Open mic nights are becoming increasingly popular in the Australian music scene. For the audience, they’re a chance to see new talent before it hits the big time (many famous musicians started out doing open mic nights). And for performers, it’s a chance to replace the hairbrush in front of the mirror with a real mic and a real live audience.
Open mic nights are not karaoke, because they’re about original material rather than covers. If you’re a budding songwriter/musician who wants to try out their material on people outside your circle of family and friends, an open mic night is a great way to be heard and to get experience performing in front of an audience.
What to know before you go
Before you walk onstage and perform, you need to have prepared yourself well in advance. A little research and a lot of practice could save you a world of embarrassment and dramatically improve your chances of being well received. Pre-open mic night preparation tips include;
- Know what kind of open mic night it is – there are lots of different types of open mic nights (i.e. blues, rock, country, acoustic, electric, acapella etc), so pay the venue a visit and familiarise yourself with the vibe before signing up to perform there.
- Know your material – whether it’s a new song you want to try out or part of an existing repertoire, practice it until you can play it underwater or in your sleep because your task is to sell it to your audience, not just remember the lyrics.
- Bring your own gear – don’t rely on there being a guitar you can borrow or a spare tuner someone will lend you. Bring everything you might need such as picks, strings and a tuner. An open mic night means just that – a mic and possibly an amp if required, no roadies or backing singers.
- Be prepared – tune your instrument beforehand if you are playing one and arrive early at the gig, so you’ll have time to chill and acclimatise before your performance. If other performers are ahead of you, be supportive of their acts, regardless of how good or bad they are, as they could turn out to be part of your audience later on.
How to rock the mic
When the big moment comes and the host announces your name, just take a deep breath and get out there and do it. Don’t stress, because everyone in the audience knows it’s an amateur night and they’re not expecting great things from you anyway.
Worst case scenario, you’ll only embarrass yourself in front of a handful of strangers and hopefully learn a valuable lesson that you can put to good use next time. And if you give it your best shot and it turns out to be halfway decent, chances are you’ll get some genuine applause and positive feedback.
Some tips for rocking the mic include:
- Don’t make excuses – never apologise to the audience ahead of time for any fluffs you’re likely to make. This only creates an awkward atmosphere in which they’re waiting for you to stuff up. Just give it your best shot and if you make a blue, move on without dwelling on it and chances are they will too.
- Don’t worry too much about stage presence – this means don’t feel like you have to act cool and explain the amusing history behind a song to your audience. Just be yourself, introduce the song if you want to and let your talent do the talking for you.
- Be gracious – after your performance, thank everyone involved in making it possible including the host, the venue and particularly your audience. Being grateful for their support can encourage them to come and see you again in the future.
- Don’t leave after your performance – whatever you do, don’t perform and then go home, particularly if there are other performers after you. They have shown you the courtesy of watching your act and you should support them in the same way. And besides, it’s in your interest to hang around, as open mic nights are excellent networking opportunities where you can meet fellow musicians and make valuable contacts for the future.
- Learn from the experience – whether you do well or not so well, there is always something to be learned from your performance. Analyse the event in your mind, identify where you have improved or need to improve and you will come back with a better performance next time.
The most important thing about open mic nights is that you enjoy yourself. Good, bad or indifferent, give it your best shot and enjoy the buzz of making music in front of a real audience on a real live stage. After all, if you don’t have fun while you’re doing it, what are you doing it for anyway?
And if you’re looking for a great live gig venue, check out the Coolangatta Hotel. The Cooly is the home of live music on the Gold Coast, and we hope to see you soon!