Tips, info and resources to improve
your indie music success!

What's on the Island

How to Bake Your Own Open Mic

by Gary Gore
(cooking time: 30 days or less!)

A simple recipe by Gary Gore - serving size: 1 to 500 people

This month's recipe is for Gary's very own Acoustic Open Mic.  Several of the ingredients can be changed at your discretion to bake an open mic for:

  • *Poetry Reading Rigatoni;

  • *Spoken Word Sauté;

  • *Rock-n-roll electrified bowties;

  • *Comedy Casserole


  1. One cup of chutzpah; (you can substitute cojones or testicles when appropriate);
  2. Half a cup of talent; For thicker, saucier mix, add a whole cup;
  3. A place/venue to set up;
  4. Equipment;
  5. A computer and printer, or access to one.  (Not entirely necessary if you pool your resources; however, these things will make the dish taste better and allow the show to rise.)
  6. 10 pounds of patience!

Take one cup of chutzpah and apply it to finding a venue for your show.  You'd be surprised, but sometimes simply asking politely will open doors for you that never seemed likely.

I once went into a large Irish bar many years ago, known for its weekend mayhem, a hodge-podge of loud dance music and drunk, fight-prone college students.  The last place for a cool, mellow acoustic open mic you say, right?  Wrong.

I literally stumbled in to this place with my buddy Phil (none other than the creator of this newsletter and founder of MusicIsland) and asked the manager if they had an open mic.  You see, someone had told me they thought there was an open mic there.  So I asked - "Do you guys have an open mic here??"

The answer was "No we don't."

Without even thinking, which, by the way, is not uncommon for me, I said, "No, no, I said do you want to run an open mic here?"

Yes, it actually worked.  Within 2 weeks of having moved into a new city, knowing only 1 person, I was the new host of a new open mic at one of the largest bars in Boston.

Half a cup of talent is truly something that can be added to the taste.  You do not necessarily have to be a performer to host a show.  It does, however, help if you have a slow night and need to fill in some time by reading, singing, chanting, yodeling or playing to keep whatever crowd you have there happy.

A place/venue to set up is truly the key.  As I found out, the rest falls into place.  A coffeehouse, restaurant, bar, nightclub, bookstore, outdoor café, high school cafeteria, park or any other place you may find suitable may do.  (Keep in mind if you are expecting to be amplified, you'll need access to electricity, either from a wall socket or generator.)  And no, an electrifying personality will not drive a 300 watt amp and speakers...

Equipment is also a vital part if you expect to be amplified.  Don't make the mistake of thinking that acoustic instruments don't need to be amplified.  While this may be true in your basement and mine, it is not true when there's a good amount of space for your sound to travel.  Some venues may have their own system or equipment, most won't and you'll have to borrow, rent or buy your own.

My recommendation would be a  6, 8 or 12 channel powered mixer (Mackie and Yamaha would be good choices, and don't forget an inexpensive reverb to add that juicy sound.  While most PA's will have built in reverb, it usually sucks the big one.)

For speakers, two 10" speakers (JBL, Yamaha, are some good choices among the pack).  Speakers larger than this are usually unnecessary and will probably blow out most places. The other consideration is sheer size; the more portable you are, the more attractive you are to owners and managers.  And trust me, you do NOT want to be carrying huge speakers all over town, up and down me!

If you have the spare cash (yeah, right) grab a monitor as well.  For smaller clubs, you can use one speaker for your audience and the other for your monitor;  just watch for feedback!

As far as microphones are concerned, I would suggest the all time classic, the Sure SM58 (still around $99); no questions asked, hands down, an apple a day, don't go breakin' my heart, slip slidin' away and any other cliché you can think of will do just fine mutha-of-a-mic.  This mic is durable as hell, affordable and sounds great for vocals or instruments.  Get two.  No, seriously.

MISC: You'll also need speaker stands (not absolutely necessary if you have tables to put your speakers on) a mic stand or two, speaker cables, mic cables and some grey tape.  Always carry tape.

A computer and printer aren't a necessity; they just add flavor and make it easier for the open mic to rise.  By printing your own flyers, you'll quickly populate your show with musicians and music aficionados.  Make sure the venue has lots of them as well; you'll also want to let the regulars know and pass on the word about the new happening.

Also, printing up a performer list, commonly known as a sign up sheet, will make your show run much smoother.  Once again, trust me on this.

But don't think you can't do it with a clipboard, piece of paper and pen;  a computer just helps you look a little better.  Kind of like the icing on the cake . . .

People come to open mics for many different reasons.  Some musicians, who are very happy with their day jobs, and who never expect to make a career out of music, may come just to let loose, to release their inner child, to just perform and get it out of their system. 

Some musicians come to get over their stage fright. Some come to try out new songs before taking them out on the road.  Some come to learn the craft of performing, writing or singing through the practice an open mic affords them without having to get their own gigs until they're ready.  (This was my long, dark road.)

Others have their own reasons, which is why the last ingredient, the most important to running one's own show, is 10 pounds of patience!  If you don't have patience, don't even bother.  And a sense of humor helps as well.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Gary Gore is a Singer/Songwriter currently living in Florida and former host of the longest running open mic in Allston, MA. Feel free to email questions or comments to



Market your Music
To succedd as an indie musician you'll need press and exposure for your band. Here is some help on your quest for press:
Get FREE promotion and music marketing ideas each month with our newsletter "Message in a Bottle".

Click here for MORE INFO

MusicIsland Stuff
Get hats, shirts, mugs and other goodies with the cool MusicIsland Logos!
Links & Resources
Some great resources we found to help you on your musical journey

Click Here


© Copyright 1998 - 2008 by MusicIsland. All rights reserved.