How to Not Waste Your Time at Open Mic

Open Mic: Worst Enemy or Best Friend?
Open Mics can really suck! As a new transplant to Philadelphia I’ve been hitting up alot of them – trying to learn the music scene, meet other people, and begin to get my foot in the door. Some Open Mics have been 3 hours of wasted life –  listening to music I don’t like by people I don’t know in divey bars I’d rather not be in. But on the flipside, some have opened the door to discovering great local artists, learning facts about the music scene that I wouldn’t have learned if I had just spent the evening on my couch, and have provided the opportunity to play for completely new ears in a completely new market.

Having visited more open mics than I care to admit in the last 6 weeks, I thought it would be worthwhile to write a post about how to use Open Mics to your advantage.

Talk to someone…anyone!

Dont just sit there. Make a friend. Find someone whose music you like, walk up to them and say ”hey, great set!” . Strike up a conversation and the rest is history. You’ll be surprised at how easy it can be to make a new friend. And…don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask if they can suggest other great open mics, places to play, or anything else you’re curious about. Whether you’re a newbie in the city, on tour with a free night in a strange town, or just blowing off some steam after a long day at work, Open Mic can be way more than getting on stage, playing 3 songs, and leaving.

Bring Business Cards

You’re meeting people, right? Why not give them a way to find you after you leave. Never underestimate the power of a business card. It’s so so so important.  Ask for business cards as well. If someone doesn’t have a business card but is willing to share their Facebook page with you, that’s just as good.

Give Your Shameless Plug!

When you’re on stage, share your information. Dont be afraid to tell people your website. You can give them your facebook, twitter, Instagram and Youtube as well, but it’s too much. The more informatin you give people, the less they remember. Stick with your most important site and leave it at that. And if you have business cards, they’ll do the rest talking for you.

Don’t Leave

Eww. Don’t be that person gets there at 8pm to sign up, leaves, comes back at 10pm when its your turn to play, and then leaves at 10:15 right after your set. You’re wasting your time.

Never Underestimate

One of the best things about Open Mic is that you never know who is in the audience. Not everyone is there just to play. You could be playing for someone who loves hosting house concerts, for someone who books for a major art festival in the summer, or for someone who curates events at Museums (that happened to me last night).  Your next gig is right around the corner and it could come from some random person in the audience. So never never never underestimate your audience.

Next time you go to open mic, use the above tips to capitalize on your experience.
Ok, so get out there and give it a try!







  • cletis carr

    great article. as one who has hosted open mics for well over a decade, may I add:

    be ready – find out exactly when you’re up, get out & tune your instrument, accessories, lyrics etc – early and quietly – don’t take up half the gig setting up.

    forewarn – if you have any unusual tech requests, talk to the sound crew well before your spot, as they may not have handy a 8.5mm reverse input jack, or a clip-on condenser mic, etc.

    be quiet and respectful – as you would expect others to be during your spot.

    glad to see the comment about not leaving right after your set, happens far too often and is an insult to the artists following you. unless you’ve a damn good reason, then mention it during your set – “I’d love to stay, you’re all so amazing, but my great-grandmother’s in hospital giving birth to quadruplets”, etc.

    be grateful – thank your hosts, stage crew, bar staff, other performers.