5 reasons why open mic nights are killing live music

Thinking of doing your stuff at an open mic night?

Think again - Open mic nights are an 'open' invitation for musicians to be exploited and are leading to the death of  paid gigs.

Don't believe us? Well here's 5 reasons why you should turn down the 'opportunity'

Reason 1 – they’re a bad advert for live music

One of the 'joys' of an open mic is that any old person can turn up with their penny whistle and strut their stuff. This means that your local pub is full of tone deaf half talented people who think they are the next Thom Yorke.

The problem then is that the watching punters think that's what live music is like and act accordingly. If you thought that a proper music night was going to sound like an open mic would you go?

Of course not.

Even the well attended ones tend to attract exactly the same sort of performers. Who wants to listen to 12 chaps with guitars, one after another all singing their break up songs in the style of Bon Jovi?

Reason 2 – they are populated by a self elected elite

Open mics are in fact nothing of the sort. If you are a mate of the guy (and let's be honest it's usually a guy) running the night then you'll get a great spot. If you're not then you won't.

New musicians feel intimidated by this macho clique and don't bother turning up, or if they do then they don't ask to go on the list as a refusal often offends.

If new people can't get a place to play then the local paid scene starts to look stale and samey. End of scene.

Even worse you'll find that a lot of the acts turn up, do their stuff then bugger off. They aren't interested in anyone elses music or indeed anyone else unless they are likely to become fans.

Reason 3 – The money for a live act gets taken by the compere

The professional compere turns up, takes the money and gets the artists doing all the work whilst he regales the young student crowd with anecdotes of when he was on tour with AC/DC (as their laundry coordinator).

Why the hell should a failed musician get the money when the real work is being done by people who actually have some talent?

At the very least they should split the money with the people who stand up and perform. But really lets' be fair 100,200 quid? Get four acts and give them £25-50 quid each at least.

Professional comperes suck money out of the business that should really go to hard working (and hard up) musicians. They are generally narcissistic and only in it for the money. Uninterested and unlikely to be particularly keen on what you've got to say unless you are telling them how great they are.

Reason 4 – the brewery is taking the piss

Open mic night? Great. Do we get paid? no you are doing it for the exposure.

Wake up, you're doing it for a multi national brewery chain. Forget the pretend antiques and old photos of the locality, the pub you are knocking your pipes out in is part of a conglomerate.

Ask them how many of the bar staff are doing it for the exposure. Ask them how many of the open mic acts are getting paid gigs as a result. Ask them which agents or managers or A&Rs have been invited along.

My bet is none.

You are being used as a method of channelling punter money into the coffers of a very rich corporation.

Ironically most of the money that ends up in a tax haven is in fact coming from the performers and the performers family themselves. See point 5

Reason 5 – They become background noise

One open mic night is interesting, two open mic nights are a scene, three hundred and seventy six open mic nights are just background noise.

Seriously though, how many OMN does a town need?

Having that many events not only turns punters off it ensures that the available talent pool is spread so thin that you can guarantee that at 20% of the nights they are trying to fill the space with anything they can get their hands on.

Jamming? Filling more like.

If you can't get decent talent along to an open mic event then the likelihood is that there are too many in your town and the punters won't bother turning up.

Check out the attendance - how many of the bored looking people are actually real life punters? How many are the drummers' designated driver or the singers' mum?

The whole point of this article (and it's counterpart) is to spur debate. I'm pleased to say it's worked although less pleased that people seemed to take it personally. Yes admittedly all of the points above are broad brush and simplistic but as the comments across the web have shown, nonetheless true and a problem around the world.

If live music is to survive then it is important that things like Open Mic, Pay to play, unscrupulous management and venues and all manner of ills that affect the industry are brought into the light.


175 thoughts on “5 reasons why open mic nights are killing live music

  1. What a crock of shit. You have just stereo typed every open mic a certain way. You sound bitter, twisted.

    So what! Is what I’d say to half your pathetic moans. So fucking what!
    So people like to go and play for free and just have fun….. So what!
    People don’t have to stay and listen, it’s up to them…… Insult them all you like but if there is something they like about it that’s them and you simply sod off if you do t like it.

    I love the variety…… I take the rough with the smooth. You get some great acts, you get some poor and everything in between. Some artists stay some play and go…. I don’t like that fact but I’m not going to be over dramatic about it…. The’re free to do that. They miss out on a feeling of fellowship, family, community with the other musicians and punters by staying.

    I play myself at open mics and am happy to do so. I know I’m not amazing but I’m not bad and I’m getting better. Its a great opportunity for people who have talent but aren’t set up to gig. There are some really good Open Mics out there but if you find one you don’t like you can leave. Easy.

    No way is it killing live music. It’s all choice. There is no forced taxation here. A pub wants to put on an open mic…. There choice, people want to play at them,their choice, people want to watch, their choice. There are plenty of pubs still paying bands and that is their choice……. This article stinks of one type or style of thing trying to destroy another to promote itself. Sounds Money motivated. Sad thing is that the truth is sometimes you get more talent and entertainment at an open mic from people playing for fun, not believing themselves to be a star or the next whatever but because they enjoy it………. Than they get from some live bands…… Swings and round abouts. What’s killing live music is TV, materialism, the love of money and more……. Open mic is live music.

    This article couldn’t patronise pub punters anymore if it tried.

    Totally biased,over the top, unfair, stereotyping crock of shit.

  2. I have seen some excellent young talent at open mics and I’m talkin young guys probably under the age of 20 play like real professional musicians. That’s cuz they’ve got real talent they were born with that talent and they were meant to play. This young talent is what’s going to make it in the future but unfortunately the insecure old jealous wannabes and I’m talkin the ones who host the open mics have no ounce of talent and want to be the main attraction.
    They are so insecure that they will play for hours and the young talent will play for maybe 10 minutes if they’re lucky.

    If you can’t handle real talent then don’t host open mics. If you’re that insecure and jealous, then don’t host open mics. If you were so unlucky and your time is up and are so jealous of young talent who still have a great chance at making it in the music industry, then don’t host open mics.

  3. Learn your craft. Do not just learn “some songs” Study the music. Learn where it comes from and why it does what it does. That requires patience, time and effort.
    …then take your music to an open mic night and try it out.
    Music is not “age-ist”. Music is not just anther consumerist construct. Musicians are not “acts”. Be part of a community. Playing/performing music is not a competition and you cannot go around adding and subtracting. How about this? Drive your PRIUS back to say, 1930. Get out, shut your mouth, open your eyes and ears and start walking…SLOWLY, up to 2020. You will hear things that will make your head spin. Now…get in the woodshed (aka, open mic night) and play. There are things you have been influenced by. Just play…use the open mic night to your advantage, exploit it…don’t let it exploit you.

  4. you hit the nail on the head and ive been thinking the same way for the last ten or so years, i came from an era where you could play five or six nights a week and actually make a decent living, now you would be lucky to get one or two paying gigs a year and the pay is about the same as it was thirty years ago and take inflation into account and its about like playing for free. the talent at most open mics is really low level and egos are really high. i dont go or participate in any because i believe it has all but destroyed the music business. my opinion only.

  5. I only read up to “any OLD” which told me the article was ageist, and therefore so must assume the writer must be. Consequently I refused to read it any further.

    1. you may be young and not know how vibrant music used to be and the crowds a band would draw.

  6. What sad people to think that open mics are killing live music, the facts are some pubs cannot afford to pay for a band or a professional musician plus open mics give new players a chance to get heard, I play at open mics for fun and at my own admission am not that good a guitarist that a pub would pay me £100 but have still managed to entertain open mics give a varied selection of styles rather than having to listen to metal band banging out long winded 17-20 minute tracks they are often fun when one of forgets the lines & I have also seen some really good musicians who play open mics because they have full time jobs with shifts that prevent regular commitments.

    1. If they think open mics are for crap amateurs then they haven’t been to one recently the standard at most open mic’s these days is very high.

  7. What a crock. Open mic nights aren’t just for amateurs, they are for everybody. And if you want to get paid so badly, go get a day job instead of whining about how you arent actually good enough to get a gig.

  8. Lol. I think if the audience/market can’t tell the difference between you ‘the professional’ and some people enjoying themselves (amateurs) then there is really an industry wide paradigm shift that we all just gotta deal with. Barrier’s-to-entry have all but disappeared.
    Bitterness won’t help.
    Open mic’s are here to stay. Embrace them. Be the guy that stands out. Be the one that people look up on facebook and start following.

  9. Reason 2 and 5 are definitely true. I go to a certain open mic and I’ve noticed that the MC likes to turn the volume down when it’s my turn. To the point where it’s barely audible.

    It’s not that I’m a really bad performer, but something else going on there. Maybe some jealousy? Of course when it’s his turn the sound is cranked.

    Gu who wrote this article made some good observations. The sad truth is that I can book myself slots at clubs for full sets and many times those can be even worse than open mic. At least the volume is generally good at those. Oh well. The solution is to spend time writing good material, then you always win. 😉

  10. In general I was never into open mics, but there was one that I ended up going to every week. It was a good place to meet other musicians and writers, a good place to develop friendships – and for a while it was the centre of my community. Most people I knew there wanted to be paid for what they did, but maybe weren’t quite as developed or confident as the professionals around town, and that ended up leading to a lot of frustration. Many of our conversations turned towards the problem of how to become professionals or how to progress as artists in a city that already seemed to have more than enough of both. However, it was an opportunity to try out ideas, talk songs and test new material: At least there was an audience at the open mic, which was an improvement on the gigs I had been doing (which were like singing in a vaccum) – and at least it was a regular chance to perform. After a while, though, it became harder to take myself seriously as an artist and a form of cynicism began to take hold: Songs weren’t finished properly and the care with which I’d practiced in the years before the open mic seemed to disappear. Perhaps there was a sense of dead end about the scene, and to my own progress as a musician. One by one my friends moved on and the place became full of new faces, which was how it should be. When I eventually stopped going I found, over a period of months, my frustration and cynicism ebbing away while my natural tendency to make what I see as art began to reassert itself more confidently than it had done in years.

    I think that both sides of the argument are correct and it really comes down to whether the individual musician is getting what they need from the situation. Are they learning anything – developing, growing – or are they stagnating, frying in frustration? The whole thing about exposure is, at best, hit or miss: People who play and sing are two-a-penny – hence the spread of open mics – and it’s difficult to not be swept away by that reality. Maybe the hook of exposure can lead us into playing (for free) everything and anything that is offered – and that, along with the over-saturation of musicians, drives down the value of music in general: After all, the rarer something is, the more value it holds. Most people I know (although there are a couple of exceptions) who are out and about playing professionally or at the musical cutting edge did not, and do not, really do open mics that much…

  11. Obviously a professional, the writer completely fails to grasp the notion of amateur pursuits.
    Does s/he want amateur music and theatre completely banned? If not, what exactly does s/he suggest?

    Also, if open mics are so universally crap, punters will presumably be happy to pay good money to hear good professionals.

  12. We run a open talent night in South Derbyshire and its starting to pick up speed. We wanted to make it different from normal open mics for example tho month we have singers, a band, comedian and a magician. We invite local venues as well to book the acts. This keeps growing as well. So open mice don’t have to be just free entertainment for the venue it is the opportunity for acts of all varieties to get booked.We provide a free drink and cake for all our acts. After they have performed if a venue is interested i will introduce them to performer. I just act as a mediator so no one gets ripped off.

    It is designed to support the local talent scene not just use and abuse it.

  13. I run an open mic night myself. My night is the complete opposite of what your saying. Obviously your reading this thinking that im gonna say that about my own open mic. Therefore action speak louder than words. Come and check it out. We are at the Fenton. In Leeds, uk. The pub is also part of the live music scene and we put on gigs upstairs where acts get paid. I am also the sound engineer there. So i do the sound for the open mic run the night and compare it. I am also a musician and we have jams aswell as open mic night acts. So i play in the jams two. I also promote nights atbthe venue where bands and acts get paid. I get my acts from the open mic and that involves giving new acts the chance to play

  14. I am ok with the author putting forward his limited opinion and calling it an opinion piece, however this is not the case.

    When you start basing reasons against doing something on a very narrow sample of opinions in the immediate vicinity, it is unreasonable to represent those opinions as fact, and indeed as a reason against doing something (this is clearly done in the second point of the article).

    I liken this to telling someone not to cook with an oven because you did once and burned yourself on the oven door. While there may be anecdotal evidence to suggest an oven can be dangerous, it is not true that it is unsafe to cook with an oven at all times.

    1. Shut up you fucking hipster, open mics are lame as fuck and your part of the problem

  15. LISTEN UP BROTHERS AND SISTERS! I have brought two young starters to open mics (I am an old pro) and it got them started, broke a few misconceptions, gave them confidence to take on selling themselves to the tour or booking guys for supports etc. Four years later both are signed. Not sure what the problem is. But if you have have been doing them for 10 years and never had a paid gig yet maybe music is trying to tell you something. Not all are the same though. Suggest doing some research and using the good ones for your own career development, sparingly.

  16. This article is garbage ! Tons of musicians that dont have the time or means to play their own shows are given an opportunity to play music and do what they love/network/get exposure or just have fun through the opportunity of open mic gigs. This article and list is the kind of elitist crap that is the epitome of the bad side of live music. I’m the fromtwan of a band that headlines shows and books our own gigs and is becoming pretty successful and we utilized the community opportunities of open mics in our local scene starting out and we still love to play and hear open mics. As a person who also has worked my day job in the music industry at successful music venues I’ve heard pretty awful bands there too who have gained a following somehow that I don’t understand also. But open mics are a healthy coming together of tons of different a artists of genres skill levels etc who play in an environment stripped down of the things like money and elitism that makes live music in other scenarios less authentic.

