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SteinbergerHack

Thoughts on "Open Mic" nights...?

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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?

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It's just another type 'Carrie Oakey'.

 

I've done them, mostly as a means to 'ply my wares' but the unresounding results (coupled with smoking bans and stiffer penalties for OVI) forced me to disabuse myself of the practice.

 

And in all fact, 'practice' is all it ever was.

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You're not wrong. There are a few clubs here that have gone to Open Mics during the week. One that I know specifically, uses the Open Mic to book weekend dates. I have no problem with that. Three songs should be enough to pass or fail an audition.

 

But Open Mics on Friday or Saturday night, nope.

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You are 100% reasonable in this instance, and I agree with your assessment completely.

 

Dont get used to me saying this. 😉

 

I would say say that it’s one thing to support a friend and help him sound his best and another to provide a free service and it’s up to you to decide where, for you, that line is.

 

 

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Stein, if you have paying gigs booked 9 months out then you have nothing to worry about.

Open mics, in my estimation, are for amateurs who are looking to get some public playing experience and up their game to the level of true working musicians.

Not every bar can afford the expenditure. But there’s no shortage of bars out there.

 

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They do it around here. Its usually on a week night so no band would be booked anyway. If you get 10-12 people to come play and they all bring a friend the bar will have a bigger crowd than for some bands on Friday or Saturday night.

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Around here open mics came around well after bars quit hiring bands. There was like a 10 year gap.

 

It's definitely a way to draw in a crowd for free (or really cheap). Some offer cash prizes ($50 - $100). I don't think I'm going to see much of a resurgence of live music in the bars. It's like that ship has sailed. The places that hire bands don't do open mics, at none that I've seen.

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I don't mind watching them if it's a popular one and good players show up, and the host keeps things moving.

 

I haven't played one in probably 20 years. All the hassles of live performance, with none of the rewards...

:freak:

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They do it around here. Its usually on a week night so no band would be booked anyway. If you get 10-12 people to come play and they all bring a friend the bar will have a bigger crowd than for some bands on Friday or Saturday night.

 

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.

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Stein' date=' if you have paying gigs booked 9 months out then you have nothing to worry about.[/quote']

 

Certainly true - and I have as many shows booked as I want to play, which is a nice place to be.

 

Open mics, in my estimation, are for amateurs who are looking to get some public playing experience and up their game to the level of true working musicians.

 

Very true, and that's as it should be. Interestingly, several of the singers I know who seem to always want to do these things are theater types. I guess that since they generally don't get paid when they do a show with a community theater, they may not see the issue with doing a club gig for free.

 

...of course, they don't ever bring any of their own gear, either.....

 

 

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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?

 

I didn't realize you are a capitalist. Good for you!

Edited by Chuck Nuggets

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Drummers never seem to buy a round either, but at least you know they brought a bunch of stuff other than their charming personality, charisma and good looks.

Edited by Grumpy_Polecat

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I agree with you 100% and see it the same way.

 

In my city theres an open mic at various places 5 nights a week. I used to go once in a while.

The bars used to give you a free drink if you played 3 songs, so I would go, play my 3 songs and have my drink while I watched the other players.

 

Then they did away with the free drink, apparently it was costing them too much!

 

I'm thinking to myself "I'm carting my $3,000 Kurzweil 88 key controller down there with a stand, setting up, playing 3 songs and you fkers cant even give me a beer to say thanks? FU!!

 

Now one of the places puts everyone name into a hat who plays and at the end of the night they draw a name and he gets a free pizza.

 

I'll still play at the occasional one but only if im there and only if someone else brought their keyboard. I don't lug my stuff down there anymore.

….and not to be a dk, but around here, 95% of the people who play at these things suck so bad, its painful to have to listen to them as the entire time you're wishing you had a gun so you could shoot yourself.

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Oh I forgot to mention one thing Stein....if the above wasn't bad enough. There's a café in town and they have an open mic every second Tuesday from 7-10. It's a nice coffee house vibe and they have a piano there already so it was convenient. I would go down, bring my honey, her kids, and all their friends would come. Just for me playing, I would typically bring anywhere from 6 to 8 extra people.....people who would order lattes and food etc. So the last time I went in October, the organizer calls me aside and says "Oh Alex, we really appreciate you coming to play at the coffee house, but starting next month we are asking all performers to pay $10 each to pay towards the advertising and expenses of running this event."....you want to talk about rubbing me the wrong way?? FO!!!! I come down to your event, bring a bunch of people who spend money and now you want me to pay $10 for the privilege? See ya! I haven't been back. Like I said, most people at these things are terrible and they are happy to pay $10 just to play, but that goes against everything I believe in.

