Something is bothering me. I was playing a gig downtown and someone came and asked if he could get on stage and play. I had no idea who he was and was in the middle of a song so I told him no; partially because he was interrupting the show and partially because I didn’t know if he was a pro or just some drunken joker looking to show off for his friends. He spent the rest of the night talking loudly to anyone who’d listen, about what d**k I was for not letting him on stage. Everyone handles this sort of thing differently, but here’s my take. If you go to see a show, just relax and enjoy. Don’t try to hijack the stage. If you want a gig in the venue, submit your kit and do it the right way. If the performer asks you to play and if you’re feeling it, then go for it. As a performer, how you deal with people like this is your call and the call of the venue. Some places do not want just anyone on the stage while others have no problem with it.
As for me, let’s chat during the break and don’t get upset if I stay no. If you really want to jump on stage, get yourself a gig or go to an open mic. Speaking of which….
Open mics are big opportunities. As a participant, you can meet other players and collaborate with them. You can watch other performers and learn from them. It gives you a chance to try out new material or tighten up your show in front of an audience. You can find the missing piece of the puzzle to put your band together or find the McCartney to your Lennon. As a host, you get a lot of the same benefits but you also get a steady gig (and that’s definitely a good thing). You want to get everything you can out of the experience. The host and the performers have to team up to make that happen. Here are some suggestions to take full advantage of Open Mics.
Let’s start with the host…
• Get the word out: If no one knows, no one goes. Use every form of communication available, especially word of mouth.
• Have a flexible set up: Be ready to have different configurations on stage. Even if you’re hosting an acoustic open mic, be ready for duos, percussionists, banjos, barbershop quartets. Even if the venue provides the sound system, make sure they’ve got multiples of things like stands, mics, cables, etc. If they don’t have them, bring them with you.
• Put out the Welcome mat: Make the performers feel welcomed. Make it clear that you are glad to have them there to play. They are more likely to come out again if you set up a welcoming atmosphere.
• Run the Show: You have dual responsibility here. You have to keep the musicians and the crowd involved, while also keeping the venue happy. Establish right away the pace of the night i.e. how many songs each performer gets, set up time, etc. On stage, introduce each performer (make sure you get the name right, trust me on this one). Encourage them to promote their website/ facebook/ reverbnation page. During the first song, listen to the mix and adjust as needed. When they are done, get on the mic and encourage the crowd to cheer. Show energy and enthusiasm for the performers, even if the music isn’t your personal favorite.
• Thank EVERYBODY! The venue, the audience, the performers, the academy, your mom and anyone else who makes it happen. You want them to come back so make sure they want to come back.
And now, the performers…
• Get the word out: Get your friends and fans out to support you even at open mics. It’s a great opportunity for your fans to see you, as well as get exposure to other performers. And because you aren’t going to be on stage the entire time, it gives you great face time with your fans. Making a stronger personal connection with your fans is always worth your time. By the way, encourage them to do more than order glasses of water and eat the free bar snacks. The venue needs love too.
• Be flexible: Each open mic is a little different depending on the host and the venue. So be ready. Have 5 or 6 of your best songs ready. If you only get three, then you’re all set. If they ask for more, you’re covered. If you have an unusual set up or instrumentation, speak to the host when you sign up.
• Play well with others: If it’s an open mic with a full band, you may be asked to play with people you don’t know. Make sure you get everyone’s name. Listen well and play your part and give everyone a chance to shine. When it’s over, thank everybody you played with. Get off the stage as quickly as you can and make room for the next performers.
• Thank the host and venue: This one needs no explanation. Without the venue or the host, the open mic wouldn’t happen. Make sure you follow this one.
Take advantage of the opportunity open mics present. It’s worth it.