  17. Obviously It is upsetting if you are not getting any paid gigs. I hope your fortunes change soon. I can understand the inclination to pinpoint the reasons why. You may want to look at the various external factors: It may be It’s because there are open mic nights on instead, maybe its the brewery maybe its the compere. maybe its a combination of these. or maybe it’s because you’re shit. Just saying,

  18. Going to the wrong nights I think. Spent years in a four piece band, lugging gear into Manchester, being offered gigs in big venues on Bank Holidays but having to sell 50 plus tickets so it’s nothing more than ‘pay as you play ‘ and we never really earned anything other than petrol money.

    Now, much older and wiser, we set off as a two piece to a few local nights, enjoyed the atmosphere and people, been offered a few paid gigs by Landlords including one fairly regular spot that is a great earner for us…so our experience has been a positive one and we’re busy right up to Christmas. There’s value in open mic’s if you want it. Can’t help but feel there’s a but if music snobbery going on here….

  19. I dont think open mics nights are the cause of anything, there a response, open mic nights are what logically followed the death of the music industry as a whole, supply and demand dictate value, and the worlds been building up the quantity of music (songs, ect) since 1888, and when looking at things in a S&D view we need to consider consumers drive as a way of choosing the scale, in this case the scale is large, so entertainment as a whole, so not only is new music in competition with itself & older music, its in competition with gaming, Netflix, and the like, that many options brings the value of the music WAY down to the young consumer, so they stay home and play call of duty, and with poor attendance comes no profit, which means there’s no base money to pay a band, which leaves the open mic night,. where you will un coincidentally hear a lot of classic rock, and now a bit of grunge, as that’s the demographic mainly attending, and the state of live music, and its only going to get more like this, sorry, lol

    1. Interesting thoughts, good reality check and nice place to start thinking about what musicians are actually up against. Makes you wonder whether some of the golden periods of music were more a case of creativity flowering because there’s a sort of cultural\commercial vacuum to be filled. I mean, to be mega controversial, was it easier for the Beatles, Stones etc to expand creatively because of the environment?

  20. we call them jams here in texas. and i hate every one of them. years ago great local players used to stop by a friends gig and sit in providing a special treat for the audience. then well known local pro acts would have a house gig at a club and invite local celebrities to come sit in and jam. those were the days when club owners knew the difference between professional and amateur players. now most of the club owners don’t know the difference. they just know that these no playing wannabes want to host a jam and bring all their no playing friends out to jam and drink lots of beer. something that they should be doing in their garage at home like i did when i was growing up trying to better my skills. then before you know it that club falls by the wayside because eventually the new wears off and nobody wants to go to that club because the bands were so bad. jams have cut the throats of all the working dallas and ft worth players and bands. most of the venues hire the wannabes. they’ll take the gig for lesser money. now days a lot of people don’t know the difference and cheer these wannabes on. granted everybody deserves a chance and there are those special players that can play from the get go but that’s just not the case for the majority.

  21. I agree. I am a professional musician in my area. I host an open mic purely for the paycheck. Let’s be honest, if we were making it with our own music, we would not take these hosting gigs. I am in a great music scene with a lot of work, but us professionals and ones that have been around are still getting the work. It’s all fine if this is a fun outlet, but no one is getting booked for a night from their 15 minute slot at open mic.
    It’s not an audition. I don’t pick favorites. It’s open mic, someone will suck. Other than that I’d say this write up is spot on.

  22. Uh.. this is the biggest bunch of horse shit I’ve read all day! Open mics are what’s killing live music? Yes, I agree, sitting through an open mic night can be torture. But it’s nothing more than a night that a bar has deemed as “dead” and therefore they get people who wouldn’t normally get to play in front of a crowd, a place to play. Typically, the only people listening are the others who are waiting to play. No harm no foul. It isn’t hurting live music AT ALL… because it’s not REALLY live music. It’s not marketed. People who are wanting to see live music do NOT seek out open mics.

  23. I think an open mic night is good for one thing and that is trying out a song in front of an audience. But unfortunately most open mic nites are exactly what have been described above.

  24. I think open mics are great for people who aren’t lucky enough to know other people that play music to interact and share …
    I myself, started my career by going regularly to such an event. It is there that I realised that my guitar skills were shit, and in no way suitable for playing in a band. That’s what motivated me to become better. I also met a lot of great people from whom I’ve learned a lot. With some, I’ve even started bands.

    If you don’t approve of open mic nights, just don’t go to any!! It’s THAT simple. If you are talented and think open mic nights are stealing your “punters”, maybe you’re not working hard enough.

    In my town – Bucharest – there are a lot of gigging bands who have plenty activity and, occasionally, some turn up to open mic nights – or “jam sessions” how we call them.

    Check out my band, Salmastra. I know we’re far from being “pro”, “entertainers” or super-stars, but we’re slowly getting there. However, playing in an open mic night got me to where I am now.


    1. Lemme guess, your band isnt around any more? Thats good because you are talentless hacks who fucking suck! Just give up favor, and what is with that name? Good god do the world a favor and eat a pile of shit you fucking posers


    JAMS are taking away our Music!

    We no longer reside in the “Entertainment Capital of the World”, it is now known as: The DeeJay-Karaoke-DamnJam-WheresYourFollowing of Sin City!

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE gigging and will continue to perform as long as there are still places left that RESPECT us, treat us fairly, and understand that for many music IS their Career and Life Long Passion!

    We are much wiser in our choice of venue; it may mean less gigs but they are better ones.

    And couldn’t agree more with Kerry, wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  26. Ran across point#2 here at the local, where the “self elected elite” would make most sit and “enjoy” their senseless dribble, hour after hour. Next up is some other elitist, who fronts so and so band….. This forces any fool waiting long enough to consume overpriced wine, till good and drunk enough to perform if finally given the chance, to play like crap after hours of anticipation and imbibement. Being said fool on a couple of occassions, quickly realised the scheme, and the shite people who devised it. Also realised that said elitists, don’t have to get up and do the day job in the a.m., allowing “real people” to suffer all the more. They masquerade as real people, but they just suck on the teet of the establishment…..good “work” if you can get it.
    Sad really as, a practicing musician with improving chops, whould like to entertain folks who enjoy music and frequent such events……especially the cute female ones…….but, I digress…..
    I’m done typing…..my one finger is tired…….

  27. Disagree – Having run an open mic at our local pub for 3 years – Have seen some top talent and the ones that weren’t so good at the start have flourished through the opportunity of playing in front of an appreciative audience. There is plenty of room for all levels of musicianship at an open mic, which is the whole point of the thing in the first place. The descent ones will always be able to get gigs and the ones that aren’t will get their 15 minutes of fame at the open mic.

  28. Let’s face it live music in general is dead. And that which you can find is the same set lists week in week out of the same music you listen to on the radio. The same Mumford and sons crap over and over again. The auto tuned coon bop has won. Sadly.

  29. Open mic nights if run properly are a place for songwriters to test out the strength of their tunes without hiding behind a band. If people don’t listen and start talking, it’s a re-write. Open mic nights don’t have paying punters so of coarse there is no money to pay the musicians. If you want to earn money, book a venue and sell tickets. Yes, you the band, not the promoter.

  30. I do an open mic night at my bar but always take care of the musicians that come along. I may be a little different because I am a musician myself. But I don’t think it’s all about a pub using musicians to get money. When I started out I did gigs for free to get exposure for myself which came about me getting many gigs for myself over many years. And it’s a great night to get together with other musicians and have a jam. That’s what we do

  31. If musicians giving their music away for free is such a great idea how come pubs don’t do it with beer and food for the exposure. This whole concept of music for free undervalues musicians and does exploit. My local pub pays his bands and refuses to do open mikes because he says it would undervalue the pubs reputation as a venue. It has a very large garden and in the summer he will have literally thousands of people there(you can see pictures on the net, the pub is The Brasenose Arms Cropredy),he pays for the bands by putting a few extra pennies on a pint.He has bands from America Canada and Europe playing as well as bands from within the local area, thats how you promote and respect music.He transformed a poorly attended pub that now and again put on a covers band, into a thriving venue putting on music every Saturday, as a result of his approach.!.. .

  32. This crap is being around for decades here in the US. That’s why there is no more “scene”! Please don’t let this “cancer” spread out in Europe too! US bands are looking at Europe as a haven of true fans and music lovers and striving to tour one day there. Start calling out this bullshit right away!

  33. Live music, (at least where I live) is a dying art, The majority of the pubs that used to put on live music have now become gambling venues, or have shut down and been converted to flats! Those that are left host middle-aged 80’s cover bands or a guitarist and amateur(ish) singer with a rack of backing tapes, (Karaoke well upholstered ).

    there are a few placed that put on new music for young bands, but the bands are required to pay for the slot ( one way or another) and usually make up for their lack of skill with an abundance of enthusiasm and volume.

    Open mike nights here, for the above reasons, are largely redundant, and almost extinct, save for a few blues clubs, and maybe a few old time pubs in the country, where talent is rare and distant. I miss those, but can’t help feeling we’ve done this to ourselves, the truth is, there’s nowhere to go forward with anything, as the live music scene is already an old boys network.

    There’s more to it than what your article points out, and it’s true, some of the OM nights were exactly as you say, but sometimes something good came out of them, for some small part, the likes of some of our local bands ( ac/dc, Little river band etc) might never have started but for those open mike night s

  34. Performing requires practice just as playing does. Where else but a live mic can a player just entering the live music scene get practice? Music is about sharing, whether you make a living at it or not, and if only the experts or established professionals got a chance to do it, I think we’d be all the poorer for it.

    Of course anything can be abused. It’s up to the host to help keep the talent in perspective–an introduction as a first time player, a word on the performance when it’s over, an audition requirement, etc. Live mics can be horror shows or constructive experiences, depending on the venue and how they’re handled.

    I’m speaking from the POV of someone who will never be good enough to inspire audiences to pay in advance to hear him, but with hard practice might eventually be able to entertain them a bit.

    1. I would like to run a open mike night and was just wondering how much do i charge the brewery?

  35. It comes down to instant gratification. People see themselves as performers after taking part of an open mic night. Then they boast to their friends when they drive past a venue. Oh! “I played there”

  36. Where I live, pubs usually have their open mics, circle jams, and stuff like that on slow nights in the early to mid-week and paid acts on Fridays and Saturdays or special occasions like St. Patrick’s Day, etc. I think that’s reasonable. I don’t see why it has to be one or the other. Certainly, some open mics are better than others though. I’ll agree with that.

  37. You are talking a load of bollocks and I am surprised you are a musician. Did you play acoustic when you started and did you sing? I doubt it, you were prob a spotty fat teenager playing crappy lead hiding behind a PA. I’m 34 years old and I only started playing acoustic guitar and singing 3 years ago. Before I started playing I had only sang at a karaoke night every now and then. Around 8 months ago I plucked up the courage to do my first open mic night. I was so shit scared the first time it was an absolute car crash, my hand was shaking so much that I couldn’t play and my body was so rigid from nerves that my voice wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. 6 months later after persevering and pushing myself to get up I started to slowly improve. 2 months on and my confidence is coming on really well, I now look forward to getting up rather than having a strange feeling of determination and dread at the same time. I have now set up my facebook musician page and I have my first paid gig booked in, this has all come from playing open mic nights. No matter how long you practice at home in your room there is nothing better for your confidence than playing in front of other people. Keep your opinions to yourself you mug!

  38. Dunx.2014.

    If, like I do,
    someone has an innocent need for a place to share what they are helplessly inspired to do, and for those whom wish to share their creative hard work & efforts to perhaps gain some credibility, support & encouragement in their art form, (whatever that may be), so that they can develop, where there are few other opportunities elsewhere to do so,..
    then there is obviously a needed place for an Open Mike stage.

    This is not the X factor.
    Don’t be daft !

    Pubs only entertain that which will increase their business. Of course they do. They are businesses.

    But i truly believe that the whole concept works to help support a musical, poetical and creative community.. with the benefits of aspiration, inspiration, confidence building and a very helpful, useful, rehearsal space for any artist.
    (Audience included!)

    I truly believe in the Open Mic experience, and will not hear otherwise.

    Hoot your hearts out people !!!


  39. I can see some of the points, but not where I go now… some places I have been to historically in my were like that. But I also had the benefit of “growing up” with different “proper” jam sessions in my town rather than “Open Mics” which were different. My first was run by Snake from Tobruk and he was a legend at it… everyone got a go, everyone got to look and sound good…even the kids who were learning and you always got a “you kicked ass” and a free pint for having a go… some of the other jams weren’t as open, more cliquey and if you weren’t into Blues for example then you were gonna struggle….

    I was pleased to see the first jam tradition is still going on my last visit home, to the point I ended up singing American Idiot with a great bunch of teenagers… and I was right back to 11 years ago when me and my friends at Snake’s jam were the first to play it in our town…it was great! Yet the same blues guys were coming in to take over at 9 for the “main slot” so little changes there…

    As someone who only sings it’s harder to walk into a place cos you either spend forever trying to find stuff you all know or have to end up doing stuff you’re not as comfortable with to fit in… but it’s all experience and from that you grow and meet people who do know some songs you know… then you become one of the group so there is no real “cliquishness”.

    I’ve been to some great nights in Colchester, Swindon and Birmingham along the way and all were inclusive, fun and well run and supported.

    Sure the venues are probably getting a better deal out of it and the “free pint” tradition is something that should be still going in many places.. but at the end of the day it’s no different than having Karaoke where good singers go regularly, it’s like a free gig sometimes,.

  40. To me, it sounds as though you’re just a bitter, entitled old curmudgeon who thinks he’s being short-changed on his baseless, grand dreams of success.

