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Bob Dey

Open mic night?

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Has anyone here hosted an open mic night on an off night? I was thinking it might be another type of gig that would bring in a few bucks. Or should I just be an Uber driver? lol

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I have been hosting jams on and off for a number of years.

I did try to establish an 'open mic' night, but I was inundated with wannabe poets, terrible standup acts, a juggler [what mic?], a mime [yeah...a mime!]...in other words people who can't get a gig with their hobbies...and let it go after 3 weeks.

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I dislike open mic nights, as they exploit musicians.

  • The owner and/or manager gets paid
  • The cooks get paid
  • The bartenders get paid
  • The wait staff gets paid
  • The bouncer gets paid
  • The food and drink wholesalers get paid
  • The person who sweeps the floors and scrubs the toilets get paid
  • The musicians play for free

Now the person who scrubs the toilets is important, but what the open mic musician is saying is that even the toilet scrubber is more important than the musician.

In my area it's become a trend and we have Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday open mic nights in places where IMHO pro musicians should be playing, and in most cases where actual pro musicians used to play.

It's exploitation. I'd rather see someone pirate a CD to a star that has enough money than to take a gig away from a working musician who is struggling to make the mortgage payments.(Don't do either, it isn't nice)

I know I can't change that. As long as someone is willing to work for free, someone will be willing to use that person instead of hiring someone else. And they bring their friends who spend money.

Me? If a place hosts an open mic night, I boycott that place. I won't go in the door - ever. I know that won't hurt them, but it makes me feel like I am not participating in keeping my fellow musicians out of work.

I mostly play yacht clubs, country clubs, retirement complexes and private parties so open mics don't affect my business. It's a good market down here in Florida, and I drifted this way when the clubs cut back from 6 nights a week to 4 nights a week. I can make in 2 days what I used to make in 5 or 6.  I have to schlepp gear every gig, but that's OK with me - it's good exercise and I don't have to pay a gym fee to lift heavy objects ;)

Now if there is a jam session, and the core band is getting paid a normal gig fee, I see nothing wrong with sitting in.I used to belong to a jazz/blues society and I'd sit in often. Years before that I was in the host band in a jazz jam. We got paid our regular fee.

And playing for a charity you believe in is fine, as long as it isn't a commercial venture in disguise. If everyone else is getting paid instead of volunteering, I'm not volunteering my time.

And every couple of years we play for free in the VA hospital about 60 miles away. We play in the nursing home and in the area where the wheelchair bound vets live. I was 4F when I tried to join, so it's my way of saying "Thanks". I've met some really nice people there.

I know I'm not the sole arbiter of ethical behavior, but I find it against my personal ethics to patronize a for-profit place that exploits my fellow musicians.

 

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On 11/27/2019 at 7:38 PM, Notes_Norton said:

I dislike open mic nights, as they exploit musicians.

  • The owner and/or manager gets paid
  • The cooks get paid
  • The bartenders get paid
  • The wait staff gets paid
  • The bouncer gets paid
  • The food and drink wholesalers get paid
  • The person who sweeps the floors and scrubs the toilets get paid
  • The musicians play for free

Now the person who scrubs the toilets is important, but what the open mic musician is saying is that even the toilet scrubber is more important than the musician.

In my area it's become a trend and we have Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday open mic nights in places where IMHO pro musicians should be playing, and in most cases where actual pro musicians used to play.

It's exploitation. I'd rather see someone pirate a CD to a star that has enough money than to take a gig away from a working musician who is struggling to make the mortgage payments.(Don't do either, it isn't nice)

I know I can't change that. As long as someone is willing to work for free, someone will be willing to use that person instead of hiring someone else. And they bring their friends who spend money.

Me? If a place hosts an open mic night, I boycott that place. I won't go in the door - ever. I know that won't hurt them, but it makes me feel like I am not participating in keeping my fellow musicians out of work.

I mostly play yacht clubs, country clubs, retirement complexes and private parties so open mics don't affect my business. It's a good market down here in Florida, and I drifted this way when the clubs cut back from 6 nights a week to 4 nights a week. I can make in 2 days what I used to make in 5 or 6.  I have to schlepp gear every gig, but that's OK with me - it's good exercise and I don't have to pay a gym fee to lift heavy objects ;)

Now if there is a jam session, and the core band is getting paid a normal gig fee, I see nothing wrong with sitting in.I used to belong to a jazz/blues society and I'd sit in often. Years before that I was in the host band in a jazz jam. We got paid our regular fee.

And playing for a charity you believe in is fine, as long as it isn't a commercial venture in disguise. If everyone else is getting paid instead of volunteering, I'm not volunteering my time.

