at a paid gig than at an open mic?

Usually it is much better. There are always exceptions, but most open mics have a wide range of skills - some not so very developed - and most paid gigs have performers who have a proven level of entertainment value.

4 Are open mics reducing the number of paid gigs available?

I cannot see how. Open Mics typically offer folks who want a chance to play, a chance to play and bring in a few friends. They offer small clubs a chance to have a few people show up on an otherwise slow evening.

5 Is this a new thing or has it been going on in one form or other for ever?

Open mics have been around forever. They offer a starting point for people who are looking to get into paid performance. They offer a regular play to play to folks who just like to perform at that level and don't care about progressing.

Other comments

Open mics and jam sessions are great places to meet and "network" with other players. People who want to do what you want to do. You can meet people you like, and develop a music relationship with them. You can hear about other venues, other events and other players looking for people with just your sort of skill.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: JedMarum
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 12:23 AM

Deb C and me have similar answers and similar experiences. I started playing open mics and going to sessions as often as I could back in about 1998. After a couple of years of that and low end paying gigs, I gave up the day job and I've been earning a living at it ever since.

Open mics don't propel you, but they can be a nice and comfortable first step.

Deb - I'm surprised our paths haven't crossed yet in the real world. I'll be they will one of these days!


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: stallion
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 04:03 AM

Kara,
In my experience (not that vast in spite of advancing years[long sabbatical])open mics and singarounds have a range of truly awful to the amazing dazzling and it really is potluck and good fortune. The Brotherton Fox, a pub on the A1(when it was the A1!) had a folk club in late 60's and I dropped in on my way to chelmsford and so had the Dubliners en route to somewhere else, recently seen John Conolly and Gordon Tyral at said events, but, oh dear, enough said, I think it goes with the territory and everyone should have the opportunity. Sadly,generally, the open mics and singarounds haven't lead to gigs. Floor spots on the other hand have, if you "spot it" on the night and are not feeling grumpy, stressed etc and your good enough it will happen, oh, and rememmber, you are only as good as your last gig, unless you are a folk "God", in which case you are usually forgiven
Pete


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Acorn4
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 04:06 AM

Sound advice from both Jed and Pete. Take time and build on solid foundations.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Hamish
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 11:51 AM

Ah. Open mics, the good ones at any rate, often have a really good anchor man/woman (usually a man, though, in my experience. Now, why is that?) and they will be paid. After all, it's their pa, their pizzazz and their smattering of quality songs that lifts the whole show and fills the pub.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 04:56 PM

The quality of music at a paid gig will often be less good than the best you'll hear at a singers' night, but it will always be better than the worst of a singers' night. It will also be more competent, and more consistent, than most of the acts at most singers' nights. This isn't always a good thing - the flashes of brilliance and originality are often part of what gets lost when a performer's making the transition from doing it for love to giving a reliable show. Put it another way, you're less likely to be irritated at a paid gig, but more likely to be bored.


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Bobert
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 06:39 PM

Well, first of all, not all open mics are created equal... Some attrack real musicans and others attrack wantabees... Sop one has to keep that in some perspective...

Also, some are not all that "open"... Like I attended one several years ago in Leesburg, Va. and they folks there hadn't heard me and told me I had only 15 minutes... Hey, that was fine, but I got crankin' out some hard blues and the three backup jam musicans which play with anyone who wants 'um got seriously into what I was doin' and the guy who runs the open mic just told me to keep going as long as I wanted which was well over an hour... I have wondered ever since if there was a kid in the audience who had worked on his nerves for several days and wanted to play that night??? I hope not 'cause I been there... Okay, it was back in the 60's but I don't think any of us ever forget those first few performances... Maybe all the ones in between but not them...

Lately, I haven't had any desire to play night time paid gigs, like in bars or clubs, because the last regular gig in a club was at lodge at a popular ski resort... Them folks were mean... They made me play for 3 hours!!! That is mean... Yeah, I'm sure alot of folks love performing for 3 hours but not me... Two is okay... One hour is great... That is why I know play festivals... 50 minutes and yer done... That's another nice thing about open mics... Noone is gonna hold a bat over yer head and make ya' play on and on and on and on...

Another nice thing about open mics is that they are a great place to turn youngin's onto the blues, and open tuinings and stuff that their geetar teacher eitrher doesn't understand themselves or is not willing to teach the youngin' that stuff... I enjoy the teaching aspect that comes outta open mics...

Now I know I haven't answered any of the questions but hopefully threw a few other thoughts into the mix...

Bobert


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: M.Ted
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 08:12 PM

I may have told this story before, but there is an object lesson--

Many years ago, I lived near a college in the East Bay, and occasionally frequented a bar/pizza place on a street of bars, pizza places, cheap restaurants and used record shops (I told you it was many years ago).

This bar had a minimally attended, but congenial, weekly open stage in a downstairs dining room.It was cheerfully watched over by the shop's manager, who play and sang, and tended the bar himself. The cash register was seldom opened.

A couple years later, one of my band mates announced that he'd gotten us an audition at this very place. It seemed odd, because I did not recall that there was ever any paid entertainment.

We arrived, for our appointment and found the fondly remembered dining room packed with cheering patrons, and with a "list" of about ten performers and acts. We took the stage and, to our surprise, got no reaction from the crowd a all.

The new manager came over, and said, "The crowd was a little cold tonight. I'd like you to come back a couple more times, and and if you can get a good audience response, we'll definitely consider you for the weekend(paying) gigs.

We were not discouraqged, and bought a couple beers and stood over by the back door, where some of the other musicians were jamming.

A waiter who I recognized, came over, took me aside, and tipped me off.

It seems that, owing to the proximity of the college, there were many aspiring bands, all with enthusiastic dorm mates, and the new manager booked "auditions" on open mike nights several nights a week--promising gigs to the bands that got the best response over several consecutive weeks.

Each band brought it's own cheering section, which is how the place got so full, and they all drank a lot of beer. After a few weeks of auditions, the dorm mates would get tired of coming, the response would grow tepid, and the manager would blow the band off.

In reality, there was seldom entertainment on weekends,and when there was, acts from the open mike nights were never booked. However, the place was packed on weeknights--


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Bobert
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 08:53 PM

Yeah, that happens... It really does...


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Subject: RE: Open Mic or real gigs.
From: Genie
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 11:41 PM

Acorn4, your post brings back some very -- fond? -- well, let's say "vivid" memories of open mics back in the day!

And - while I don't know if this still goes on a lot these days - back in Greenwich Village, at Gerde's Folk City, back in '63, my first experience with open mics (called "hootenannys" back then) was this:
I signed up early and was scheduled to go on about 10:30 PM. Then all the "names" (the Tom Paxtons and others who were doing paid gigs at the bigger name, cover-charge+minimum clubs in the Village) kept coming over on their breaks and cutting in line, so to speak, eventually bumping me back to about 1:30 AM -- by which time I had had 5 gin and tonics and could scarely keep track of my lyrics, much less my chords, but the audience was in the same state so they seemed quite contented with my gawdawful performance, to the point where the experience actually BOOSTED my confidence enough to allow me to do a stone-cold sober performance at another "hootenany" at another club the following week.   The point of this story being that, yes, the "pros" and up-and-comers do (or at least did) use the open mics for promo and publicity for getting more paid gigs.


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