Updated: Feb 13, 2020
So you want to do open-mics, huh?
The open-mic forum isn't anything new to our world, they have been going on for centuries I'd imagine, as long as there have been the gathering of creatives or performing artists. So for other creatives to want to build on that legacy, is great. The key is just to try to make your experience unique and keep it about empowering the artists to open up and express themselves.
The beauty about open-mics is that generally the expectations are fairly low for the producers and you can extend invitations to a variety of performance types, which should help you keep the room full. But, on the flip-side of that you can also have some shaky experiences given that there are open-mics going on everywhere. Open-mics are a very popular type of event, they are fairly simple to do and may have very little upfront costs depending on the magnitude of the show. But, no matter what town you live in, I am sure there is a campus, bookstore, bar, coffee shop, hole in the wall with folks gathering to share their art. In this brief write-up, I'll be sharing a few tips on how to set yourself up for success, when curating your own open-mic events.
Photo of Mary-Violet - I Am Root LLC Intern/Blogger
Unless you plan to go with an acoustic-only-vibe, then you'll need to invest in a PA System, so that you can amplify the sound of whatever is being performed. Often if you don't have access to a PA System or a big enough budget for the PA System that you'd like to buy, then it may be best to hire a DJ who has the capacity to handle all of your sound needs. Keep in mind that some venues have A/V (audio/visual) hookups, so if you land a space that has it setup already, there will be one less thing to worry about. At the end of the day, most often, you'll need to allocate funding to that portion of your show production.
Finding a great space to host your open-mic is tough, but stay consistent and keep your eyes open. You may be having lunch with a friend and stumble across the perfect landing spot for your open-mic, don't be afraid to ask to speak with a manager or someone in charge of events and booking. You are only one conversation away from an opportunity to show what you can do. It is important to figure out what costs you may incur, upfront. If venues are willing to collaborate or negotiate, then decide what the best business move for your open-mic is and go with that. Keep in mind that if your open mic is at a bar, things might get noisy or out of hand due to alcohol consumption (consider hiring security). Having that sort of awareness will keep everyone safe and having a great time. So no matter where you choose to have it, be aware of the community surrounding your location and take into consideration the vibe of the space itself.
Promoting any event is going to be tough, especially when you are still pretty new at it. With access to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, the load has become a little bit lighter, but keeping up with the ever-changing algorithms is no easy task. Nonetheless, it is important to have some sort of flyer or invitation with information about your event, where to sign up, and any fees associated. Some people feel that digital distribution of flyers via email blast, social media, and SMS Messaging is the most relevant way to get the word out, but I would still argue that printing out a few dozen flyers won't hurt the cause either. It would be beneficial to leave in places that artists frequent or visit for event related information. PLEASE AVOID leaving your flyers on cars, doors, and places that seem invasive for the person receiving it. Try to make your promotional and marketing efforts personable and create a connection with a potential performer or customer.
Open-mics have been around for some time and will stay around, as a vehicle to performing artists discovering their true potential. I've seen enough artists begin to take their work more serious, just by the responses they've received from guests at open-mics. Feedback, constructive criticism, practice, repetition, and challenge all go hand in hand here. Ultimately those things become what evolves the artist.
As a part of the I Am Root LLC. brand we host Open-Mics from time to time, in order to sample the market for both talent and quality supporters. But beyond that, we do it for the sport, no matter the skill level, it is always fun to get out there and share your new and old work. We've had great nights and we've had not so great nights, but through it all we've gained some strong relationships with artists, venues, photographers, graphic designers, and all sorts of people. From outdoor in the Phoenix heat with patios packed with people to inside empty Tempe restaurants, we've tried it.
For any event producer, building strong relationships is key to starting off on the right foot. Having a good relationship with the owner of a coffee shop, bar, or small boutique can be an effective way to land a space for your event. If you live in a city where the weather is beautiful and there are 'chill' public noise ordinances, then you may find that a backyard function or public park is the best place to start. Also, having great relationships with upcoming and local performers will allow for you to keep your sign-up sheets full. You'll be playing an important role! Artists should be appreciated, so as we build these platforms, let's put extra attention on making sure that guests are in attendance and we are providing traffic to the artists' online platforms.
To our brand, one of the most important aspects is the overall experience that the event creates. So for your open-mic, think about the vibe you want to set. Is it just poetry? Is it open to musicians, lyricists, or even comedians? Is there a DJ or live band? In addition to answering those questions, take into consideration where the event will be held, the food and drink options, and what types of people will frequent the space. This will help you come up with ways to manage crowd control and also promote an environment that makes artists feel comfortable while sharing. Keep in mind that the more robust your idea becomes, so will the fees to execute. It is important to compensate staff and hired artists for their time.
All in all, if you are going to get into hosting your own Open-Mic events, make sure that you are doing so for the right reasons. So many times, young artists and entrepreneurs look to get into the industry by hosting their own open-mics, so that they can make money or gain clout in the community, but at the end of the day, there has to be a love for the sport. For the event planner, there has to be a respect given to the artists, the venues, and the guests and everyone works together to achieve that. Let's create better art experiences, so that artists of all walks get a fair shot at showcasing their art. If the task appears too large, consider collaborating with others to execute larger visions. Be selective, be tactical, and be serious! Before jumping in do a little research to figure out how to make what you have to offer different from the rest.
2019 Dom S. Flagg