And every couple of years we play for free in the VA hospital about 60 miles away. We play in the nursing home and in the area where the wheelchair bound vets live. I was 4F when I tried to join, so it's my way of saying "Thanks". I've met some really nice people there.

I know I'm not the sole arbiter of ethical behavior, but I find it against my personal ethics to patronize a for-profit place that exploits my fellow musicians.

 

I have a different view.  Particularly as it relates to blues jams.  The house band gets paid but not usually that much. Everyone else is  there to have fun, network, and gain experience.  I know of several successful blues artists who got their start at blues jams. Also, for some bands the house band gig, even though it may not be a high paying gig, is the most regular work they have.  It gives them a chance to work on songs and it can sometimes lead to other gigs. If there is an up and coming musician, they can hire the house band to back them up if they go out and find a gig. 

 

As far as a pure open mic,  I haven’t been around those as much. Hosting something like that may be somewhat of a crap shoot. 

Edited by OneManBlues

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The way I see it is that with so many places having open mic nights, there are fewer places for that musician at your proverbial blues jam to find a paying gig.

But then, I grew up when 5 or 6 nights per week was average and it was easy for competent musicians to find gigs.

I feel sorry for young musicians, as they don't have the opportunities to be a career musician that I did.

Fortunately when the night club gigs just started to shrink, I moved into the Yacht Club, Country Club, Retirement Community, market, it's big here in South Florida. We've been a duo since 1985 and have never hurt for work.

I'll go sit in with my friends, only if I know the house band is getting paid a fair wage.

But that's just me.

Notes

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There are a limited number of venues that book blues bands.  Some of the old blues guys will talk about his disco made it hard go get gigs. The way you feel about open mics is how I felt about Karaoke.  

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On 11/29/2019 at 3:49 PM, OneManBlues said:

There are a limited number of venues that book blues bands.  Some of the old blues guys will talk about his disco made it hard go get gigs. The way you feel about open mics is how I felt about Karaoke.  

Karaoke is pretty much the same but for singers instead of instrumental musicians.

 

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There was a Blues scene in my area in the '90s. The last Blues club in town closed down a couple of years ago. There are a few Blues bands that still get gigs. As far as open mic nights, there are two or three places doing it. I've felt the way Notes does about musicians going to these to play a few songs without pay. Some are in my age group, retired and just wanna have some fun. Younger musos are hoping to get noticed enough to get in a band or get gigs on their own.

Anyway, I'm just thinking of more possibilities for gigs. Brainstorming if you will...

 

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We are seeing a slow but gradual 'resurgence' of small blues clubs here. We lost pretty much all our local dedicated blues clubs over the past 15 years. Our 'local' House of Blues doesn't present actual Blues acts anymore [hasn't in over a decade]; they closed BB Kings here a decade ago [we were in the opening act rotation there]; so it is a 'grass roots' revitalization. My band hosts a open blues jam about every six weeks in Pasadena. I used to be in a host band for a number of years at a couple of local venues that were amenable, but not actually dedicated to the blues. I also started/hosted a pro jam a couple of years back which was a quasi blues and jazz jam, where I had a horn section, 16 channel PA, plenty of mics/stands...but they pulled our plug after a year. I have to go to LA to get a decent blues room now, a sad state of affairs, and I do go and jam in order to support the room.

I mentioned my sad failure at trying an open mic night a while back, and the venue recently contacted me if I would give it another go on their slow night...my answer was 'sorry, unless you put some promotion behind it, no'...I am not going in already set up to fail...again. I did offer to try a singer-songwriter night...but they were not interested...?

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On 11/30/2019 at 2:51 PM, Notes_Norton said:

Karaoke is pretty much the same but for singers instead of instrumental musicians.

 

Karaoke is not for serious singers, it is for drunks to embarrass themselves. 

A drummer friend is in a 'live band' [they use tracks with live drums and 2 guitarists reading scrolling charts off iPads] 'karaoke'...he is fortunate that the club has a regular local following or it would be crickets...the same people pretty much every week. He keeps asking me to come there and sing...to 'raise the bar', as it were; I used to gig there many years ago [1980s] as a side man for one band and as a solo. But it isn't of any interest to me to do that unless I could get a soloist slot there again, and I know they won't do that.

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A good friend of mine (and fantastic guitarist) is turning 60 at the end of the month, and they're planning on doing karaoke at his birthday party - and none of his family drinks, nor do most of our friends, so they'll all be sober. I really have to attend, since I've been close with this guy and his family since our teens... but I'm not looking forward to that aspect of the party - I've managed to avoid karaoke all these years, but that streak appears to be about to end... 

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...Karaoke...