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I think drinks should be a lot cheaper at open mic nights.

 

If I have to sit through a bunch of amateurs playing bad classic rock covers, I want cheap beer in return.

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I think drinks should be a lot cheaper at open mic nights.

 

If I have to sit through a bunch of amateurs playing bad classic rock covers, I want cheap beer in return.

 

Here! Here! I totally agree. I know I sound better when you have been drinking. :eatdrink004:

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Foo, that's the ugly story called 'pay to play'.

It rarely works in the proprietor's favor, in the long run.

Edited by Grumpy_Polecat

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Freebird is a GREAT song no matter what.(!!!) You should be happy to hear it despite any horrible rendition.

Edited by Grumpy_Polecat

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I didn't realize you are a capitalist. Good for you!

 

LOL. Steinberger is one of the most principled, and smartest, conservatives this forum has ever seen.

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I go to two fairly regularly, one on Sunday evening, one on Saturday afternoon, but these are almost like family and friends get togethers, except nobody has to clean up afterwards. They each have a core group of people who are all pretty talented, most of whom play in working bands or as solo performers. I usually get to play with a couple of others, which is great practice - playing songs I don't usually, or ever, play and honing my accompanist chops. Sometimes it's really happening. I even play actual gigs in a couple of groups with people that I met at these. And while there is a core group, new folks who show up are welcomed and supported and usually end up coming back. On the other hand, I don't play at the standard Open Mics where Bubba and Jenny come in to sing Bro Country or Jewel covers. I may go to watch some friends who are working at getting gigs and starting a career to have a beer and show support, but I don't play. But, to SH's point, it does seem like a number of places are doing open mics in lieu of actually hiring professional musicians.

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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?

 

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.

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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?

 

Only one comment here:

 

You say it was a singer friend who asked you to come and "raise the bar" and then complained about the owner wanting to "raise the bar" for no pay.

 

Are you sure the owner even cares about 'raising the bar"?

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I go to two fairly regularly' date=' one on Sunday evening, one on Saturday afternoon, but these are almost like family and friends get togethers, except nobody has to clean up afterwards. They each have a core group of people who are all pretty talented, most of whom play in working bands or as solo performers. I usually get to play with a couple of others, which is great practice - playing songs I don't usually, or ever, play and honing my accompanist chops. Sometimes it's really happening. I even play actual gigs in a couple of groups with people that I met at these. And while there is a core group, new folks who show up are welcomed and supported and usually end up coming back. On the other hand, I don't play at the standard Open Mics where Bubba and Jenny come in to sing Bro Country or Jewel covers. I may go to watch some friends who are working at getting gigs and starting a career to have a beer and show support, but I don't play. But, to SH's point, it does seem like a number of places are doing open mics in lieu of actually hiring professional musicians.[/quote']

 

Seems to me that open mic nights are much like karaoke. To the degree that today's audiences are more entertained by being involved, or at least seeing what at least seems like 'regular people' being involved, then they are by just sitting and watching a show put on for them by trained professionals.

 

I blame this, at least in part, on the quality of live performance becoming so degraded over the last couple of decades that there's often little difference between a supposedly professional band and Bubba and Jenny. And if Jenny's your friend, or it's more fun to see Bubba get too drunk and make a fool out of himself? All the better. I blame a lot of this on the "dad band/weekend warrior" thing that began in the 90s when all those boomers decided they had enough money to buy guitars and finally learn to play just like their heroes of 20-30 years ago. They didn't care how they looked, not much more for how they sounded, and didn't care about getting paid. Used to be a bar was a place to see young hungry kids trying to hone their craft. Now it's a place to see old guys with pot bellies and 'boutique" gear all see who can f' up "Crossfire" the least.

 

Part of it can also be blamed on our reality TV culture, social media, "selfies" and all of that as well. But I DO blame a lot of it on the musicians and entertainers. Instead of upping their game over the last couple of decades like pretty much every other form of entertainment, the fact is that "live music" is still basically the same format is was 60 years ago (a couple of guys on guitar and bass and drums and a singer do blues-based music) and most not even as good as our grandfathers did it.

 

Is it any wonder audiences are bored?