    Open Mics are not for big exposure or a cut of the pie. They’re for fun and a chance to get up in front of a forgiving audience. That’s it. If you expect more, you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

  41. https://soundcloud.com/redcell-duo/bad-things I’m newly part of the open mic scene and don’t feel intimidated by all the ‘macho’ guys!!! I also really don’t think I’m of a mediocre calibre! I am well aware that the breweries benefit from my talents and training..and this is an unfortunate by product of open mic nights…….however I love singing and performing and some of us don’t get the time and opportunity to demonstrate our skills on any other platforms.

  42. Excuse the language but this is the biggest crock of shit i’ve read in years. As a participant at open mics in Bournemouth (and elsewhere) and a strong advocate of them, this is just criminally flawed. Maybe speak to performer and organisers before panning something that is a lifeblood and joy to many people…
    If it wasn’t for the likes of Si Genaro and his welcoming nature (who seems to, although unnamed, take a lot of slack from this article) i wouldn’t have had the courage to get up and perform to an audience. I may not be the most talented individual but my experience has only ever been of a nurturing and friendly environment.

  43. Get over yourself , there’s more than enough room for everyone, I’ve just plucked up the courage to start singing due to an open mic and am now having voice coaching, where else would I learn the craft of mic work and stage performance, seems to me there are a few artists with more of a diva attitude than they should have .

  44. I don’t agree with your article at all. i host an open mic and I am NOT a douchebag to new people as you mentioned in your article. Also, I am not a guy. A lot of artists from my open mic started playing there to get their feet on the ground and have now gone on to forming groups and playing pro gigs. Sometimes we have pro’s even famous people get up and do a song or two FOR FUN!!!! I am a working musician and I expect to get paid for my booked gigs. I advise other musicians who WANT to be working musician to get contracts, riders and get paid gigs. For those who are just good players and want to get up and do a song or two and not make a career out of it, there is always Open Mic. If you’re a musician who feels threatened by Open mic nights, you are extremely insecure and maybe you should re-consider your own choices. Open mic is a recreational activity that people can participate in voluntarily. I think whoever wrote this article has a less than successful music career and is looking for someone to blame.

    1. I think it is a bit harsh to level personal insults at the guy because what he points out is commonly true.

      Many pub managers are looking for a cheap/free way to get people in pubs in a quiet night and would rather avoid the cost of booking a band so they usually get a locally known performer (with loads of musician friends) to host an open mic night for a nominal fee (free beer or cheaper than a band).

      I have seen it happen in many places, so I understand his opinion.

      On balance: there are some genuine, local venues who do open mic nights as a platform for upcoming and established artists/performers and try approach it fairly. There is always a bit of bias towards their friends, but as long as everyone who wants to play gets a fair shot then so what?

  45. This article was written to spur debate and to drive traffic to this website, just like most articles are, sometimes the author of such an article gets a little carried away with the overall tone of the piece and goes in a little harder than perhaps they should, quite often this happens to new and inexperienced authors. Once the article is published the author must stand by what he or she has written, as does the editor, this appears to be the case here. From a musicians standpoint, it appears to be an attack on one single facet of the live music gamut, from a cynics standpoint it’s nothing more than a massive targeted trolling designed to provoke the reaction that it has already received.

    1. Yes, the article is designed to be controversial, however, what I enjoyed were some of the points – which I have witnessed, but others from people below talking about getting to know other musicians, getting the chance to try stuff out, and grow their style, actually have an audience, albeit mainly other musicians. It really does vary on the event, some are very much everyone listens, and others it´s just background noise. But there´s always a couple of people listening. In general I think the attitude of the person organizing it is key, that they make sure they introduce the acts properly, and that it´s not an old boys club.

  46. oh man….. *facepalm* The responses here are an interesting read for sure. The writer of this article seems a little bitter. Yes, I attend these from time to time, not as much as I’d like to but when I do I have FUN at them, I’ll get up to play, I’ll stick around and listen right to the end and not “bugger” off like some do after their 15 minute spotlight slot is over. Not all bars host them here and the ones that do aren’t doing it every night of the week, they might do one and use the rest of the weekend for gigging bands to do their thing too. The success of an OM depends solely on the house band that runs them. It’s not a competition up on the stage either. No one should feel that. If you show up to play, you’re also showing up to support the players ahead and behind you getting up as well. I speak for many when I say this, but it’s a pretty good bet people go to bars to have a good time, if they want to see a “real” band play there’s a dozen bars in town somewhere that’s doing it, if they want to attend an open mic, there’s a few that are doing it as well. No reason to cry a river about it because you think they suck. They’re obvisiously not for you then so please, take your negativity elsewhere and just go where YOU want to have fun. To say Open Mics are killing the music scene in an area instead for real bands playing and getting paid decent, I’m calling mis-management on the bar or the host band not running it right or that you just live in a shitty town/city.

  47. What significance does the event organiser’s gender have when you yourself said anyone who is friends with them can get a slot? Are you implying that women can’t be friends with men? In fact, many would argue that being female would give you an edge when trying to charm a male event organiser…

    Apart from that, I don’t really get what point your trying to make with reason number two? I’m guessing it’s just more banal, feminist “waah-waah” victim-complex drivel? The fact that there are fewer female artists in open mic nights is not a disadvantage. If anything, it’s an advantage. In open mic’s, female artists usually get the biggest applause, because – while I don’t doubt their talent – it’s simply an exciting and rare novelty for the audience to see a female performer for a change. Remember, the goal in this industry is to stand out, not blend in.

    Don’t fall into the feminist trap of letting this natural disparity convince you that gender discrimination is afoot, because that’s bullshit, and you know it is. While it might be tempting to blame things in life that you don’t like on a “glass ceiling”, consider this: equal opportunity does not necessarily mean equal outcome.

    1. They get the bigger clap because females will tell other females they are amazing just because they’re female and the men want to shag them.

  48. None of the (seemingly embittered) reasons you give are anything to do with “5 reasons why open mic nights are killing live music” – they’re just reasons why you don’t like open mic evenings. Or rather : why you don’t like the ones you’ve been to.

    I’ve seen people go from the early stages of learning their instrument to being a master, using open mic and jam nights as a vehicle when starting out. One fella is now currently on (paid, full-on well attended) tour in Europe. Another has gone fro just singing but a bit frightened of guitar to grade 8 guitar. Another was coming to jam nights for 2 years before he summed up the courage to get on the drums -but when he finally did he blew our socks off, and he LOVED it.

    You say that’s killing live music ?

    Furthermore, yes there can be some durge at open mic events but sometimes just by chance you’ll get something truly magical, be it a combination of mood or people involved – whatever. The randomness generates good and bad. If you don’t like it, don’t go.
    Sometimes it isn’t by chance. Some people who play at open mike events are truly gifted, and play just because they want to.

    Regarding “Proffesional comperes” : Er – no. Where did you get that idea ? There are LOADS of open mics around my town, 99% run by enthusiastic amateurs and yes they should get paid for it.

    How many open mics does a town need ? As many as it wants. Since when was your opinion on that relevant ?

  49. I like the idea about the exposure
    comment you made, no industry types will be there, that is true. I do agree that OMn is not the best situation. But many times it’s the only way to break into a club. In the states most places are privately owned. But it still yanks one’s chain to see a bar full of patrons, knowing they could afford to pay more, and don’t. There is a strong sense that people just don’t value art.

    The advantage of the system is that if someone does come in that has something and really shines then they will be noticed. If it is clear that the club is completely and on purpose ignoring that talent then the artist won’t stay. I’m sure that happens somewhere but it’s not really to the club’s advantage to foster that atmosphere.

  50. As someone who has been a performing artist for 30 years , Run a venue for 15 years and a small record label I can say without doubt this article is absolutely nonsense and a complete generalisation. some open mics may have these issues most are well run and most decent music venues are often free houses or venues run by individuals . I think you may have spent too much time in London . get out more maybe come to Katie Fitzgeralds in Stourbridge !!

  51. OK Firstly I am not going to hide behind fake names or places, many will know me, I am Graham owner of Badlands Guitars in Brighton. For 8 years Suzy & I ran a blue jam night, an open mike night tailored to blues, providing a band and vocals for those that required it, we saw young and old play from total beginner to seasoned pros. As a result we spawned several bands from players meeting and the jam continues today. It had been running 3 years prior to our taking it on, and we are another year since we stopped. The night was always well attended by friends and public alike, several of the players were given paid gigs by The Horse & Groom pub where it was hosted (and still is). We did the night for the people, for music….not for financial gain, people networked and from this came more projects and great friendships.
    I take on some of the comments that there are some badly run nights and poorly attended nights, this is more down to bad organisers, run it well and it is more likely to succeed and if it does the winners are the players.

  52. No… No… No…. and a million time no! What a stupid article. My time at the open mic (Roots Night) at the Railway in Winchester fuelled my passion for live music, it helped create a local scene and triggered some great friendships.

  53. I think it depends on the city. A popular city OMN can be useful. It was for me and many of my comrades. I did OMN every week for a little over a year before people started hiring me. Now I am a full time musician and have been for 3 years even doing many gigs overseas. And btw I am a female keyboard player…

  54. Let’s be honest regardless of who can play and who is out learning their craft it’s the pubs that are making a bad job of this. Of course it has always been if you know them you get on and pick your time slot but if you are determined enough you will get on because this is the nature of the business you are landing yourself in, not to be loved and make money but purely because you want to be heard and get some kind of feedback if you are good or not – unless you live up your own hole and believe you are better than everyone combined, in that case stay in your bedroom and sing to yourself.

    Back to the pubs – they have got lazy. They don’t even offer the performer as much a class of orange juice, infact if you want that, you have to pay. Let’s not go down the road of ‘if I had to pay every performer’ – I am talking about a hospitality drink, after all it is us providing your entertainment. You want us to bring our friends, who the hell wants to sing to their friends all the time? Sure it is all about performing to be heard by punters – and here’s the point unless you do something to bring the punters in, as in work to promote the songwriters night, do drink promotions and generally do everything to make it successful then it will flourish but this notion of songwriters bringing their own crowd is pure lazy….and right back at you, if you want the crowd then show some hospitality!! If the songwriters isn’t working then get back to the days when you paid for a decent enough performer or band to come in and stir up the crowd in your bar enabling everyone to have a good night, or keep it to the performer you have now on that is not long out ‘learning their craft’ that you put on the stage for £20 on a Saturday night with a few beers – any wonder your bar is empty? Why should I put my winter coat on and bring all my friends to yours? When I could simple sit beside the fire with a lovely pint in the front living room, FACT! Exposer can be got in many areas and we all know it always comes to those who work hard and never give up and this little songwriters night deserves better planning for all the pubs in the street so that they alternate it a bit rather than five pubs in the one area, on the same night doing the same thing with unpaid entertainment….if you want your bar busy midweek, then rethink and be passionate about it!!

  55. Was this article written for The Onion? If not, congratulations to the author for the most off base, biased, and unresearched article I’ve ever read. No wonder he had a bad experience, being that it was at a brewery, of all places, but he shouldn’t generalize about open mics. Almost none are like that. I played open mics 4 times a week for 10 years, working on my craft, along with a whole bunch of other songwriters who were all good enough to eventually have national touring and recording careers. Open mics have given so many artists a place to develop and a real sense of community. They provide an encouraging environment, yes even for the tuneless raw beginners and tone deaf old-timers. New material can be tried out in a safe setting, in front of friends and fellow open mic’ers. A weekly or monthly open mic gives folks a reason to practice, write a song, or learn new tunes. I’ve literally been to well over a thousand open mics, and I’ve rarely ever seen performers play their own songs and just leave. And the sign ups are always first come first serve, by lottery, or by pulling names out of a hat. I’ve never seen the host assign prime slots to his or her friends. And I for one have no problem with the host being paid a decent wage. It’s a 4 hour gig. The host has to be present for every song, has to adjust mics, plug in guitars, announce who’s next and who’ll be after that, and usually play several songs. Sometimes it involves setting up the PA and operating it. Sometimes it involves BRINGING the PA. Open mics are a blessing to a whole lot of people.

  56. I go to about 50 different concerts and music event each year. Paid the bands but a cover and high price beer gets old and expensive after a while . Each week we have two different venues that have open jams and or mic nights. Beer is cheap but you get what you pay for but it is fun one a month.

  57. I think your points are hit and miss. I agree that a glut of open mics wash out the band scene and when you see the same characters, people who maybe don’t suck but never seem to be in a band, playing their same handful of blues songs at every single open mic you start to groan the moment they turn up. There is a reason they are never in a band with real gigs. They are assholes and/or their timing is so bad they only sound good playing with, I mean, by themselves.

    OTOH, I have been between bands on occasion and find release in hitting an open jam to get my ya yas out. It is how one networks, finds other good players between gigs and forms a new band. When one of your guys flakes, is told by the wife with the new baby that he has to quit or goes to Disney land for a year or so, you go to an open jam to audition a replacement. It is better than parading God knows what into your studio to have your time wasted.

    Two more things to consider. I have seen newbies brought out to open jams by their parents to play with the oldbies. I had a 15 year old kid ask me if I knew any Clapton or Santana. I’m 51, of course I did. Why did he? It was great. Where else would he get to play that stuff? None of his friends would know it. The other thing is that some of my friends don’t have day jobs. They scrape by on whatever gigs they can get and during the week it is hard to get a regular show. If they co-host a couple of jams around town it is a regular paycheck, such as it is. These are the positives. Back to the bitching.

    Host musicians always seem to be putting a band together bit by bit each week. They add songs and actually waste open mic time getting their opening set tight. Eventually they have enough for 3 sets, pick a name and book a show. Meanwhile people don’t come back to their jam because by the time they get up they are restricted to 2 songs because the host band played half the night and then got their best buddies up first. I’ve been early, sat 3 hours and never got my turn. It is a work night. “Thanks for waiting patiently, Dean, we can get you up for 2 songs and I’m sure my girlfriend and that last drunk guy at the bar will dig them.” Wow thanks guys. Definitely worth sitting through 3 hours of extremely white blues in A.

