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US and Canadian Open Mikes - by musicians, for musicians

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What Makes A Successful Open Mic Night?

1. Learn the procedures.

Find out how and when to sign up. If you do not you may lose your chance to play. Find out how many songs you will be expected to perform, how you will know when it is your turn, if there is a time limit on your performance and if there are any restrictions on the type of material you can do. Make sure you know what equipment is available, which microphone to use, where to plug in your guitar, what to do if your guitar does not have a pick-up, what to do if you have a keyboard, etc. If you perform as a group, be sure to let the host know and verify that there will be an adequate number of microphones and instrument inputs.

2. Follow the procedures.

This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many writers do not pay attention or want special treatment. Listen when the host explains how the night runs. Be ready when it is your turn. If you have a special request, ask politely - don't demand. Remember that the host has everyones needs to consider and procedures are set to allow the night to run smoothly. If you find the policies and procedures to be inconvenient to you, find a different place to play, or accept that as a newcomer you will have to pay your dues. Arguing with the host will rarely get you what you want and will work against you in the long run.

3. Have your instrument ready to go.

If you play guitar, tune it perfectly. If you cannot tune perfectly by ear, buy an electronic tuner or borrow one. Tune BEFORE you get on stage and then check it just before your turn. The best way to make a bad impression is to play out of tune and too many people do. Also, be sure you have your strap, capo, pick, cable and any other accessories you need.

If you play a keyboard, do not assume the venue will provide one. If you bring one, double check to be sure you have all the cords and pedals you need. If you are new at it, be sure you know what gets plugged in where.

4. Practice ? practice - practice.

Do songs you are comfortable with. It is perfectly appropriate to try out a new one at an open mic, but learn it first. Don't subject the audience to a rehearsal full of painful mistakes.

If you follow these suggestions it can help you have a positive experience playing the open mics.

5. Look your best.

Wear clothes that are flattering and tend to your grooming ? it is show biz and the visual is all part of the overall experience for your audience. But do not overdress for the room you are in. The stage clothes you might wear for a concert in front of thousands may look silly in a coffeehouse or local bar.

6. Be confident but humble.

If you are nervous and afraid, act as if you are comfortable and confident. It will put your audience at ease, and it might even help you feel that way. Do not apologize for anything you are going to do - if you need to apologize for it, do not do it. Do not say anything negative about your song or your performance. If you do not tell the audience that your voice is not in good shape or that you are not a very good guitar player, they might not know any better and they might just go ahead and enjoy what you do!

But do not go overboard and broadcast how great you think you are. I find that when people drop names or brag about their accomplishments it tends to alienate people. While you are performing if you really want to impress the audience, do not think about impressing them. Instead, focus on the song. Tell your listeners the story that is in the lyrics and let yourself truly feel the emotion of the song. Being vulnerable and real is what wins over the crowd.

7. Support the venue

The venue owners who give us a place to share our music may do it out of great love, but they still have bills to pay. The support they need is money in the cash register. Don?t go out to eat and then go to the club to play ? buy dinner there. Skip your morning Starbuck so you can buy a drink or two that night. If you are a starving artist with no cash to contribute, invite your friends and fans to come to the show. Advertise the venue on your website or Myspace page. Email other musicians you know who might enjoy playing the open mic. If the night is profitable, it will continue and you will keep having a place to play.

If you follow these suggestions it can help you have a positive experience playing the open mics.