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Thoughts on "Open Mic" nights...?

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  • SteinbergerHack
    started a topic Thoughts on "Open Mic" nights...?

    Thoughts on "Open Mic" nights...?

    I have seen a trend locally over the past couple of years that has me concerned. Several of the local bars have abandoned booking bands, and are holding "open mic nights" instead. These bars aren't my normal clientele anyway (they never did pay enough for my groups), but it got my attention when a couple of friends asked if I would come join them and play a few tunes. These guys don't play actual paying gigs, so they just see it as a fun time with buddies drinking beer and don't give it a second thought.

    From my perspective, it is a matter of the bar trying to get free "entertainment", knowing that the 10 guys who all show up to hack their way through a half-dozen covers each bring a couple of friends and buy a few beers. I get it, and can see why the bar would do it as long as they can put people on stools with glasses in hand.

    That said, it rubbed me wrong when a singer friend asked if I would come sit in "to help raise the bar on stage and put on a good show". From my perspective, why would I go "put on a good show" for nothing when I am already booked with paying gigs for the next 8-9 months? If the owner wants to "raise the bar", I am perfectly willing to accept a paying gig there - and I'd host the first set as open mic if they would like me to....but not as a freebie. I'm pretty certain that my buddy honestly just wants to have me help him sound better on his stuff, and probably never considered it from my perspective, but I still feel that we shouldn't be supporting a "give-away" to a bar that isn't booking acts and paying them.

    If the bar did open mic nights mid-week, then booked bands on the weekend, I would probably feel differently....but they don't.

    Am I being unreasonable in viewing it this way? Any thoughts on how to deal with this sort of request without coming across like a jerk?

  • erok123
    replied
    I like the idea of an open mic to meet new people and have fun. I'm not enough of a pro to pull much off though. Maybe a bit of blues lead or 4 chord rock. But as long as it's fun.

    Leave a comment:


  • HAMMER TOSS
    replied
    Personally, unless it's in the hands of a professional, as soon as a I see a horn of any kind I usually leave.

    Leave a comment:


  • Hoddy
    replied
    I'd rather listen to a DJ than the insufferable crap you have to endure on most open mic nights.

    Leave a comment:


  • Idunno
    replied
    Originally posted by Red Ant View Post

    I've never been to one, either as a participant or spectator. There is very little that instantly makes me want to leave more than the sight of a guy or girl with an acoustic guitar.
    And, in a buoyant reciprocity, nothing sends me quicker than music that needs a drummer to validate itself.

    Leave a comment:


  • Zooey
    commented on 's reply
    I just spent about three seconds trying to picture what a piano-cello looks like, then I read the rest of the sentence.

  • SteinbergerHack
    replied
    Originally posted by Red Ant View Post
    I've never been to one, either as a participant or spectator. There is very little that instantly makes me want to leave more than the sight of a guy or girl with an acoustic guitar.
    Generally true, but it depends. If it's Al DiMeola or Tommy Emmanuel, I'm going to order two drinks and settle in for a while. Those guys don't often show up at open mics, though....so......yeah.



    I got this response to a similar thread in one of the other forums here. I'm cross-posting it - mods feel free to delete if this violates a rule. I just thought it was a decent addition to the discussion here:

    Originally posted by daddymack View Post
    Most bar owners don't typically care about the quality of the music, just what they ring up over the night.
    Well, this certainly makes sense, as we all know that in the end we are beer salesmen, not musicians. That said, a club that gets a reputation of having better performers will likely end up drawing better crowds over time, and people will definitely stay longer and drink more if the environment is enjoyable. Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of quality bands who are available to play these gigs....? If all they can get is really bad garage bands and a couple of unsigned local guys trying to sell their CDs, maybe it's a chicken-and-egg thing?