  58. Reason 2 may have some legs in my experience, but open mic nights are also for people with the balls who want to have a go. As a musician, I find it hard to criticise anyone who stands up and has a go and I prefer to encourage them, as I would rather listen to fledgling muso’s than listen to some bonehead shouting at a pub tv because a ref has made a bad decision or one of the millionaire players has scored a goal.

    As to the money, what money? By the time you have driven your van to the venue, set the gear up, played the gig, set down and gone home, most of us are definitely doing it for the love!

    We need more live venues and pubs need more support and any pub that does open mics and live gigs gets my support

  59. Fay Spooner, that has to be one of the saddest things I have ever read. I can think of a couple of Eng Lit undergrads who would probably comment on this but I would imagine they can’t be bothered.

  60. Open mic nights are an opportunity for solo acts to get started at the very least. You can try some new songs as well so if you do get a gig then ur all set. Plus there’s not many venues that would pay you to play original songs if like me prefer playing my own stuff as people only ever want to hear covers. The only thing that let’s open mic nights down is the people who only turn up just before they play then either piss off straight afterwards or sit outside with their mates and pay no attention to the other acts who may or may not be any good but it might be their first gig and need the encouragement to keep coming back thus improving over time.
    Maybe he should write about the xfaxtor. That’s killing live music. Well just music in general.

  61. I Attended a few of these a couple years ago, got a lot of work by performing at these open mics. Still playing many of the venues many years later on a regular basis.

  62. I think this article is just trying to ‘prove’ its point so misses out much of the story & focusses selectively, exaggerates, concludes and probably invents stuff to support its ‘angle’.
    I go to the OMN every other Friday in the Forest of Dean which Bob Smith (commenting earlier) comperes. It’s always a cracking night with variety, enjoyment and lots of fun. No crappy karaoke, the standard is high and the performers are there for the evening. I go to gigs too and would happily go and see gigs from lots of the acts I’ve seen at the OMN

  63. I don’t know what sort of open mics some of you lot go to. Here in West Yorkshire we have loads of quality open mic nights with a constant stream of very talented young people taking their first steps playing in public nurtured by some fine, generous and highly talented musicians who are willing to share their time and talent.
    Take our very local open mics to the west of Leeds and they have been the starting point for a host of solo performers and bands who are now playing to wider audiences all over the UK and all over the USA.
    They have played at some of the biggest festivals and venues here and in the USA and we are proud of them all.
    These guys have real talent but are not too up themselves to come back to those same open mic nights when not on tour and help the next generation along.
    Our fee taking comperes are the people who provide all the equipment needed and are good enough to perform high quality music all night if needs be. They help the new performers to settle in and offer support and advice.
    The confidence open mics have given our young performers is reflected in how many of them have gone on to become full time musicians.
    However, we do also have the regulars who work the day job and love to play live music in their spare time and who are encouraged and helped to widen their abilities by these pro musicians.
    Sure we could all do with the pubs offering a bit more money to the hosts to keep open mics going but we can surely all work out for ourselves which places are ripping musicians off and which are genuinely interested in helping to keep live music going and act accordingly.
    There are thousands of talented musicians out there, some never seeking to be pros but nevertheless talented, and we need open mics to give people a platform to perform in front of an audience.

  64. and most of the advertised nights on the left are OM nights, bite the hand that feeds you

  65. Stuart Wa****.. feed bait to people then have an out excuse too all ready to post hours after feeding the bait and doctoring email too what a Clever little boy you are does the child minder know your out …and only allow right to reply on page if you feel you would like to post.it. .. Oh . now i’ll post 5 good reasons for open mic… YOU ARE A JOKE FELLA

    1. I think yo know full well that I didn’t doctor your post.

      I suspect you are feeling a bit silly that you went over the top about a post that wasn’t about you from someone you’ll never meet.

  66. What is an openmic night.
    It’s a place where hopefully lots (say 20) of budding musicians go (mostly blokes) and a few friends, so they can play in public to see how confident they are and to see if people like what they play.
    What actually happens.
    The person who runs the evening (mostly a bloke) and also normally a musician gets up and does 2 or 3 songs while all the others chat amongst themselves, as they’ve all heard this person play so many times before, they don’t even bother to listen to him, even less so if he’s using a backing track as well. When the music goes quiet they know he’s finished his first song so some of them applaud, and often say “great song” even though they haven’t actually been listening. Then he mumbles something, which probably means he finished and wants somebody else to play.
    The idea is the others take it in turns to perform.
    There should be a written list of those who want to play (but often there’s not) so someone is called out to play next, so they get on the stage (if there is a stage), and spend the first 5 minutes tuning up their guitar, when they could have easily have tuned it up beforehand. The next couple of minutes is the performer saying 1-2-3-testing, while the sound person plays with controls that he (mostly a he) doesn’t really understand, but a noise comes out of the speakers so he’s happy.
    The first performer.
    The first person gets up, and if he’s with a friend, the friend might listen, but most of the others will chat loudly, and laugh a lot with the other musicians there, and as they’ve already heard this person playing at so many other openmics that they have visited in the last couple of weeks. So again, when the music goes quiet they know he’s finished his song, and often someone will say “great song” even though they haven’t actually been listening.
    The second and other performers.
    And so it goes on with mostly each one wasting time tuning their guitars (mostly guitars), and doing a song with a poor mix of voices and instruments, because the sound-mixing desk is at the side or back of the performer, so the sound-person has no idea what it sounds like where most of the listeners are. Just sometimes he (mostly a he) walks to the back to check, and if the instrument is just a bit too loud, he goes back to the mixing-desk, and pushes the instrument setting back far too much without checking again, but it’s only a openmic so what does it matter as not many are listening anyway, they are far too busy catching up, and all the others are chatting away, even the person who is running the open mic is chatting, and there’s some noise coming out of the speakers so all must be ok.
    Sometimes a musician (mostly blokes) really tries to impress, and after wasting time tuning up their guitar for the first song and finishing it, and it goes quiet and some clap, then decides to retune his guitar as he really wants to impress, so he wastes yet a few more minutes retuning, and then does another song. When that finishes it goes quiet, so yes, you guessed right, eveyone claps, and you guessed right again, he R-E-A-L-L-Y wants to impress so he retunes it yet again, driving everone nuts, and of course when the music goes quiet again, there’s lots of applause while pepole are still chatting, as they just do it instinctively when it goes quiet, and sometimes there’s whistles and whoops too, and congratulations from the others, even though they have not listened and have only heard some loud noise out of the speakers.
    If one of the musicians waiting there is getting bored (mostly blokes again) he may get out a Harmonica, or Mandolin or other weird instrument and start playing along from his seat trying to accompany the person on the stage, even though he hasn’t asked the person playing if he/she minds, but it does help that person playing relieve the boredom of the evening until it’s his turn to play. Of course he thinks he sounds great (mostly blokes) and then says how good he was on Facebook the day after, jamming along with the other person, and even posting pictures to show how this jamming stuff happened. Musicians are often like that, saying how good they are to their face, and patting each other on the back, but tell their friends how crap the person was. even though they weren’t actually listening except maybe to the others chatting away and drowning out the performer.
    Sometimes photographs.
    Sometimes the organisers post photographs of their openmic night (mostly badly taken) to try and show what a great a night they had, and others reply saying what a great night it was even if they didn’t go. I think the idea of this is to try and tempt more people to go to their next openmic, but often the photographs are so badly taken and show the singers looking totally bored or even in pain, (because nobody is listening) so the idea actually makes less people go to the next openmic.
    You notice the best openmic’s are the ones where the person in charge doesn’t have to keep posting reminders on this group every time it happens.

  67. Isn’t the simple truth in the description? Its an open mike night. In theory anyone can come along and have a pop if they so desire. There’s no money in it and the outcome will be what they make of it. It’s a simple choice. Either do it or don’t. There’s no obligation to support these things either by performing or attending. I would see it as an opportunity to try things out before actually putting your head on the block in front of a paying audience. Saying that I’ve never done one but have been active in the game for 50 odd years. Bad for live music … I think not

  68. some good points on both sides.However,if it wasn’t for open mike nights (for me ,on tusedays and thursdays)I would not have met the people I did,and would not be ,now,playing in a band and having a great time,and earning money,and have produced a CD.

  69. Absolute total bollocks and horseshit. I’ve ran a seriously busy Open Mic now every 2 weeks for almost 9 years and through it , I’ve personally been responsible for at least 2 dozen bands getting together and countless other ‘solo’ acts getting going and getting out there and getting paid gigs. The fella that owns the pub ALWAYS listens to the bands/acts and usually ends up offering a paid gig to 1 or 2 of the acts every week……NO ONE is allowed to leave my Open Mic after their turn . This isn’t a ‘written rule’ though…. it’s just the way everybody that comes to my Open Mics knows it is. If you were to turn up and then just piss off without supporting all the other acts it’d be the last time you ever played my Open Mic.Oh yeah…and the audience at the pub absolutely LOVE live music and go around the district supporting the bands and acts when they start to get gigs . Finally ? Yes I do get paid for doing it…and why shouldn’t I???? I use my very good quality PA and Mics and kit etc and lend out my guitars if anyone needs one and I run the whole night properly… making sure every act gets clapped and cheers…yes ..even if they are shit …No-one is ever bad mouthed at my Open Mics and EVERYONE is encouraged no matter how rough or amateurish they are …I use my good name in the district to pull the people in ..both musicians and punters and that means that all the players play to a packed pub EVERY session. and Oh yeah …one more thing……I’ve been a relatively successful semi pro musician for the last 35 years so …why the fuck shouldn’t I get paid for what I am damn good at ?.

    1. Totally agree with what you say there Bob, and that’s why I come to the OMN as often as I can 🙂
      I think the writer of the original article must live somewhere a bit crap

  70. So let me get this straight. Open mics are elitist cliques where anyone can just get up and play; all the performers are talentless, and the compare takes all the cash that should go to the hard-working and talented musicians. The whole article is one long contradiction from start to finish. I’m mildly put-out by the sentiment (which I disagree with), but I’m more offended by the moronic stream of the argument, which lurches from point to contradicting point like a pissed-up gorilla.

  71. It’s killing live musicians getting paid but I don’t think it’s killing live music. One thing I love about London is the communal gigging and the generosity of the other musicians…(in general) of course there are a few shitty ones, but overall it’s been positive. I’ve met so many musicians and learned so much from the the experience. In my own hometown of Melbourne jams/open mics are not a regular feature of the music scene and the music scene is in more or less the same state of affairs, no more paid gigs, no better paid gigs, pubs still want to rip people off…the same few big ego’s dominate the scene. At least in London you can walk in off the street , meet a whole bunch of like minded people and have a play and if you enjoy each other then hopefully continue in another context. But I agree it’s stopping people getting paid adequately. Money is the issue or lack of. But maybe it wouldn’t be any better without jams. Just less live music and more DJ’s …everything has changed but then again maybe nothing ….ever was it thus!

  72. How else do budding artists hone their performance skills without a good ‘ole open mic night?

  73. I’ve been a singer for a long time, ive sang in karaoke and performed in bands and only had the confidence to do that however i was petrified in performing a solo act with a guitar but i really wanted to start doing it. Considering i only recently started to learn to play the guitar. Only a few weeks ago i did my first open mic and i will tell you this i was paid much more than money could of given me. I was paid in confidence to do it again and continue my journey as a solo act. I believe an open mic gives musicians an opportunity to play, try new stuff and reminds them the enjoyment being a musician is.

  74. Youre talking utter rubbish.
    For a start, open mic nights around us are usually held mid week, when most artists are not gigging or getting paid.
    It gives talented musicians a chance to show their talents, and try out new material.
    Our open mic in Wakefield on tuesday nights attracts a whole host of local talent, some of whom have gone on to form bands and meet new musicians.

    It also gets people off their backsides and in to pubs, keeping pubs open.
    Our pub would ordinarily have half a dozen punters, and now it’s rammed.

    I invite you to call in to “The Magnet” Wakefield on Tuesday night and come see for yourself how it’s killing live music.

  75. This article is ignorant and ill informed. Open mics are at the grass roots of the Industry. Yes we can get shambolic performers but in turn the majority of performers are average, good, very good and sometimes awesome but essentially whatever their standard, they are using these nights to learn their craft. It’s a great social experience for up and coming performers to meet like minded people and network. Many bands have been created because of this and have gone onto receiving paid gigs and festival slots. Our nights here in Peterborough are supported every week by professional musicians, producers and promoters. The public as a whole enjoy these nights, these ‘public’ will also go and support their favourite artists at gigs, i see them regularly. It’s not a turn off, and certainly not a bad representation of ‘live music’.

    Many soloists have honed their repertoires at open mics and thus now receive paid gigs because of these nights existing, many have also received local & regional radio interviews & air play and countless press coverage . Many have gone onto study music at University, thus further contributing to the music industry right now and into the future.

    As for the pubs exploiting musicians and being the death of ‘paid gigs’ is a laughable suggestion . With chain bars at the forefront of my mind , they can be difficult for a band to penetrate them and get gigs, however i do know a small number of bands that have showcased their music at our open mics and have gone onto receive four bookings a year, (approximately a £1000 a year, year after year ) Independent bars/clubs who allow us to host these evenings are a great source of paid gigs too, plus countless stripped back acoustic gigs. The only alternative for pubs is to put on Karaoke or a DJ, What would you rather have? So if you think a pub is profiteering as they have a busy Sunday, Wednesday or Thurs open mic, think again, they are probably using any money made to pay artists on a Friday or Saturday night!