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Some just see playing music as a simple thing to have a good time with and don't find the monetary angle appealing to them. I play for free because I'm not a commercial music maker, nor do I define that into music making. A bar hosting open mic nights as a better financial method of marketing is pretty smart. People like to showcase their skills and open mics are no fault, no foul stages to do that on. It's grass-roots, no glam and pretty noobish most of the time but you get what you pay for and people are okay with that.

 

You can't slight a business for taking advantage of that just because there are people who earn their living solely by making music in need of work. You can but the logic stifles the argument.

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Seems to me that open mic nights are much like karaoke. To the degree that today's audiences are more entertained by being involved, or at least seeing what at least seems like 'regular people' being involved, then they are by just sitting and watching a show put on for them by trained professionals.

 

I blame this, at least in part, on the quality of live performance becoming so degraded over the last couple of decades that there's often little difference between a supposedly professional band and Bubba and Jenny. And if Jenny's your friend, or it's more fun to see Bubba get too drunk and make a fool out of himself? All the better. I blame a lot of this on the "dad band/weekend warrior" thing that began in the 90s when all those boomers decided they had enough money to buy guitars and finally learn to play just like their heroes of 20-30 years ago. They didn't care how they looked, not much more for how they sounded, and didn't care about getting paid. Used to be a bar was a place to see young hungry kids trying to hone their craft. Now it's a place to see old guys with pot bellies and 'boutique" gear all see who can f' up "Crossfire" the least.

 

Part of it can also be blamed on our reality TV culture, social media, "selfies" and all of that as well. But I DO blame a lot of it on the musicians and entertainers. Instead of upping their game over the last couple of decades like pretty much every other form of entertainment, the fact is that "live music" is still basically the same format is was 60 years ago (a couple of guys on guitar and bass and drums and a singer do blues-based music) and most not even as good as our grandfathers did it.

 

Is it any wonder audiences are bored?

 

So where do you live that the music scene is so unappealing to you? Where I live I can go and see live music pretty much 7 nights a week of pretty much any type and of any caliber that I, or anyone else, may want to see and hear. Young bands working to make it, seasoned pros, major touring acts, struggling bands touring in vans, solo artists, blues, new rock, classic rock, funk, jazz, reggae, EDM... Open mics and hosted jams are just other points on the spectrum. I guess I need to be more appreciative of what I've got here.

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Personally, I love open mics, or really I should say jam nights. I can usually play in a more loose, adventurous and, frankly, fun way than at most paying gigs. If I'm playing with guys who are better than me, it's nice to see if I can keep up and hang with them. If I'm playing with guys who are not quite at my level, I enjoy bringing them along and trying to play in a way that makes them sound better. Even the more singer/songwriter ones with acoustic guitars can be ok just to see people go from dipping their foot in the water to improving to really learning to express themselves effectively.

 

Admittedly this is a somewhat idealistic view of the open mic/jam night, but I have one that I hit on Wednesdays that's great fun. What does kind of annoy me is we also did paying gigs at the same place fairly frequently until they recently discovered that they make a lot more money with karoake and stopped booking bands altogether. :mad2: Oh well, probably time to find a slightly bigger pond anyway.

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There’s an open mic in the nearest big town to me every night of the week in some dive or other. Bars, coffeehouses, craft breweries, seems like they all have an acoustic open mic night, blues, or bluegrass jam once a week. Just like dart night, karaoke, or whatever. A way to get customers in on a weeknight. Some are good, some are cliquish, and some are just downright terrible. I rarely go to any of them as it’s 30 miles away and not worth the trouble. I’ll attend one or two a year, if someone else I know is a good musician is going or recommends it. I generally don’t have a problem with them. I’ve enjoyed them, been bored to tears, or left with my fingers in my ears. It really depends on who’s running it, how it’s run, and the level of talent that usually shows up. A blues jam can be fun if it’s run right. I’ve heard great stuff at all original acoustic open mics.

 

Now asking me to pay to perform in one would rub me raw in a big way. But afaik that hasn’t happened yet around here.

 

 

 

 

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So where do you live that the music scene is so unappealing to you? Where I live I can go and see live music pretty much 7 nights a week of pretty much any type and of any caliber that I, or anyone else, may want to see and hear. Young bands working to make it, seasoned pros, major touring acts, struggling bands touring in vans, solo artists, blues, new rock, classic rock, funk, jazz, reggae, EDM... Open mics and hosted jams are just other points on the spectrum. I guess I need to be more appreciative of what I've got here.

