8 Simple Rules of an Open Mic
Whether playing an open mic for the first time or it is your 100th one, there is a proper etiquette that people should follow. The general rule is Be Considerate of Other Performers. The Golden Rule, RESPECT! If you expect people to listen to you while you perform, then you should do your best to do the same. "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself." With that in mind, here is a list of what i think are 8 simple rules of an open mic.
1. Respect Other Performers – When other performers are performing, try not to have conversations louder than the performance. I know that it's damn near impossible to not have conversations. This rule does not mean you can not talk at all, just watch your volume level. I had a show where 2 people were talking above the whole room and the performer. In a room full of 30 people, they had no idea how loud they were. Do not be one of those people. Talking is permitted, but just do it at a quiet level or move to a place in the venue where you can talk a little louder.
2. Cheer on the Open Mic Virgins – The term "Open Mic Virgins" are specifically for those people who never performed at an open mic before. These are the newborns and have never experienced something like being on stage. They're usually super nervous and shy. The rule here is to make as much noise as possible for them and encourage them as much as possible. When they get off the stage, let them know they did a good job. Ask them their name and why they got interested in performing. Treat them kindly because you want them coming back. An open mic is a community and all performers should do their best to make new people feel welcome.
3. Be Tuned and Ready To Go – Do not tune on stage. When the hosts calls your name you should have your guitar tuned, your music sheet, lyrics and whatever else you have and be ready to go. The worst is when a performer is unprepared when they're called up. The host usually tells you if you're up next or in a few performers, but if they do not … be aware of where they are on the performers list and know what your number is so you're prepared.
4. Watch the Profanity – While I believe that an open mic is a place to be yourself and express everything, please be aware of your surroundings. I see nothing wrong with cussing, but when you're performing and there are kids present, maybe that Spinal Tap song "Lick My Love Pump" can be holstered for this one time. Or maybe if you're at a church, you should tone down the profanity out of respect. Again, I'm not trying to censor, this is just a personal opinion.
5. Try and Stay for Other Performers – An open mic is a place to perform and show off your songs, but it's also a place to support other artists. Some venues allow people to call in and sign up ahead of time to the list. Then that performer that calls in times it out perfectly where they show up right before they're called and then leave when they're done. They got to perform their songs, but they missed the most important part. They missed talking to other artists and being part of a bigger picture. Understandably, sometimes peoples schedules might not allow them to stick around all night, but always try to make the effort.
6. Do not Get Too Drunk or Be Obnoxious and Rude – This rule is pretty obvious if you're going to be using the Golden Rule when going to open mics … Be kind to one another and treat each other with respect. There's nothing wrong with being buzzed at an open mic because sometimes they are held at bars, but just do not razz the artists while they're on stage or be loud when other artists are on stage.
7. If You Have an Odd Request, Ask the Host – Not every performer is a singer songwriter or poet. It's easy to setup for a poet or a singer songwriter because it's typically as simple as a microphone and a cable for the guitar. Sometimes a band wants to go up and they bring a djembe, a couple of guitars, and they also want extra microphones. Some people even bring keyboards or DJ equipment. These are things the host should know so they can setup those things in advance. This helps keep everything running smoothly.
8. Buy a Coffee or Beer – Support the venue by purchasing a cup of coffee or tea. This helps the venue understand that holding this event is worth it financially. As much as we want to believe that it's all about art and expression, bills must be paid. The venue needs money to pay the electricity, pay the mortgage, buy supplies, etc … I've seen many great open mic close because they were not making enough money.
Of course, these 8 simple rules of an open mic are personal opinion. I hope you take them into account next time you travel out to see a performance!