    Compares will get paid as they are the one’s usually supplying the P.A system and or supplying the music instruments and marketing the event. ( works out at minimum wage, hardly making a profit for what can be hard work) A professionally run evening will not favour any particular artist. It’s not just musicians who benefit from our evenings, it’s up and coming sound engineers too whom with enough exposure to these ‘unpaid’ artists can and do start to offer their services for recording and or supply of their P.A/support for their gigs whilst the artists gets their own funds together for their own P.A. Many bands use sound engineers we have introduced into the scene for their own gigs, from professional touring bands to local pub gigging bands.

    Open mics are an integral part of the live music scene in the United Kingdom, they deserve their place in our towns and cities. The only alternative for pubs is to put no entertainment on midweek or choose between Karaoke or a DJ, What would you rather have?

    The above is my personal experience on starting and establishing over four local mic nights that have been running for near on four years. i would suggest to the author of this article to maybe come and check out our scene and educate himself. If his open mic scene is so bad, maybe he should start one and show others how it should be done. If your band is struggling to get paid gigs, don’t blame open mic nights, look at your own marketing or even your standard of playing & performing in comparison to your other local bands of similar genre. Your answer to more paid gigs may be at the end of your own nose.

  76. Nobody is forced to play an Open Mic or go to one to listen. Their is no ‘right’ to be paid either. If it’s money you want, then busk in the street or organise your own gigs. Open mics (when they are run with concideration to numbers, travel, ability etc) are a fantastic and great for pub life. Lets face it, most pubs have nooks and crannies and most of the time your playing in a make-shift corner for a stage. Though, if it’s obvous that your Open Mic is successful and has a good turn out each time then I do think it’s fair to offer at least one discretionary drink to those who play,
    If I had to say one thing negative it would be about the attitude of some musicians who don’t concider others performances and leave (sneakily) after they’ve played or talk loudly over quiet performances. Long live Open Mics. Enjoy them 🙂

  77. This has not been my experience. I will go through each of the 5 comments and both critique and give my input.

    1. I agree that most of the musicians in a word, suck. Many are just trying to live the dream of a bygone era. However, every so often you get a great band that performs and for them it is exposure. II play in a band called Opus Rex and wherever we perform we receive great reviews. Now here is the thing, when we perform there will often be a wide variety of talent, but because we are good we stand out over the rest. This has lead to a great number of opportunities in the area where we live including headlining at the bar where we do the open mic! LOL

    2. I have not found this the case at all. Every open mic I have been to is very friendly and supportive. If a new musician does not have the ‘balls” to sign up then the organizers cannot force them, nor should they. People buggering off is common, but it is also common at paid gigs! I have played many gigs were the first band up does their stuff then leaves immediately after with all their friends so this is not isolated to open mics.

    3. I do no know what the compere gets at our open mics, and quite frankly I dont care. I go into this open mic with my eyes open. If I dont like the financial arrangement then I wont go. As stated earlier, I do this for exposure and to get my name out there, and it seems to be working. What someone else gets paid is their issue. I get to use their equipment and they look after all the headaches, including nights where no one shows up, advertising etc.

    4. I do not get point 4. However it may just be because we dont have the ‘multi national’ breweries involved in our open mics. And if it is the case, then how is it different from any other business activity anywhere? Multi national companies run our governments and our society as a whole. So this just means that it is the same as any other job.

    5. Of course many of the audience are related to the band, that is normal, but that is because many bands are poor and they depend on their parents, friends etc to help get them around. I play in an older band so we all get ourselves to the shows. But how is this a problem? It is what it is. Many paid gigs are the same thing! LOL

    Although I am not a huge fan of open mics, simply because I would like to get paid for my work I do think they serve a very important service. They allow exposure and networking which this industry thrives on.

    The real threat to the live music scene are shows where there are 4 bands (often mediocre at best) performing, making $50 a night and getting 40 minutes to perform. This ensures that no band really gets exposure and you have to use your own equipment where most of the evening is bands setting up and tearing down.


  78. Who even wrote this crap? What a load of old tosh.
    Look at rip off promoters, look at venues that refuse to pay decent rates to bands, look at ridiculous beer prices.
    Don’t blame open mics.

  79. It seems that many of the hosts of open mic nights have vast amounts of time on their hands, given the length of some of the responses on here. Sheesh.

    Incidentally, I run a promotions company which pays acts and have paid two acts as a result of ‘discovering’ them at an Open Mic Night.

  80. I’m a bass player who can’t sing. I went solo to an open mic where the host gave me a shot. I handed him my songbook and said “pick anything”. We played more than the normal allotment because the host was having fun finding songs he hadn’t played in years. It was great! Other places had no idea what to do with me.
    I’ve been to several different open mics with my band. It was good for us to experience how different it feels on stage with a full PA and the different sight lines (facing the audience vs facing each other during practice). We made audio and video recordings too. Our paid performances were much better after that experience.

  81. I host a jam nite in my area. It’s is one of the more popular open mics simply because there is a huge music scene here and we do a lot of work to make other people sound good. We have a sound tech, full PA with a complete monitor set up. We provide great gear from the Les Paul w/ a marshal stack, to DW drums. We do it for our fellow musicians who can’t afford the gear that we have. It’s true that once someone plays, they leave. Most musicians just stay until they play. There is a sign up sheet, so no one is favored over someone else. We do have a great crowd of non-musicians that come also because you never know who will show up and what great combination of players you’ll see together. My thought is if you are going to do an open mic/jam nite, do it right!

  82. EXCELLENT ARTICLE ! and one so very true !!! i,m really not interested in any other comments made on this discussion , i have been a professional YES you read that correctly PROFESSIONAL musician for over 40 yrs !! and still continue to gig FOR A FEE !!! I will not parade my talents or give up my precious time in public for FREE either at an open mic night or karaoke , May i add i only perform for free in cases of registered charitable events and very good causes !! and do not take any kind of fee or travel expenses ….. Pubs who like open mic nights are using your talent for free TO FILL THEIR PUB FOR FREE !! in order to sell BEER !! and increase THEIR PROFITS at YOUR EXPENSE and cost them nothing except for the measley sum they pay the so called MC (normally the ex curtain puller ) or (wannabe/hasbeens) i have nothing against open mic nights for those people who wish to give up their time and talents for free in order to benefit the brewery who already make vast profits !!!!!!!!!! but I,M NOT THAT DESPERATE FOR A FREE BEER , NOR WOULD YOU SEE ME ANYWHERE NEAR an open mic night which is nearly as bad as crappy oke !!

    why not ask your friendly electrician or plumber to fill his van full of gear , and come to your house or pub and fix some equipment for free , and we,ll give you a beer !! NO CALL OUT CHARGE NO FEE PAID i think you all know the answer to that one !!! SO WHY ASK MUSICIANS TO DO IT ??????

    1. So Chris whats it like in the ivory tower??? the very fact that you open with the statement that you are “really not interested in any other comments made on this discussion” kinda puts my reply to bed but what the hell I’m gonna do it anyway.. You say quite proudly (and possibly with justification) that you are and have been a PROFESSIONAL musician for over 40 years which would indicate that you started in the early 70’s when open mic nights or karaoke didn’t exist so I’m assuming that you just woke up one morning as a PROFESSIONAL musician?? You also state that you continue to gig (again commendably for someone in or approaching their 60’s) FOR A FEE and would not lower yourself to play at an open mic or karaoke for free (unless its for a charity – possibly retired musicians fund – you endorse) You then stated that “Pubs who like open mic nights are using your talent for free TO FILL THEIR PUB FOR FREE” and that’s when you annoyed me!! You see I am a professional YES you read that correctly PROFESSIONAL publican and have been for around 15 years before that I was a mechanic, worked on a factory shop floor and in the offices of the same factory all of these things I did professionally but I first had to learn how to do the jobs entailed firstly through an apprenticeship and then through on the job training I wasn’t lucky enough to wake up as a professional I had to learn how to do it!! Anyhow as a PROFESSIONAL publican I can happily tell you that nothing we do in a pub is for free and that we don’t make vast profits.. We have a reasonably successful acoustic/folk night that we run every Tuesday and is hosted/organised by one of the local singer songwriters that we use on our regular Friday night live music sessions, Yes I pay the organiser and I also pay the acts we have on Fridays, however I don’t pay the karaoke DJ we have on a Saturday and Thursday night or the bingo caller we use on Tuesday and Friday afternoons… as it is me and the only way I can get the budget to put live music into my venue is to do the rest myself… The only point you made that I can agree with is your last (and it’s quite a common one) you wouldn’t expect a plummer, electrician or musician to work for free SO WHY ASK THE VENUE TO???

    2. You’re missing the point. Open Mic nights are a choice. I’m a pro musician too, and never undersell myself. But occasionally I like to go to open mics to chat and jam with other like-minded people, share a beer or two and generally to go down the pub for a beer and some music. If you’re professional, then of course it’s your job, and when you do your job you should et paid for it. But musicians generally choose that career because they love it; if puce lost that love then perhaps you’re in the wrong job mate.

  83. As viable as this all seems, if it weren’t for a large number of easily accessible open mics, I’d never have the confidence to perform at large venues with the more established band I now play with

  84. I’ve been running open mics for about a decade, and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so ridiculous as this. My only conclusion is that the author’s other half ran off with someone that ran an open mic. There’s absolutely no other logical conclusion that can be reached by trying to understand why this plum would think any of that is true. Open mics are where so many musicians start, and end up getting paid gigs (I get my acts paid stuff all the time until they go off and do it on their own) and they’re also a good place to practice up new material without the stress of a booked gig.

    Honestly this is so unbelievably wrong that I would find it amusing if it wasn’t aimed at people like myself.

  85. Point 1 – I’ve never done / organised one, and this sums up why quite nicely!

    Point 2 – Not sure I agree. Plenty of grrls/ eye candy get great slots, because people just want to look at them. Plus, were I to perform I’d revel in the underdog position, and frankly if you don’t want to challenge yourself, stop now.

    Point 3 – Having never organised / curated / compared an open mic, I don’t really know what goes on with money. Though the one in Devizes… I’d be surprised if they were paying the organiser…

    I’m loath to the idea of paying someone to organise an event like that, so I wouldn’t do it, and I don’t. So I guess I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

    Point 4 – Many many things written in the past over payed gigs, and paying to get into gigs.

    My tuppence on Open Mic Nights though… If ever there was a point at which you start performing, it’s the open mic. As such, do you really believe you deserved to be paid?

    Do the audience pay to enter an Open Mic? It’s hard enough to get audience to pay to watch a “proper” act these days.

    In my opinion, open mics are the roots of music. You can quite quickly discover whether you wish to be a performer. You can quite quickly realise what does and doesn’t work in a live scenario, and you can quite quickly build a reputation and fan base that means you can play paid shows, or charge for your presence. I don’t think Open Mics are it, sorry.

    Point 5 – We’re lucky in Devizes, we have one open mic and it’s well attended and organised. But I see this points point, and again, even at a pay to enter show, or even a”proper” (ie. not open mic) show, it’s hard enough to get everyone to remain quiet. Yes, it can often become background music. There are many factors here as to why, but to focus on my shows specifically, my gigs are always frequented by respectful patrons who want to watch good live music. I book good live acts, and thus they hold your attention.

  86. I sen’t you a private Email and said what i had to .. so this will save your blushes … you did reply that i had to CALM down .and watch for the follow up post at 20.00 hrs tonight. You provoke people then stick your head in the sand . why could you not reply to my email with a follow up answer.and like not make me have to wait for the follow up article . is it to keep me in suspence Ps i have not used some of the words i did in my private mail to you in a long while . but on this occasion i thought it quite just actually 🙂 Lots of Love Craig

    1. Actually Craig I’m not embarrassed by your mail at all. In fact I’ll publish it below and see if people think you warrant an answer.

      If you put together a cogent argument then I may respond but send off a pile of abuse and then demanding that someone get back to you immediately is unlikely to get the response you desire.

      Anyway here are Craigs’ thoughts;

      Your article about open mic’s Killing live music/ and taking the piss out of top Musicians Offends me . You jumped up little prick ..
      How dare you .. tar all nights with the same brush .Dick head.. This is how angry this has made me…
      I have been running nights for a while now and have PAID special guests at every event i do .. and always a different guest at every event too so everyone get something .. not only that over the last 3 years i have booked £50000 of paid weekend gigs of the back of it too

      1. How thick are you.. You have responded derrrrrrrr ..And you lie i did not DEMAND A RESPONCE even tho i got 1 ..and i did not say i want an immediate responce either and you doctored my mail you posted thanks for making it nice ”

          1. Before criticising someone’s grammar, make sure your own is immaculate. Yours isn’t, Craig

      2. And if you have to post a PRIVATE Email witch was PRIVATE just to get a responce and try to make your self look cleaver well you are a looser …

        1. @ Bassguy criticising someone with Dyslexia … Shame on you .. I am not the one writing an Article for this page

          1. Why in the hell would a dyslexic person even attempt to correct someone’s grammar? That’s sooooo goddamn autistic it hurts.

  87. As an organiser of a monthly folk’n’roots night – which is to all effect, an open mic with a couple of pre-booked acts to close the night off – I find what this article wrong, incorrect, offensive to those out there who are trying to fight the image of the ‘evil open-mic’. To the person who wrote this article, I invite you to come and see for yourself an ‘open-mic’ night which is nothing like what your article has complained about.
    It’s held every second Tuesday of the month at The Starre, Christchurch: and by all means, please come along – because not every open mic can be tarred with the same brush.

  88. Don’t agree with this article. I attend an open mic night with my brother. We are both musicians and long past the ambition phase but love performing just for the love of it and enjoy singing along with others. My brother has MS and has recently lost the ability to play guitar which devasted him and knocked his confidence to pieces as music is his life. The guys at the gig are brilliant and he is able to knock out a blues song with them or with me and it’s brilliant. It gives an opportunity for people who aren’t looking for recognition but have talent to share.