 

Well sounds like you may be in a much bigger city than I am, but even still. Don’t you find the pay is less than it was decades ago, let alone not keeping up with inflation?

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Perhaps because it's a tourist area, there is a strong live music scene here.

 

but there are also karaoke places and Open Mic places. As well as a couple pay-to-play clubs that will have 5 bands a night and sell tickets to their friends.

 

a friend from music school used to host a weekly Jam at a local bar, and me and my brothers would go sit in as sort of the regular opening act.

 

and I have hooked up with musicians at Open Mic nights and later gone on to form bands with them.

 

I think that open mic places are a good part of the music scene.

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Well sounds like you may be in a much bigger city than I am, but even still. Don’t you find the pay is less than it was decades ago, let alone not keeping up with inflation?

 

Pay is a problem. It is about the same dollars as it was decades ago, which means substantially less in real value. I think that's why 'merch' has become so important for bands and artists who are seriously trying to build a career. One of the benefits of current technology is that it is easier and much less expensive to self-produce a recording, be it a CD or a download and use live shows to promote other revenue streams. It was never easy to make a living playing music. Back when $100 a person was a good figure for a four hour gig you were lugging B3's and Leslies up and down flights of stairs, usually playing at a different place every night. With travel time, load-in, set-up, tear down, load out it was pretty much an 8 hour day. And getting a record recorded and ready for distribution was a very expensive proposition. We were all just younger then and didn't mind it.

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To be truthful, I don't have to play for the money at this point, but I won't play without the money. What I do has value, what all of us do has value and that has to be acknowledged. I want the gig because the band is worth the money to the promoter or venue owner, not because we're cheaper than somebody else.

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To be truthful' date=' I don't have to play for the money at this point, but I won't play without the money. What I do has value, what all of us do has value and that has to be acknowledged.[/quote']

 

Same. Though I'll play for cheap if I'm the worst player on the stage, meaning I'm likely to learn something.

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PTP should be on a standard tab. You get billed in inverse proportion to the quality of your performance.

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I have played one in my life at a local blues jam. Our band lost it's other guitar player and our band agreed to play so that we could audition a guitar player that played there regularly. We played a couple of songs, played backup for a couple of singers then packed up and left. The guitar player was a bust because he led us on to believe he wanted to join a band but it turned out all he wanted to do was play at this weekly jam. We did find another guitar player not long and he was really good. I learned so much from him and we got along well together.

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Same. Though I'll play for cheap if I'm the worst player on the stage, meaning I'm likely to learn something.

 

I like to say Earn, Learn, or Bearn (nevermind) It's good to see it holds true for you.

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Around here, at least, live music venues are like unicorns. Everyone has heard of them but fewer have claimed to actually see one. Open mics had nothing to do with this. The places doing open mics, if made to pay for the talent (musicians) they would simply quit.

 

In 1990, in the city where I live (pop. 65,000-ish) had 11 bars doing live music. Now, none. There are two bars doing open mics (both started about 3 years ago). In that same city, there was 3 concert type venues (couple hundred seats). Today we have one. In general, I believe, live music isn't what it used to be and drawing crowds large enough, just aren't there.

 

As much as this pains me to say, music (it self) is becoming a rather irrelevant factor in challenging for entertainment dollars. The trend is towards the characters in the music industry, the music is secondary, imo. I keep seeing hope in young musicians, but without anywhere to play (and make a buck or two) the dead end drives them out of the industry.

 

Now for the question at hand, how has karaoke/open mics affect this situation? Not one little bit. Look at it from someone at the beginning of their "careers". The places that pay, only hire top tier players for crap pay (lots of supply, very little demand). This only leaves things like open mics for them to play for people. The other value add to open mics is that it gives aging players an opportunity to relive their glory days. This keeps Uncle Bob from getting drunk and playing Fug songs at Christmas dinner. He now has a designated place to get drunk and irritate people.

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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.

 

What's wrong with promoting Open Mic as "live music" if that's what it is?

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Anton doesn't even really like Richard Thompson, who may be the apex of the guy-with-acoustic genre.

Edited by arf-boy

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What's wrong with promoting Open Mic as "live music" if that's what it is?

 

Thank you, arf, I share this view.

 

Yes, it's no good for working musicians. But it IS home-grown music.

