THE ART OF RUNNING AN OPEN MIC

Throughout my music-loving career I have visited open mics in many different states. I have seen some that are run so exceptionally well that they become extremely popular in just a few weeks and I have seen some that are run so poorly that I have left. There are some open mics that I would recommend to any performers – just beginning or pro. There are some that I would unfortunately never recommend. Below is a list of some of the important qualities (and actions) an open mic host should have.

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  1. A good host will NOT perform if the sign-up list is maxed out. I’ve seen hosts perform a 30 minute set and turn performers away because “there is not enough time for more open mic performers.” It’s fine for a host to play if the list is not at capacity, but if it’s at capacity – let your open mic performers have a go!
  2. A good host will shorten set times to fit every single performer in (or at least go out of the way to fit more people in). I have been to open mics where “regulars” will play one song instead of two or three if there are too many people signed up to perform. Or, everyone plays one or two songs less than usual. This saves more time. This way, everyone gets to perform! People travel a long way to perform at open mics and most of them practice hard before coming. They should get to play! A good host makes room for everyone.
  3. A good host doesn’t let their friends play longer than the other open mic goers. Keep it equal and keep it fair. This is good business practice for your open mic. You want people to come back, don’t you?
  4. A good host knows that time is sacred at open mics, especially at the more popular ones. Encourage your performers to tune their guitars before they get on stage. Start your open mic on time. Let performers know they are “on next” before they are actually supposed to be on the stage. Remind performers of the line-up so they have time to get ready and tune up. There’s nothing worse than watching people wasting time tuning on stage!
  5. A good host encourages performers to keep playing and continue to practice. They support the artist genuinely. They will not “boo” if the performer makes a mistake. They will continue to praise the performer so that performer will want to come back to the open mic and continue to develop and grow.
  6. A good host will keep track of each performers set time and have a time/song rule. Ex. “3 songs or 15 minutes…whichever comes first.” It doesn’t look good if one artist plays a song that is 10 minutes long and then two more songs that are 5 minutes long. The host needs to be in charge of keeping track of this!
  7. A good host will not allow any derogatory or hateful language and will remind the performers of this before they go on.
  8. A good host will tell the crowd to support the venues business. “Buy a coffee.” or “Give a tip!” “We cannot exist without the venue.”
  9. A good host gets to know the crowd and the performers and even becomes friendly with them. This bond allows people to be connected to the host and therefore want to come back to the open mic week after week.
  10. A good host is a happy host. A smile is important. Let the crowd know that you enjoy running the open mic. Good vibes will make your open mic survive and thrive.

If you have any suggestions for a good open mic or good open mc guidelines, please share them through a comment below! Thank you!

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