  89. Or, you could all just chill out and enjoy it for what it is – regardless of wether you’re performing or not

  90. Nothing personal but I’d have to say this is a pile of shite also, but I’ve grown a little weary of getting angry over ‘articles’ that are deliberate acts of provocation. You win, you get a comment, but sadly it’s a thumbs down from me also.

    If you did do some research and cut out the headline grabbing generalising, you’d know without any prompting that there are different types and levels of open mics, in the same way that there are good and not so good agents, good and bad managers, good and bad gigs, etc etc and so on.

    You’d also probably make the very valid point that there are many established artistes and bands playing for free at ‘festivals’, or should we say gatherings, seeing as they do not in many instances, provide income, often even expenses, for a great many performers.

    Open mic nights are very dear to many of us, as when they are well run and respected, they provide the vital platform we need for performance experience, and later on in our careers, for new songs and experimental / fun line-ups. They are a very useful alternative to pay to play.

    By all means, highlight bad open mics, but please don’t generalise, it’s naff and does no good for anyone. Thanks, dp 🙂

  91. As the guy above said… this is nonsense. I should state before I begin that I am a host of a weekly Open mic night in London but I will try and offer some desperately needed balance to what is presented above in a completely biased manner. Of course there are terrible open mic nights, I can think of ones where performers are invited along to perform to an audience only to have their music turned down to an inaudibly low level through such terrible PA system that they are merely free background music and would have been better off busking in the streets outside. However, on the other hand there are some great Open Mic nights which are well-organised, well catered for (equipment/sound engineer wise), offer performers an opportunity to test new music, hone their live act and participate in a warm community environment where musicians can meet one another and network. Surely if this article was as well-researched as some claim then you should be putting forth both sides of the argument rather than using statements as sweeping and ineloquent as “They’re a bad advert for live music.” “They become background noise.”… really, all of them?

    As far as your perceived hatred towards “The Compere” goes, as a host of a successful Open Mic Night in South London for the last two years, let me explain what I do to earn my millions (LOL). I have promoted the night tirelessly and stuck with it through almost a year of it being empty and poorly attended, it is now successful, very well attended (and valued by the regulars) and I have had the privilege to witness some great talents perform their very first songs on stage there and continue to develop week on week. I use skills acquired during my degree in Music Production and years of working in studios to try and give the artists the best possible sound during their performances. I set up and pack away before and after everyone arrives and leaves. I have committed to ensure the night runs well and happens every single week, a commitment to the night both my self and the bar stick rigidly to in order to provide a community night that people can always rely on being there ever if they ever fancy an impulsive performance or a night of (mostly) great music. Signup for the night is operated on a first come first served basis and performers can pick their own time slot on the sheet, in fact I’ve often turned friends away in favour of first timers due to this first come first served rule. I do think it was pivotal that I negotiated with the bar before even taking on the Open mic night that the music must be the feature and not just background. In support of this and other live music nights the bar (and the EVIL brewery conglomerate woooo…) has consequently invested thousands in a top quality PA system, lighting, and staging, offering a truly great platform.

    It’s quite obvious that the author has had a some bad experiences of Open Mic Nights but that doesn’t justify the bias and indiscriminate vitriol spewed in this article. I personally believe that as long as the terms mentioned above are catered for (i.e fair signup policy, good staging and equipment, qualified sound engineer, welcoming atmosphere) then these nights can be a very positive thing for all involved. Remember that Open Mic’s are completely voluntary, nobody is being forced to attend and you certainly don’t have to turn up again if you find a bad one. This in itself shows that the successful ones with repeat performers and regular music loving audiences are clearly doing something right.

    Maybe next time direct your energy towards some of the organisations which genuinely are taking advantage of musicians and offering a them a false dream. Open Mic UK and the good ole X Factor spring to mind.

  92. I wonder how many of ‘gigsandband.com’ advertisers hold open mics? This sort of editorial stance is shooting yourself in the foot, surely?

    Personally – all this article has done is put me off gigsandband.com!

  93. Also Nick Tann I didn’t realise you were so small minded and Graham Seaton you wouldn’t be doing gigs at all were it not for open mic nights just like a lot of other people.

  94. I play open mic nights. The landlord tells me I’m great and one day they’ll sign me to his own brewery record label…(as long as I never play a rival pub) All I’ve ever been given is two sausage rolls & a pint of shandy but I carry on because I have faith. One day I’ll be at One Direction level!

  95. Dear Stuart Walker you are ill informed in so many ways I really do not know why I am bothering to waste my time replying… But here we go:
    1. In your first point you belittle the majority of people who frequent live music venues with a very sweeping statement about the mentality of people who go out to enjoy music… Well done mate; these are the people who will apparently be ‘liking’ your rather pointless page if you get your way in this obvious attempt to garner popularity… You also obviously don’t ever attend open mics because if you did you would know that Bon Jovi wannabes actually only account for 0.00001% (maximum) of open mic attendees…
    (Gosh it’s so easy to tear holes in your arguments; this is like shooting fish in a barrel, not that I would know)
    2. The ‘self-populated elite’ to which you refer does not exist on the open mic circuit, at least, not at any of the many nights I have attended… It is a fallacy.
    At my nights I always try and get new attendees onstage at a good time and any performer who regularly comes to my nights knows that they will not get on every week, in favour of giving the new acts a chance… And if they are on late one week I will endeavour to get them on early the following week. Furthermore, my nights generally have plenty of new attendees and they are not in any way made to feel intimidated; I have not encountered any of the above scenarios at any real life open mic, and I have been to open mics in no less than seven different countries, perhaps this only happens in the open mic of Mr. Walker’s mind… It’s easy to just make assumptions about nights of any kind when you don’t actually attend them… The open mics I have attended have pretty much always been nurturing affairs with consideration given and alliances being formed… The buzz is nearly always great!
    The phenomenon of acts ‘buggering off’ after they have done their set is, I grant you, a real thing… So far though, it is the only real thing Mr. Walker has referred to; but it is no more prevalent at open mics than at any other kind of gig where there is more than one act… Personally, unless I have another show to play, I will always stay to hear all the acts, even if I am on first… It is a thing but only to be judged on individual cases; if it’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen… People do what they do and it doesn’t matter what kind of night it is… The scene dying?? The scene?? The scene is not even a thing unless you write for the NME – music is as deeply ingrained in society as any popular custom, and the only ‘Elitism’ I can see occurring is where you are not deemed worthy of playing or enjoying music unless you are in the latest ‘cool’ band to hit ‘the scene’… So Mr. Walker would disbar anyone from enjoying music unless they are doing paid gigs? There’s your elitism right there… And let’s suppose for a moment that we cancelled, without further notice, all the open mics in the area… So we are going to have enough acts, both bands and solos/duos etc. to step in and fill, each and every week, each and every one of these slots, for time immemorial are we? Not even in the most naïvely conjectured future would this ever work… And why? Simply because people don’t support their local bands, and even if they do, they wouldn’t support them regularly, and especially earlier in the week or on a Sunday; not regularly they wouldn’t and don’t try and tell me they would because the only time people really start supporting their local acts is when they hit a lucky break and start getting famous; and then every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to get on the guest list… How many Saturday Sun/Martin Grech gigs did I go to in the early years where there were barely ten people in the audience? The problem lies with the apathy of the people and if you can honestly tell me that if I were to scrap my massively popular Tuesday night at O’neill’s and the promoters moved in and put a decent act on every Tuesday, that it would be full of people every week then you can have my fucking job cuz obviously I am massively wrong about a scene I have been a part of for nigh on twenty years… People don’t support local acts, not on an entirely regular basis; they go to shows as and when they feel like it… Given this; the transient nature of open mics, coupled with the larger number of acts that can appear on one open mic night; the audience is generally also larger and also more diverse…
    Open mics have been around since forever and as long as people have been gathering in one place and drinking ale there have been soapboxes, speaker’s corners, forums etc. where people can share a tale, an opinion, a yarn or a song and in this, Mr. Walker is as entitled as the next to have his ‘two bit’s worth’; it’s just a shame that he has decided to stroll forth without the benefit of education, research or judgement with this, the latest piece of hyperbolic propaganda against open mics… Also it is a shame, for him, that he comes up against me, a man who has been in the music business for twenty five years and has done more gigs, in more places than he has probably been to in his life… The point about open mics is they give everyone a chance; there is no elitism here… Some of these people will go on to do great things in the music business, some of them won’t, some will inspire the next generation, some of them will be inspired; all of them will grow as human spirits and enjoy all the magic that music brings…
    3. The Compère:
    Easy one this… If you think the compère doesn’t deserve paying, let’s hear it… He/she has to be there every week, schedule the night to run to time and cater for all the acts; bring in, set up, run and maintain the sound gear, provide and maintain ‘house’ instruments, promote the night, settle any disputes that may arise and cover for time gaps where performers for one reason or another may not be present or ready to perform; and as a professional compère I hasten to add that these last scenarios are every bit as prevalent on nights featuring booked/paid acts as they are on open mic nights… If I personally was just in the business to make money I could make a lot more money in other ways; although I would also be sacrificing my uniquely privileged position of being able to help musicians/artists trying to find their way in this elitist (sic) business… I WILL NOT DO THIS. I grant you not everyone is a brilliant compère, just as not everyone is a brilliant musician, and just as not every band/act on a booked/paid music night is brilliant either, but everyone has the right to have a go; those that succeed do so because their peers/the customers deem that they are worthy to succeed, and this is intrinsically woven into the fabric of the capitalist society in which we live… If you begrudge your fellow man the chance to earn a living, and helping people in the process, hey? Why not simply start an online petition to lose him his job… If people agree with you, why surely you will succeed…;) People who play open mics very often go on to secure regular paid gigs all over the place after using the open mics to sharpen their claws… It is a two way process; these people use the open mics as a platform just as open mics use them for a while… People very seldom just stroll into paid gigs straight from practicing in their bedrooms (with the possible exception of Chris Payn):) Not all those who play open mics go on to make money out of music, not all of them want to; but again if these people don’t get to share doing what they love with friends and strangers alike, here we are back on Elite street again… Think about that for a minute… By the way I am a brilliant compère and actually charge (and get) way more for my services as a compère than I do for all the above services I provide as an open mic host (which also includes the compèring!)… I also get way more as a paid performer for a lot of shows and it has taken a fair few years to build this up through (guess what) hard work and a fair bit of playing at open mics!!
    4. The bit about the Brewery: not even going to bother with this one except to say it stands to reason that every venue is out to make money… It also stands to reason that the majority of venues could not afford to pay the decent money required by a decent band, especially earlier in the week… And even if they could; they would just not get the same amount of customers in through the doors week after week; I refer you to my earlier remark about the apathy of people which is not so much real apathy as the apparent apathy caused by the fact that life gets in the
    way… It just wouldn’t work; I’m not being cynical here it’s just a fact… On Fridays and Saturdays all the venues in town are competing hard to pull in decent crowds, with drinks promos, hot DJs etc. and the only venues in this area that take a chance with live music on nights when they can afford to pay them, play it nice and safe by booking cozy little covers bands… Herein lies the cynicism my friend… It strikes me Mr. Walker that you have at least a little to bring to the table but you are firing your arrows in the wrong direction… As a member of this society and the local ‘scene’ you have your right to an opinion but I can’t help but wonder what you have done for your local community that gives you carte blanche to tear at it’s foundation from a house you have obviously built on the sand… 🙂
    5. Too many open mics?
    On this point I’m going to agree… There would appear to be a lot of people cashing in at the moment, but no more than promoters countrywide who take advantage of bands in their ridiculous ‘pay to play’ schemes and have been doing so for years…
    These pretenders will find out soon enough that running a successful open mic requires hard work and dedication and, as I have said before, there are many easier ways of making money…

    So in summarising I say, fairplay to you for throwing up the debate again Mr. Walker, but maybe in future perhaps you could shore up your argument with more actual research based content as this current effort appears somewhat ‘substance light’ and invective based… Indeed, I can only wonder if you have ever even been to an open mic night? Perhaps pop along to O’Neill’s on a Tuesday or Le Bateau on a Sunday sometime… 😉 Finally let’s throw it out to the people, both performers and customers alike, who attend open mics regularly… What do you think? Are open mics good for us? Do you enjoy them? What do you get out of them? Tag me in your response and you can also find me on https://m.facebook.com/sigenaromusic
    Anyone else want to have a go??

    1. I totally agree sir. However I’ve noticed many here speak of professional and semi professionals using the open mic. For myself and many others there are other reasons. I love my regular job, have no intention of leaving it and am not home very often. I have a little music room where I practice. Also my wife is crippled and she doesn’t get out. Now my point. I’ve been told by the people jamming I’m very good,and make the songs my own. We go to these jams to get out. We do however, go to clubs and concerts whenever we can. We enjoy meeting people. We also go to the open mics to keep my music going so i can better play the at the places I like the most. That’s camping. The musicians that host these open mic’s offer me feed back as do the professionals and semi. They are awesome. Thank You.

  96. Yo…I started going to open mic nights with my guitar three years ago. This led me to meet other local musicians and build up friendships and local music contacts. 2 years later I now have a 7 piece Ska/Reggae band with paid gigs coming out of our ears, studio recorded CD and BBC radio airplay. So OMN’s are a great in road for people to move forward with their music…if they are good enough. Yes there are a lot of “average” players who turn up, who only play covers and not originals. Yes there are too many acoustic guitarists that turn up and play ballad covers. But there are a lot of good points, like my own experience. cheers Matt, MG Band.

  97. If you didn’t meet good people at an open mic, you should take a loo at yourself. I don’t think music is the only thing open mice are about. Without I would have never become a singer. 20 yrs later I’ve worked with artist like Creed, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Doc Hollywood, etc…. I still go to random open mics and have a lot of fun. It is my opinion that your article is based off of expectations and some sort of posturing within society, not a simple love of the people behind the music.

