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:
- One cup
of chutzpah; (you can substitute cojones or testicles when
- Half a cup of talent; For thicker, saucier mix, add a whole
- A place/venue
to set up;
- 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
- 10 pounds
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
Equipment is also a vital part if you expect to be
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
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 stairs.trust 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org