Phil, the more they drink, the better the singers sound. They've omitted the 'competitive edge". :D

We have a fan who sings karaoke at an Elk's lodge. He is a good fan, comes out to see us almost every week, and has done so for years and years. He invited us to his karaoke night so we went.

The thing I noticed besides for all of them being untrained singers -- is that they all wanted to sing slow songs. I guess they don't realize that slow songs are harder to sing well than the fast ones.

Anyway our fan did OK, weak breath support but good pitch and acceptable expression. Actually better than most. That's a good thing because I was afraid I would have to lie in order not to hurt his feelings.

Karaoke competes with us a bit, because it's amateur, free entertainment in places that used hire bands.

Karaoke Jocks - that's what I call singers who buy karaoke tracks and sing along, not telling the audience they are karaoke tracks, and not inviting the audience to sing, are competition too. They pretend to be bands in a way. They often undercut live bands because they haven't the investment in learning to play instruments nor the expense of being a musician; a computer, mic and porta-PA is all they need.

... ... Blues ... ...

We used to have a blues society here in which I was a member. The founder died, the former secretary tried to keep it going for a few years, but it slowly faded away. We had blues jams once a month, and the house band was paid a fair wage, so I had no qualms about sitting in.

There are no blues clubs open in our area.

... ... Open Mic ... ...

Around here, open mic nights are actually more plentiful than gigging band nights. Sad, but true. Some nights there are 4 or 5 going on, and we even have them on Friday and Saturday nights.

Fortunately I'm no longer in the bar business but the yacht club, country club, and retirement community end of the biz. It pays well, it's a huge market here, and moved over to that market 29 years ago. It's served me well.

... ... Geezer Talk ... ...

I feel sorry for the younger musicians. They don't have the gigging opportunities I had when I was young. Between DJs (which the young dancers prefer), Open Mic Nights, Karoke, Football Night, Comedy Night, and so on, there are not many places where a young musician can gig and make a living at it.

Back in my day (read that with a creaky voice) we walked 6 miles to school in the snow - strike that -- singles bars hired band 6 nights a week. Everything from a Holiday Inn up to Show Clubs also hired bands at least 6 nights a week, some of them two bands per night. TVs in bars were only small dozen bar stool taverns, not night clubs. Playing disco was considered inferior and cheap. And any musician who was at least decent could gig if they wanted to.

We toured the US states just west of the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean and from Canada to Florida playing college towns. Cover songs, people buying us drinks, and enough pretty girls that were attracted to musicians to make my life delightful in every way. Eventually we became the opening act for major stars in concert while their hits were Top10 on Billboard.

Ah yes, now I'm with my wife playing for people our age. When we started this market, they were all at least 20 years older than us. Now it's the same grey hair and glasses, but instead of wanting Glenn Miller, they want Eric Clapton. And we say, "What are these old people doing listening to OUR music." :D

Life is still delightful. I wake up in the morning, go to bed at night, and in between, do what I want to do. That's success, and that's freedom.

Notes

 

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i couldnt begin to tell you how many karaoke bars ive been thrown out of...   for laughing and having too much fun...  which only makes it worse...  three in new hampshire in one evening...     after being shown the door twice for “having a bit too much fun” i promised my friends to be on my best behavior...  i wanted to finish at least one guiness that night, and we went for the trifecta...   sat down, ordered a stout and realized my promise had been a bit hasty...  a caped man about 4 feet tall, stepped up onto the stage wearing a complete Boston Patriots uniform and began belting out AC/DC’S thunderstruck in amazing form!    he threw off the cape and helmet and i fell off my chair...  never even saw that guiness...  

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@ geezer talk....      ive been mixing it up lately in atlanta with gongs and DJs...   at first sound check i asked for more low end on my gong mics and the place went nuts!   you should hear a 54” chau gong sampled, wobbled, and run through an extremely bass centric festival sound system...  whoodathunkit?

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The karaoke folks at my fan's Elk's lodge didn't come in costume. Too bad, it would have been more entertaining.

As a pro, I wouldn't sing at a karaoke bar or night. It's unfair to the amateurs.

But your post put ideas into my head about costuming. If I weren't a pro I could:

  • Dress up like a werewolf an sing Guess Who's "Clap For The Wolfman"
  • A space suit and sing the Byrd's "Mr. Spaceman"
  • A super hero costume and sing Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's "Superman Lover"
  • Black and white stripes to sing Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff"
  • One of those half male/half female costumes and sing both parts of "Baby It's Cold Outside" or any Louis Prima / Keely Smith tune
  • The possibilities are endless

But besides for the fact that I'm a pro and it wouldn't be fair to the amateurs, in reality, it would simply be too much work for the amount of fun I'd have. Some things are better off to live a fun life in the brain, but never leave ;)

Notes

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