  98. so open mics are just a conspiracy to further exploit the down-trodden, talented and deserving, keeping them out of pocket ? sorry but but you are talking utter cobblers. Let’s look at this from some different angles (the venue, the OMN organiser and the ‘artist’…) The main reason a venue will host an OMN is to bring people in to the pub/club/other who will spend, and hopefully it will entertain folk along the way. some venues do it out of a genuine love of having music, generally they will have regular-ish bands/acts etc written up on their chalk-boards too. i know some venue managers who really don’t care how good/bad/ugly the music is as long as the pub is full of people buying. So within their business model they will pay someone to organise an OMN – not too much different to what they would pay a band/act. They’ll promote the evening a little but will depend on the OMN organiser to promote and bring acts and their friends. so it should pay for itself, and hopefully some of the punters will come back another time to eat/drink etc – building their customer base. The more hard-working of the OMN organisers take the promotion bit seriously and put generally put their backs into this bit – mainly because ‘musician herding’ should really be an olympic sport and is often a thankless task. The OMN organiser has also spent money on equipment others generally don’t know how to use and often (albeit unwittingly) abuse. They also pay for insurance and they risk their own credibility – if not many who have said they will show up – actually show up. I would say that for a 5 hour shift at a venue – without travel, there’s at least the same again in organisation. On the night, dealing with several different standards of act and trying to make them sound as good as possible – should also be an olympic sport. So, if each artist is happy to share the efforts and the risks – financial or otherwise, then – by arrangement, then I agree that they should be entitled to some reward. From the act/musician’s perspective – on balance, an OMN is an excellent place to learn the craft of cutting it live in what is mainly a supportive atmosphere. Yes, there are good/bad/ugly levels of ability but that’s all part of the draw – fun even and every act has equal value and contribution to make. i’ve had the pleasure of being on both organiser and musician sides of the fence for some years, and will continue to be. if you feel exploited, then don’t piggy-back someone else’s event – maybe buy the equipment, market your own skills as someone who can do it ‘properly’ and organise your resources to show everyone how it’s done.

  99. I think you’re half right and half wrong! Open mics are a way that pubs/breweries get live music on the cheap or free but, combined with a good local scene, they do offer either inexperienced live musicians, or more experienced players with some new tunes to road test, an opportunity to present their wares to, hopefully, a reasonably friendly audience. They can often be run badly, of course, which is a problem, and there are too many out there at the moment, but these things go in waves. Really lousy open-mics tend to disappear through lack of interest and the belated realisation, on the part of the tone-deaf landlord, that the bar take is actually going down!

    What is really damaging to live music at a local level are pubcos who expect landlords to pay for the live music out of the 10% they get on take, forcing them to pay miserly sums or having to supplement the fee from their pockets, and all the places, such as most of the venues in central London, that give such poor deals that most bands are lucky to cover their costs even if they pack the place! Within this environment, bad open-mics are but a minor irritation!

  100. This is nonsense. If people sit at home writing songs and never playing in front of people they will never learn anything. Open mic gives them an audience they would never have for a few songs. They wouldn’t get a paying gig anywhere in town. It’s invaluable exposure. Also the best way off the open mic circuit is to write some great songs.

  101. In starting a response, I should say I have been hosting open mic nights for about 5 years. I have attended many others and have been to some wonderful events and some awful events. I have been very fortunate in the talent that has turned up at mine, there are always moments of beauty and there are also moments of ugliness. I shall try and respond to each of your 5 reasons with positivity. 🙂
    1. Punters do not think that they are going to a live music night, even though the promoter may claim that in their advertising (I do occasionally put ‘FREE LIVE MUSIC’ in my blurb), they know that it is an open mic night and know what risks they are taking. There has been occasions when I have attended open mics where there are ’12 chaps with guitars, one after another all singing their break up songs’ and it was shite. I have been to others where the range of performers has been astonishing with each act bringing a new style/instrument/talent too though and those were much more memorable.
    2: The self elected elite happens, I hate it as do many of my friends and they don’t return. Those nights continue with everyone kissing each others backsides while newbies are treated like shit and left off the list completely or are put on after everyone but the host and their partner have kissed goodbye to their mates or talk loudly over said newbie. There are many open mic nights that have a first come first served policy, for a long time if you turned up at mine you went on first and so on. I have amended this to have the slots open and if you turn up first you choose your slot, lots of open mic night hosts do this. It stops the elitism, favouritism(?), diva shit that some performers do. There is an unspoken (sometimes voiced loudly) etiquette about leaving after you perform. Those people don’t get asked to do showcase events no matter how talented they are because they do that, they don’t make real connections and everyone does remember them, for the wrong reasons though.
    3: The performer as host can be a little bit annoying, particularly the ones who start the night (as a favour cos no one wants the first slot) and then take the slot when the pub is at it’s fullest. That grates. Please can you tell me which venues are paying £100-200, I’m dreaming of those figures with free beer and food if possible. I am lucky, I rarely perform at my own nights and when ‘to doing’ research before I started hosting I went to a couple where the compere was a schmuck and learned not to be. I’m surprised that they don’t feel the blast of hatred as they take to the stage and give themselves a four song set when everyone else has only had two.
    4: I cannot argue a with this point, I have run open mic nights for free beer, occasionally free food too and then when the night doesn’t become successful in 2 months I am told they don’t want it anymore. Too many managers/owners/conglomerates couldn’t give a fuck about live music as a general rule. Wad is their God and I have learned to take that on the chin. That isn’t what they say, they say they want to create a ‘scene’, they want to turn their pub into a live music venue, what they want is for you to do it all for nothing and then once established, say they are going to stop it before employing their cousin/daughter/mate to do it.
    There are, however many good venues that want live performance because the manager is a Don (I don’t what the female equivalent is but there are manageresses out there too). p.s. I do try to get the performers some compensation, free food or beer.
    5: Being in London means that there is a plethora of talented/untalented, experience/inexperienced, performers looking for places to play. Some play because they think they should be heard, some because they love playing, others to try and find band members, occasionally because the host has asked them to come along having seen them at another night, some because they realise that playing in your bedroom isn’t the same as playing in front of people. It can be daunting seeing the amount of open mic nights around in a small area of London though and you wonder where the performers are going to come from to fill these slots. Then the night starts and people arrive, new people, regulars, people from the other side of London and music is played, poetry is performed, songs are sung, friendships are made, and another excellent night ensues.
    Why would you think your readers would be angry? In fact you now have a new reader, I like your style. Honesty has always been a charm to me. Not that I’m honest, I just like it in others.

  102. I’m not a musician but I most certainly like to listen to people that are and I attend a few different OMN’s to hear them. Ok so not everyone is my cup of tea but fair play to them for giving it a go.
    The people that I see play know they are not getting paid but whether it is just to have a jam with mates, they still do it for the love of music – so what is wrong with that?

    Each to their own and if people want to go and watch or play then they will go…. why try to give reasons and encourage people to not go?

    I’m a little confused as to why this was written, I think a bit more support for local businesses and local musicians is needed not negativity.

  103. A lot of this stuff is really interesting and accurate but point 2 I don’t really agree with. The music business as a whole is run by self elected elites and is incredibly ‘cliquey’. The people at the top operate in very small circles and I have seen this first hand.

    Also, there are some phenomenal open mic nights around which are bursting with talent. I don’t know where you are writing this from geographically but I do know that if your a singer-songwriting and your playing at open mic nights in somewhere other than london the chances of an a&r boss being there are incredibly low. People need to be where the industry is. And I know of several open mic nights in London which host specific evenings for a&r bosses. Be where the industry is people.

    Great article but a little bit negative and unrealistic to the brutal nature of the music industry.

  104. The open mics nights often just have the same group of mates etc, ,and most times not many other people turn up to listen etc,it is just a karaoke really…unpaid performances! We struggle to get gigs as it is without pubs in some less populated areas having these! Makes me mad too that on certain gig guide sites they put open mic nights on the list (some that are also solo singers/or in groups put them on twice to bunk up their ratings!) which stops proper acts getting higher ratings as not so many gigs posted! I can understand younger or good unexperienced people wanting to get noticed or gain experience,but most of he people have no such ambitions just want to jam along with their mates!!!

  105. I’m sorry but I don’t think your article is at all accurate. I’ll explain why…

    Reason 1 – they’re a bad advert for live music
    “…This means that your local pub is full of tone deaf half talented people who think they are the next Thom Yorke.
    The problem then is that the watching punters think that’s what live music is like and act accordingly. If you thought that a proper music night was going to sound like an open mic would you go?”

    Do you really think that people lose a desire to see good live music because they hear some bad stuff? Anyway, the point of Open Mics is to let people have a go – and I have enormous respect for ANYONE who gets up in front of a crowd and exposes themselves by performing. I make a point of applauding even the most incompetent players – it’s decent and polite.

    Reason 2 – they are populated by a self elected elite

    “If you are a mate of the guy … then you’ll get a great spot. If you’re not then you won’t.”
    “New musicians feel intimidated by this macho clique and don’t bother turning up, or if they do then they don’t ask to go on the list as a refusal often offends.”

    I don’t know which open mics you go to – I’ve not found this.

    “If new people can’t get a place to play then the local paid scene starts to look stale and samey. End of scene.”

    Now you’re contradicting your first point which is to let talent play regardless of their ability.

    “Even worse you’ll find that a lot of the acts turn up, do their stuff then bugger off. They aren’t interested in anyone elses music or indeed anyone else unless they are likely to become fans.”

    Do you actually play yourself? Some people are so racked with stage fright it’s a wonder they can get up at all let alone relax and enjoy the evening as part of the audience. Others (and I’m not going to get into the psychology of performing here) ARE self-centred. Who cares?

    Reason 3 – The money for a live act gets taken by the compere

    “The professional compere turns up, takes the money and gets the artists doing all the work”

    Yeah – who gives a shit about someone who has to regularly set up, run the evening, deal with kit issues and stay to the bitter end to pack away? They should do it for free because they love music, eh?

    “At the very least they should split the money with the people who stand up and perform.”

    But then you would only get a few chosen acts performing – you’re contradicting your second point here. How would someone who has never played or isn’t very good ever get a chance to play?

    “Professional comperes suck money out of the business that should really go to hard working (and hard up) musicians. They are generally narcissistic and only in it for the money. Uninterested and unlikely to be particularly keen on what you’ve got to say unless you are telling them how great they are.”

    You seem very bitter – have you thought about therapy? Seriously, though – they ARE doing the job for the money – it’s a JOB. Your comment is extremely insulting and doesn’t at all reflect the comperes I’ve met.

    Reason 4 – the brewery is taking the piss

    The brewery is a business – let’s not deconstruct capitalism here.

    “Open mic night? Great. Do we get paid? no you are doing it for the exposure.”

    Again – do you play? You seem to have no idea of the multitude of reasons people want to play at open mics.

    “Wake up, you’re doing it for a multi national brewery chain.”

    Play at independent bars then.

    “Ask them which agents or managers or A&Rs have been invited along.”

    Yeah cos I’m the next Thom Yorke and they should be banging at MY door to sign me!

    Reason 5 – They become background noise

    “Seriously though, how many OMN does a town need?”

    I thought you said earlier it was hard to get a slot unless you knew the compere? Make your mind up.

    Re-reading your article it seems to presume that large numbers of extremely talented musicians are being denied a living from Open mics. Professional musicians fall into 2 camps: 1. VERY talented artists or songwriters who have a chance of signing. 2. Local gigging musicians who can entertain. The former are few and far between. There are a lot of very competent people who can play and it’s a pleasure seeing them at open mics but they don’t have the ‘x factor’ (for want of a better phrase) that will propel them to stardom. The latter understand that they have to put on a show and most probably play stuff that they don;t particularly want to in order to get paid gigs. The competent who fall in between but have neither the raw talent to make it big nor the determination and resignation needed to be a professional musician full time quite often suffer from a delusion they are being mis-treated and that life isn’t fair.

    I seriously wonder if you fall into that category??

    1. Thanks for replying for me – that pretty much covers my thoughts to the original post. Not once thought of getting paid, I do it because it is enjoyable.

  106. I am an OAP who used to play drums locally in various bands in my younger days, I still liked to play but unfortunately the seine has changed to what I was doing many years ago. As I am a widower and enjoy playing with other musicians the OMN’s and Jam sessions gives me the opportunity to strut my stuff and still have a social live.I have made many new friends through going to various jam nights. After all you get the good bad and the ugly doing there stuff, it all goes to make a interesting night out.

  107. Obviously this article is designed to provoke debate. As the owner of a dedicated music pub (7 days a week) the open Mic night is integral to the structure of the venue, and brings new musicians into the venue. I have seen many people play their first ever songs in public at these nights and watched them develop their own style and write their own songs and meet like minded people . I believe in supporting original live music but it is a lot to expect for a new musician to stand up and play an original song first time out, even if they have one. It’s also difficult to get paid gigs without first getting yourself out and about and showing, and honing, your talent. It’s often through open Mic nights that musicians network and form collaborations or bands. If I stopped doing open mics at the bar, I believe it would be a loss to our musical offerings, and would think it would be missed by the musicians themselves. Our open Mic has been running nearly 7 years and has not always been busy, I have stuck with it because I believe it’s a good thing.

    There do seem to be a lot more open mics at the moment which I think is partly due changes in the licensing laws making it easier to put on live music.
    I can’t speak about the motives of other pubs but I know there are a few other good open mics out there. Things change quickly and I’m sure the current glut will level itself out in the long run.

