Why Open Mics – Open Mic Tips

By Kenny Selcer

This months guest blogger, Kenny Selcer, shares some great advice for open mic performers.  He talks from experience. In addition to being a talented singer, songwriter, and musician, he hosts an open mic on the first and third Sunday of each month at the Colonial Inn in Concord.  He has released several CDs including his latest, Don’t Forget About Me.

You can’t live with them or without them! Now I don’t know if this strictly applies, but it sure sounds good and based on my emotional states at them through the years, the phrase sometimes applies. So why open mics? And what are some tips for surviving and getting the best out of going to them? I’ve been to hundreds of them and I still go. I’m also a host. I run a twice monthly one at The Colonial Inn, Concord, MA – almost 3 years now. I’ve also run them before and also booked features at them (and other types of venues). So I’ve been there.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years about them is that you can survive them. Meaning, if you’re nervous as heck about performing in front of people, you find that you get off of the stage and amazingly you are still in one piece, to live and play another day. Wow! So think about that.

You can see open mics as a bunch of different things.

  1. As a way of learning how to perform in front of people, honing your craft and moving your “career” along.
  2. As a social event – meeting lots of good folk and making friends.
  3. And everything in between the above 2 things.

It all depends on what your goals are. Of course, you can do open mics without any goals other than playing, meeting people and just hanging out. This is fine. I’ve “used” open mics just for this purpose. Gets me out of the house and I’ve made lots of friends over the years -All good as they say.

If your goal is about your furthering your music, both as a craft, and as a career, open mics can be a good thing for you. As with most things, you have to know what you’re doing, be Here are some open mic tips:

Play at open mics as much as possible. This is for a number of reasons. Here’s some:

  1. You need to get used to playing in front of people as much as possible.
  2. You want to gauge how you are doing with the audiences. Music is about communication, not just how good you are. You want to get reactions from the crowd. Learn how to do this (along with how to play and sing) and watch others to see how they do what they do. Not many people can engage an audience. It’s hard, for sure. I’ve seen not so good musicians and singers engage a crowd. This is great. You want to leave an impression (visceral is good)with the audience. I’ve also seen great singers and musicians bomb. This is not good. So learn how you affect an audience.
  3. Meet people – don’t just sit there waiting your turn. I know you get anxious about singing in front of an audience. I do. We all do. But if you make friends with people on the scene, things become less of an unknown, so to speak. I’ve made friends, got gigs, been invited to parties, made numerous music connection, etc. Open mics can be about everything, not just playing a song or 2 in front of people.
  4. Every room is different. Every room, both physically and how it is run effects your music. You want to get used to it all. Every room has a different sound system (or not) and varying degrees of skill of the sound people that run it. Some sound systems are so horribly run that you want run screaming from the room (I’ve done professional sound before, so I have a reference). You can’t hear, levels go up and down, everything sounds flat, monitors are terrible, etc. This is a good, learning experience, believe me. Getting used to places and rooms is important. Your thoughts and feeling are effected by sound, people walking in front of, talking, TVs, your host’s style, the position of the stage and PA, eating, who’s in the room and more. So playing in different rooms is of the utmost importance. Do them all.
  5. Play the one song open mics. Yes, I know, they are a drag, but you can learn from them too. You have one chance; it could be your last chance on Earth to play a song, or a chance to make an impression. I say treat every time you play in front of people to do your best and nothing more. One song open mics are tough for sure. No warm up time, etc. But go for it!

So think about all of the above or just go to open mics for fun! Serious fun, Find the ones you like, go to them and find others and go to them.

I record every show I do. Sometimes the open mics do it for you.

Click here to hear some songs I’ve played at open mics.

Click here to download a copy of Kenny Selcer’s latest single for free.

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