    But, to be fair, would it hurt you to go back up a buddy on a couple of songs [assuming the backline is good and the drinks reasonable]? I do on occasion, but I also try to plug my bands when I do. Every now and then it pays off with a decent paying gig.
    I might drop in once just to keep the relationship up, but I honestly see no potential benefit for any of my regular gigs. These places aren't going to hire a 7- or 8-piece horn band (we wouldn't fit physically, and I can't imagine them paying enough to bring us in), nor do they build any influence over my steady diet of theater pit gigs. FWIW, I stopped in to look at one of these two places the other night, and there was NO backline provided, two mics on straight stands, one crappy monitor and one small "$h1t on a stick" FOH speaker.

    A few years ago, they were putting actual bands in the same space, but the bands always had to bring their own gear (which is fine - just putting it in perspective). Heck, the rehearsal sound rig I have in my barn would be a massive upgrade.......

    Leave a comment:


  • Crazyfoo
    commented on 's reply
    I’m a Gemini

  • arf-boy
    replied
    Just back from tonight's Open Mic.

    We had a guy with a B-bender acoustic who played a solo set and then sat in with two other guys.

    We had a piano-cello duo playing protest anthems and old country tunes.

    There was a young guy doing both Neil Young and metal tunes on acoustic.

    And I had a friend play bass with me on a set -- a treat for me because I'm usually the bass player.

    Leave a comment:


  • Zooey
    replied
    Originally posted by SteinbergerHack View Post

    Wow. Well, OK.

    Why would you play a club gig that didn't pay?
    That's the way bar gigs are around here. I know very talented bands who take vacation days to tour on their own dime and lose money doing it. The actual music venues in the area (Slim's, Yoshi's, Bottom of the Hill, Independent, etc.) do pay and sometimes book local bands that are not nationally known, but you need connections or a manager to get those gigs.

    There used to be some SF bars who would pay artists to have a residency and play regularly for bar patrons. Jim Campilongo and Charlie Hunter had gigs like that, but they obviously didn't pay much because both those guys moved to NYC a long time ago.

    Leave a comment:


  • Opposite Day
    replied
    Originally posted by Red Ant View Post

    I always say Triceratops "But, but... that's a made up sign!" "Yeah, and your point is...?"
    Triceracop!

    Click image for larger version

Name:	triceracop.jpg
Views:	1
Size:	63.1 KB
ID:	32437849

    Leave a comment:


  • Red Ant
    replied
    Originally posted by SteinbergerHack View Post
    If I am asked what my sign is, my response is generally along the lines of "Keep Right Except to Pass" or "Burma-Shave".
    I always say Triceratops "But, but... that's a made up sign!" "Yeah, and your point is...?"

    Leave a comment:


  • SteinbergerHack
    replied
    Originally posted by Zooey View Post
    I'm used to most bar gigs being unpaid.
    Wow. Well, OK.

    Why would you play a club gig that didn't pay?

    Honestly, I can generally make a lot more money playing theater, festival and casino gigs than clubs, but even so there is a minimum for me to take my gear out and play a show. I'm just not carrying $10-20K of equipment and instruments out to a bar for $50, and I cannot understand why anyone would expect it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Zooey
    replied
    I'm used to most bar gigs being unpaid. The last bar gig I played in Oakland, the majority of the audience was comprised of people who were playing that night and their friends. It's like a punk show or a music community event. SF used to be the same way, but many of the dive bars that used to book bands have been driven out of business.

    The bars that are primarily marketed as music venues in SF, Oakland and Berkeley are different. They do pay, but it's hard to land a spot and the cover charge is usually high enough to dissuade people from just walking in off the street.

    Leave a comment:


  • Telecruiser
    replied
    Originally posted by SteinbergerHack View Post

    Yes, my problem is with the bars that ONLY do open mic nights and don't hire bands. If the open mic is a way to "audition" or just a mid-week throwaway, no problem. If it's the only thing they do and they are advertising it as "live music" (which this place is doing), then IMO it's not something I want to support.
    Yep, I get what you are saying. There is a brewery (Aztec Brewing) just down the street from my business that has an open mic night. They also have some regular gig bands in there too. They provide the stage, sound, and sound person so it's fun. But you're right, some places have learned that why pay a band when you can draw people for next to free.

    Leave a comment:

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