 

If bar owners make a profit off it, so what? They have a right to do what they need to do to keep the lights on.

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What's wrong with promoting Open Mic as "live music" if that's what it is?

 

Much of what shows up at open mic nights bears little resemblance to music....and therein lies the point of the OP. If you want that sort of living room jam session in a bar, that's fine, but asking a paid player to come in for free is just rude, IMO.

 

If you have a friend who is a plumber, do you ask him to spend his weekend re-plumbing your bathroom for free? How would you expect him to feel about that? Do you expect your lawyer buddy to handle your traffic ticket at no charge "just for fun"?

Edited by SteinbergerHack

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Much of what shows up at open mic nights bears little resemblance to music.

 

Which of my performances did you see?

 

;)

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What's wrong with promoting Open Mic as "live music" if that's what it is?

 

To clarify, the problem is that open mics are generally a disorganized mess, and not a serious, polished performance We have a generatiom of kids who have never seen a really good serious band in a bar or at a dance club - and they now think that a half-assed jam session or unrehearsed blues trio in the corner is the definitive "live music"

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This winter, I'm guest-host of a long-running Open Mic in the town next door. The regular host of 25-plus years is away for the winter. Open mic on Thursday is the only music at this bar-restaurant, besides occasional jazz at Sunday brunch.

 

It's a fun gig for me: Set up a small PA, introduce the acts, stage-manage to keep on schedule and play the unfilled slots. I get decent pay, plus free food and drink. Performers get a discount on meals. Acts are mostly solo but some duos or trios come by -- and occasionally larger groups. I have played in bands for 20 years but never full-time; I call myself a performing amateur musician.

 

The regular host has done some smart things. Emceeing the show, for one; that way, the audience knows who everyone is -- even the shoe-gazers. Anyone who wants to join a performer must have that performer's permission (no harmonica guy leaping on stage with his pocket menace). Sign-up can be done all week by calling the venue, where the list is on a clipboard next to the phone. We keep to the schedule, so everybody gets 20 minutes and there's no favoritism for the host's buddies. That eliminates most of the complaints performers have about poorly-run events. (There's one near me where the host apparently insists on sitting in with everyone; I've toyed with the idea of going there with a set of very-hard-to-follow songs.)

 

This event is an established part of the town's musical culture. Over time, other open mics have come and gone. The town has a small brewery that does regular acoustic pub jams and occaisional electric bands, a large restaurant-brewery that does electric music on Thursdays and on the deck Sundays when the weather is good. There's a converted church that's a regular weekend-night music venue and an 500-seat theater that has shows occasionally.

 

Yes, occasionally an act is excruciating. But the level of musicianship is usually pretty good, some of the regulars are willing to combine forces for imprompu gems and there's a nice vibe. When I'm not guest host, I stop in once a month or so to put myself in front of an audience, try some new material or play a different instrument -- bouzouki, for instance.

 

(Edit: regularly playing at this open mic has made me a better player. Guest-hosting it has made me a better entertainer.)

Edited by arf-boy
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After retiring, I had thought about writing a book about "the people's music": jams, open mics, festival campfire jams and karaoke. I was planning to do some road trips around the country, possibly meeting some of the folks from this place. Then 2008 happened and my plans changed.

 

I have a friend whose band hosts a weekly jam, and it's helped keep him afloat for quite some time. Of course, that's not an open mic, which is organized around time slots or number of songs. As far as open mics, I don't mind listening to some occasionally awful performances if there's a kind of youthful sincerity involved. My grandkids' grade school bands are another story. I don't know how the teachers handle hearing it on a daily basis.

 

As far as the decline in live music, for me that happened in the seventies with the rise of disco. That coincided with the demise of our band and my first marriage. I played some solo gigs in the next couple of years, but then a bone spur (!!!!) in my left thumb stopped my stringed instrument playing for nearly a decade. I went back to my original instrument, the piano, but just couldn't get the gears to mesh.

 

Now I get together with three other guys for "band practice", which is more of what I call the big boys club. After our drummer died, it hasn't been the same. He was much more than a drummer, as he was also a good lead and harmony singer, and just a great dude to have around.

 

That bone spur has never gone away, though the discomfort is mostly over. If I happen to strike it on something, I cringe a bit with pauin, but I can play stringed instruments without discomfort. Gotta wonder why Donald can't even remember which foot was the problem, as the spurs don't dissolve on their own.

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