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.