Have you decided that it’s time to take the next step and start playing music for a crowd of real people at an open mic night? If so, you’re in the right place. It’s an amazing feeling to be in front of an audience and to be able to play music for them, but is an open mic night worth it?
The short answer is, yes! Open mic nights are a hotbed for emerging talent and incredible musicianship. Not only can you gain a wealth of experience performing your own material & covers, but you can also network with musicians, promoters & talent scouts too.
Firstly, you should get to know how open mics work and what to expect on the night, then we’ll go through some of the reasons why you should get yourself down to one below.
Open mic nights for singers
Why you should play open mic nights
Open mic nights are a valuable resource and are a great way to get as many stage miles under your belt as possible. Attending an open mic is a valuable experience for a performer just starting out, or even more seasoned singers looking to test out new material, so let’s go outline some of the reasons why you should try one.
#1 Playing live improves confidence & stage presence
If you’ve never played an open mic night before, you may experience some degree of anxiety before you play and as you get on stage. If you’re nervous about performing live in front of complete strangers, bring some friends down for your first time. Performers tend to be really friendly and most open mic hosts are happy to give newcomers some extra support.
Your voice may sound great but under pressure might be a little weak and wobbly on the night. Normally this will dissipate over time and at an open mic night, you normally get 3-4 songs to perform.
If you don’t know how to control the energy of a room, the open mic night scene is the perfect place to improve your stage presence and general confidence. As your set continues you’ll need to hold everyone’s attention and take them on a journey through your set. Every song has a message and emotion, the way you deliver those songs is your stage presence and every performance improves it.
#2 Open mic nights are great for career development
Whether you’re building a career or just having a bit of fun on the side, open mics are endlessly rewarding and will make you a more well-rounded person. There are bands that play every opportunity they get and there are bands that get together just to play the Christmas Party every year. Being a musician tempers a personality and teaches you to communicate with a wide variety of people, an endlessly useful skill in life.
If you’re looking to make music your career, your time will initially be spent playing open mic nights every night that you can to build experience and connections.
Open mic nights near me
#3 At an open mic you’ll be part of a community
Even if you’re a social butterfly and bring a group of friends to every gig, you need more than those people to support your career and pay the bills. You’ll need a following of supporters.
A gentleman at a local open mic night comes in with a beautiful bottle green acoustic guitar and opens up with Folsom Prison Blues in his own modern rock style. His voice is incredible and he plays for 20 people into the bar.
The venue loves him. The crowd loves him. If he wanted to write something original and played it on a day when someone with connections was listening – there’s no doubt he could land a deal. Those people weren’t his friends when he started, but now he’s part of a community of people who come to see him play.
#4 Open mic nights help perfect your performance
If you’re asking, ‘’is an open mic worth it?’’ you’ve either not played one or you haven’t played enough to know that it definitely is.
Ed Sheeran played up and down the country for over a year couch-surfing his way to the big time. Trust us when we say this, when he started he was less than perfect… Check out this video with him showing recordings of his early work on the Jonathan Ross Show.
Most musicians’ careers start with playing at open mic nights. Looking for a comprehensive list of open mic nights? Find out if your location is listed below:
#5 Anything can happen at an open mic
A talented musician with good material is an opportunity waiting to happen for any industry professional. As with any performance, you never know where it will take you. To explain this concept, here’s a short story:
‘’I remember working as a bartender in Bournemouth one afternoon when a well–dressed and confident looking singer-songwriter turned up for a set. The room was empty – it was just me & the owner listening while I polished up some glasses. I felt bad for him, but I shouldn’t have – that guy plugged up on time and delivered two amazing sets of original material and covers as if the room was full of people.’’
‘’Towards the end of his second set, two people arrived who happened to be organisers of music events to deliver some custom gin glasses to the owner of the club. They caught the end of performer’s set, took his card and offered him a private well-paid gig.‘’
You can meet anyone at an open mic night. If you keep showing up and improving, eventually someone will notice. Plenty of venues offer paid gigs to singers who started out playing at their open mic nights.
Open mic night tips
What if the open mic night has an elitist or stagnant culture? All manner of open mic nights have slightly different vibes to them. If there’s a venue that you really don’t like the vibe of, simply choose another venue. However, we prefer to advise you learn to play any venue, no matter what the vibe or culture is around the musicians your job doesn’t change.
You are there to perform great music, enjoy your night and entertain the people.
Can you sing covers at open mic nights?
If you’re worried about the legal side of singing covers, see this article.
What are some good cover songs to play at an open mic night? This will depend heavily on the venue and the crowd on the night. There’s an element of unpredictability, but if you pick a variety you can please most crowds.
While performing your own music is always a plus, here are some tried and true suggestions that work:
- Ed Sheeran – Shape of You
- Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
- Get Lucky – Daft Punk
- Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars
- Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire
- Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
- Maroon 5 – Harder to Breathe
- Dropkick Murphys – Shipping Up To Boston
- Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag
- The Proclaimers – 500 Miles
- Pat Benatar – Hit Me With Your Best Shot
- Bryan Adams – Summer of 69
- Katrina & The Waves – Walkin’ On Sunshine
- Queen – Fat Bottomed Girls
- Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
- Stevie Ray Vaughan – Pride and Joy
- Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
- The Kinks – You Really Got Me
- Dusty Springfield – Son of A Preacher Man
- The Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down
- Van Morrison – Crazy Love
These are some staples for the open mic scene but we hope you’ll take our suggestions and add something new to the repertoire. We can feel the stares of venue owners already for suggesting these tracks but they’re a great place to start to feel the kind of energy you want to be producing. We recommend learning a few things from each generation so you can please any crowd.
What do I wear to my open mic night?
Be presentable, neat and appropriate for your set. Scout out your local scene for pointers. We don’t recommend that you wear anything risque or dirty, while some bands make their living from their unique style, they’re always presentable.
If you’re not sure what to wear, go smart casual to be safe. You can always show off your personality as long as you look approachable and friendly, remember you’re there to make friends and have fun.
Open Mic Nights for musicians
Normally there is some sort of backing accompaniment or even a house band at some venues. You can always accompany yourself but don’t afraid to ask the venue or host if it’s OK to use a backing track.
You can always check out the venue beforehand to see what kind of acts work well. If you entertain the people and take them on a journey, the world’s your oyster at that microphone.
- How many songs should I prepare?
Prepare at least 4-6 songs minimum.
- How long will my set be?
Your set will normally be around 3-4 songs.
- What if the crowds’ energy is low from the last act?
Set the mood quickly and take control!
- How should I pick songs?
Pick dynamic songs that take your audience on a journey.
- How do I make sure the venue likes me?
Get people to the bar and entertain them, venues will love you.
- What if the whole room is shouting, ‘Play Wonderwall!’?
The general rule of thumb is to give the people what they want. Some bands fake out with the intro chords and then play something else in the same key!
- How can I eliminate the chances of a ‘flop’ or bad set?
Know at least one ‘Smash Hit’- songs from artists everyone loves.
- Are open mic nights for beginners?
Open mic nights are normally beginner friendly, however, it’s useful to scout your venue to see for yourself and ask questions.
- Any solid general advice?
Be comfortable with your songs and be prepared! Try to have a backup for every piece of equipment
Are you a fan of open mic nights? We would love to hear your thought and any advice you have for others in the comments below.