    1. Harry,
      you raise some very valid points. Like all else in life there is good and bad in both sides of the discussion. Every musician needs to practice their art and we all start out playing other peoples songs. There is nothing wrong with that. Not everyone can win a recording contract or become a youtube phenomenon so if a venue holds open mic nights and that leads to artists getting paid gigs in the venue then thats great.

      The downside is that musicians playing for free in their local pub in the hope of getting a big break are living in fantasy land. There is also an argument that says that playing for free gives out the message that the value of music is nothing. I think that is why so many people objected to having U2’s latest pile of crap forced upon them by apple.

      Unfortunately it is all too often the case that the only music some venues put on is open Mic nights. It could be argued that this is exploitative.

      1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with what’s wrong with this article and the attitude that lies behind it, The Sound of Summer.

        “musicians playing for free in their local pub in the hope of getting a big break are living in fantasy land”

        That, there, is the problem with the entitled “I am amazing and I demand payment” ethos that has crept in to modern music scenes (along with the rest of modern life).

        There’s only two ways a musician is getting paid money: if they have a massive following and will bring in lots of custom to the venue, or if the person promoting the night loves the artist.

        I see a lot of folks out and about these days that seem to be of the opinion that the world owes them some cash and a record deal and the superstar lifestyle immediately. Not that this is even a majority of people (of any age!) of course, but just something that I’ve picked up on.

        Others have commented about the number of pubs going bust, but the other side of this is that there’s a dwindling number of people out there (though still plenty!) that are willing to pay to listen to music that they’ve never heard before. And so, open mic nights are a great, cheap way to get things happening in a scene for both promoters and artists.

        Yes I’ve seen badly-run nights full of sycophantism but most open mics I’ve been to have been friendly, welcoming affairs where everyone is encouraged to have a go and a good time. I’ve seen some great musicians come out of such nights.

  108. I think this a very thought provoking post and whilst I don’t agree with all you say I most certainly agree with the thrust of what you say.

    All too often Open Mic nights are a way for venues to put on live entertainment at little or no cost. This undoubtably does result in a wide variety in the quality of the acts on show. Some are great, some beyond awful.

    There is a place for events of this type. If they are well organised and well supported then great. I know for example that some locally, in Poole and Bournemouth, provide ‘artists’ with a recording of their ‘performance’ and others offer the opportunity of voting for one of the acts to win a paid gig at the venue the following week. These are great ideas.

    On the other hand many of the open mics I have seen locally do not attract members of the public into the venue, the crowd consists of a group of try hards and their mates who spend their week following promoters from venue to venue because the promoter is a mate and they will get a slot. This type of open mic has very little merit other than to allow ‘artists’ to practice with a sometimes decent sound system.

    For venues Open Mics can be a curse. If the acts are bad it can drive out casual customers (those not there specifically for the open mic). I had the misfortune to catch an open mic at the Bandstand at Beautiful Days festival in August. The young man was a barely competent guitarist and really could not sing a note. He was slaughtered by the crowd and was torn to pieces when he said he had CD’s for sale. Needless to say he didn’t sell any.

    The ethos behind open mic’s is to offer artists the chance to get some exposure by playing for free. This is largely a load of crap. It is extremely rare for artists to gain any useful exposure at these events.

    An interesting piece, I look forward to the follow up.

  109. There are good open mic nights and bad open mic nights but overall they are a positive giving new young acts a chance to gain experience in front of an audience and yes anyone can turn up that is the beauty of them. I think my favourite moment at an open mic night was when a mentally and physically disabled man in a wheel chair got up and could play one note on the harmonica, several other musicians jammed around that one note making it sound amazing, the smile on his face said it all. My son is thirteen and has been attending several local open mic nights for about eight months now (we were new to the area and didn’t previously know anyone at the open mics) He has been made to feel welcome and accepted, he has learnt and improved as a result of other more experienced musicians spending time with him and nurturing him and he has already had three paid gigs (as well as countless amounts of free food and soft drinks). As for the compères in my experience most of them are working musicians who decided to spend one or two nights a week offering a platform for less experienced musicians with a desire to do nothing but help others.

    1. Marie – thank you for your comments. I was actually thinking about Calvins’ experience when I wrote the companion piece that will go out tonight at 20:00.

  110. This is possibly the biggest pile of shite I’ve read in a long while. The open mic night in my local is a diverse group of young and old. They come to it to try out new songs. It is a thriving community. Some play for fun, some play for the experience. Some play for the fun of playing. We are also a town that has spawned several well know artists via the open mic scene. To do the research before posting next time.

    1. thank you for your erudite post. It’s great to see that the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde lives on.

      Incidentally this piece was spurred by me ‘to doing’ the research with some of the musicians who play the local open mic nights most of whom don’t want their names mentioned in case they get attacked for saying what they feel.

      1. Garbage. Unfortunately, your ‘research’ seems to consist of experiencing a handful of open mics in one town. Hardly scientific. And you’ve obviously never been to one of mine. I will dissect your criticisms point by point.

        1: “they’re a bad advert for live music” – If this were true, I wouldn’t do it. Where I live there is a multitude of talent, so there are always, without fail, high quality acts. The punters understand, however, that it is open to all and that it is also a good platform for less slick and polished performers to gain confidence and have a go. That is an end in itself and an important and essential part of open mic. If it hadn’t been for open mics, myself and many others would never have gained the confidence to go out and perform regularly as we do. You seem to begrudge people having that opportunity – which rather misses the point of open mic.

        2: “they are populated by a self elected elite” – I’ve been to open mics where this is true but to write all of them off this way is ludicrous. Mine are nothing of the sort. They are friendly, open and welcoming to all. The clue is in the name: OPEN Mic. If it ain’t open, you’re doing it wrong.

        3: “the money for a live act gets taken by the compere” – No, the live act is the compere. People that play at open mics range from semi-pro people who have practised all week and come especially to try out some new material in front of a friendly crowd, to people who just happen to be in the pub and can knock out a decent tune on a borrowed guitar. The compere has to accommodate everyone and keep the night flowing. And if it is quiet, he/she has to basically perform a gig for a fraction of the money they would normally charge. I do that happily, as it is the nature of the beast. Failed musician? Define failure: https://mailmanmusic.bandcamp.com/track/to-the-last

        4: “the brewery is taking the piss” – Pubs are going out of business left, right and centre. It’s not just breweries that benefit from thriving music scenes, it is local publicans, their families and the community as a whole. Not every pub is part of a massive corporate chain and even those that are provide essential employment and entertainment for local people. An OM, if run properly and if the local talent warrants it, can enhance a pub massively.

        5: “they become background noise” – Certainly, you can have too much of a good thing. Less is more. But despite their being probably a few too many OM’s in my town, I always manage to get enough people out to mine to make it work and, as stated, I’m happy to entertain the punters myself when it is quiet if need be.

        In conclusion, this post seems to be coming from a place of negativity and bitterness. Presumably, either you are unfortunate enough to live in place bereft of talent and community spirit or you are the afore mentioned ‘failed musician’. The point is Open Mics are for everybody. A pro musician is not likely to go to one unless it is to try out new material. In most towns, there are plenty of people with bags of talent who love to get up and do their thing but would never dream of doing so professionally. That is where an OM comes in. Music is for everyone – both playing it and enjoying it – not just for a performing monkey elite. Either way, in my humble opinion, you need to lighten up friend!

        1. I have to agree on pretty much all you say here…I get paid to compere/organise my jam AND I pay my band to back up the jammers…Pub wins. Live music wins…

        2. Thank you for so eloquently phrasing just what I thought while reading this article. Everything the author describes does happen sometimes, but when an open mic is run well it becomes an important part of not only artist development but as you said, community spirit. I am a professional musician and I still go to open mics every now and again. To meet people, test new material, and often it does result in a paid gig.

        3. the apathymyth is spot on in his reply . i also run an open mic with a friend .. we have all sorts turn up , from working musicians to complete first timers, and we have not had an awful one yet . all our performers enjoy the chance to air new material and see reactions, build confidence , or simply play with a full band instead of being restricted to bedroom backing tracks. this in my opinion is a fantastic platform for all musicians to practice, perfect, build confidence , get it wrong too , and best of all get it right .. we have run ours for 6 years now and is still going strong . the pub we play in is a free house so not tied to a brewery and the owner and staff are awesome and actually join in . the landlady very often serves chips and sausages to the audience.. all to make it a great and social place to be .

      2. To be fair your article is itself an attack. This guy stood up for his local open mic, fair play, which is admirable. You encourage comments – for people not to ‘hold it in’ (i.e. it’s a deliberately harsh article to provoke engagement a la Daily Mail) – then attack the first response haha.

        My personal opinion is open mic nights are often disappointing, and probably do give some people a bad impression of live music. However, musicians themselves must understand they are not the same as paid gigs. I am a musician and I seem to grasp this. I do obviously wish I got some decent money for playing, not just a terrible bottle of Carling! But then if I really cared I would set up my own venue or agency, since promoters have no obligation whatsoever to pay me for my guitar noodling. If I don’t bring a crowd then financially it might not make sense. Relying on other people to set up nights and give you some of their budget may be a less healthy start to someone’s musical career than taking the hint, taking a step back and either setting up your own gigs, or getting really good/recording a bunch of material and building a proper following etc. Although I appreciate some people might not be good enough or experienced enough to do any of this, which I guess is the trade-off for getting an easy first open-mic ‘gig’ with little or no quality control.

        So for me it’s two fold, don’t attack shit for attention if you can’t hack the reaction. Lots of your article makes good sense and I agree with fat chunks of it. Tons of open mic suck! The one-dimensional antagonistic tone of the article seems out to do harm however, and one must expect it to offend the many well-meaning open-mic promoters who get paid sod all to try and put some life into dead scenes around the country.

    2. Mark,
      Having looked at your blog you are clearly a fan of open mic nights. The writer lays out in some detail some of the reasons why Open Mics are (in his opinion) a bad idea.

      You accuse him of failing to research his post, something he has very clearly done. You come along and simply dismiss his views as shite offering only a one-eyed view by stating that the ‘artists’ play for fun and exposure. I don’t disagree with that and nor incidentally does the writer. The point is whilst playing for fun and exposure they are often terrible and drive customers out of venues perhaps never to return.

      If you want to denigrate someones writing at least try to understand what they are saying and do them the justice of explaining why you disagree. A post saying “Open Mics are great because I like them” (which is essentially what you say) is frankly a waste of everyones time.

      You say that local mice where you live has spawned “Several well known Artists”. Name them????

      The writer has put considerable effort into his post, it is thought provoking and worthy of critical thought and counter argument, unlike your reply.

      Your response is akin to me visiting your site and saying “Your photos are shit”.

    3. totally agree, same with the one in our town… its a great place for musicians to hang out and blow off steam playing other stuff on off nights. As well, there have been gigs out of it and lots of young and old alike jamming together and learning.

    4. I agree with you Mark. I’m a working musician. I play 4-6 nights per week. I love what I do, and most of my gigs I get now are via being hired back past clients or referral, or word of mouth.
      That being said, I typically don’t like to play “new material” particularly my original works until I’ve “tested” them first. I try to hit an Open Mic at least once a month…it’s a great way to network with other musicians, see what else is going on in my field, as well as (potentially) have a new venue to play for a proper paid gig (which has happen to me several times over the years at different venues). The biggest misconception with that regard is the musician showing up to play, and then waiting for the owner to approach him/her and say “I NEED TO HIRE YOU FOR A PROPER GIG!” It doesn’t work that way. The Open Mic performance is a “foot in the door” so to speak, followed by persistent follow up with that owner. Ask for the gig.
      I truly believe that a well organized, well publicized Open Mic is a great asset to any music scene. Unfortunately, a lot of them are not presented this way, which causes articles like this….

    5. Same here…..sometimes the quality is a little off but we all started somewhere and decent landlords encourage things from a musical as well as a business standpoint. There are a few where a clique exists as described but the word gets around and people go elsewhere. The whole tone of the article is one of sour grapes from someone who thinks they’re more worthy than others.

  111. This is very true!! Where I like to go around & play a couple of times at most open mics you travel, buy beer & the crap artists with the most friends to cheer them get a paid gig!! & you spend 3 hrs hearing kareoke!!.

      1. I agree. I haven’t been to a lot of open mics because I don’t believe that people should spend years mastering a craft and getting nothing out of it. That’s what supporting the bigger bands are for. Build exposure that way not at an OPN. I find allot of these gigs are very “clique” people will stay outside smoking or whatever then when their mates band comes on they will pack the pub and cheer them on. Set is done… leave. It’s very hard I think. What they need is bigger bands with a local support to promote that band, then they build up a fan base and get gigs. But OPN don’t push for this, they push play for free bring mates drink loads and we’ll give you nothing in return.

      2. ive heard their handing out free drinks at all night at these open mike nights or is it just the music is free ??

    1. Wow… had to erase my looong answer and settle for this tidbit of info. Man, is this “chap” bitter. I’m not sure how the open mics are run in his part of the world, but I’ve been hosting them for years now (currently at Wed nights at Sherlock’s in Truro – shameless plug :p ) and I’ve never seen what he is describing. My feeling: Venues that pay someone competent to create an open mic with a fun, supportive atmosphere where beginners and pros alike can sing a few and be appreciated by an audience who understand what they’re hearing should be supported. They are legitimate (if done properly and not in excess) and are important to everyone, especially those wanting to start out.

      1. John, I agree. I think the thing is perhaps they need a bit more of an injection of creativity in the format as 12 solo guitarists can get a bit wearing . I go to a jam in Barcelona (albeit a bit of an “in” club, where you get put right at the start when no one is there, if you are new) where musicians play with the house band. They (if you want them to) accompany you with whatever song you want to play, and it especially supports original music. There are only a handful of covers the whole night. It´s a very fun atmosphere for the musicians in general, and there are people who also just go to watch, which is great.

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