You’ve been out all day and would like nothing better than to sink into the soft couch cushions and binge season one repeats of Doctor Who on Amazon Prime.
But there’s an open mic tonight and you’re debating whether to go.
I say go.
But you say it’s a school/work night and the thing isn’t supposed to start until 9 p.m. Even if the host shows up on time he usually plays a 30-minute set beforehand, which puts getting home even later. And even when you get to take the stage you only get to play two or three songs. Is it really worth going?
Yes. And here are 10 reasons why:
- Get discovered. You might find yourself at the right place at the right time. There may be three people or 30 people in the audience but you don’t know just who is going to hear you and your music. I’m not saying a big producer will put you on the path to fame and fortune, but the person who books acts for weekend shows at the coffee house or club might be there and give you a shot to play. You have to treat any public performance as a potential audition.
- Feedback. Don’t be sensitive about accepting constructive criticism. It can be a valuable step to making your songs and performances better.
- Get a new fan. One or more people can develop an interest in your music and career. Maybe you can get them to sign up for your email list, buy your CD or follow you on Facebook
- Make connections. Always take advantage of networking opportunities. I have met two talented graphic artists at open mics as well as photographers and videographers all of whom are good people to k
- Hone songs and performance based on audience reaction. Writing is rewriting and how your audience reacts to your songs can provide invaluable guidance on what to change. Do they laugh at the right places or listen intently to the certain passages.
- Encouragement. Compliments are even more welcome than criticism. They are especially helpful if they are specific: “I like how you compared the sunrise to orange sherbet,” or "That signature guitar lick is cool, man.”
- Develop stage presence. Performing in front of people (even a few people) is a lot different from playing a song in your bedroom. Practicing how to interact with an audience can only be done live.
- Form a band or get a co-writer. Of course open mics are always going to attract musicians and other performers whose talents might complement yours. At some point in your musical journey you may need a drummer or bass player or someone you know may need one. (Here’s that networking thing again.)
- Check out the local talent. That young uke player you happened to hear one night might some day be just the right player for an upcoming project or show. (Did I mention networking?)
Last week I got a text that my local open mic was cancelled due to the host’s illness. I got that news after I had already gone over the three songs I was going to perform. It wasn’t a waste of time and effort, however. And that brings me to:
10. Motivation to practice. Not that you should need an excuse to rehearse, but few things can give you more of an incentive to practice your performance than an upcoming gig. Showing up unprepared is not a good feeling and not only for you. It can put your audience in an uncomfortable position.
So practice every day like you getting ready for a gig. And if you don’t have one, get your axe to an open mic.