Open Mic, $50. Exposure, Priceless.
Open Mic, $50. Exposure,Priceless.
"This one is for the promoter."
As a singer-songwriter I love open mics for the exposure. They're a great platform for trying out new songs, styles or even simple edits. I can't count the number of open mics I've been to, but I can tell you about the most memorable.
I was previously a resident of Colorado. Denver to be exact. If you've never been, go. Tonight. It's an amazingly artsy and refreshingly eclectic city. The buildings are tagged with gorgeous murals. When the skies permit, you can see an outline of the mountains in the distance, and of course, what sold me, was the people. Beyond the breweries, it’s no secret that Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana, and maybe this plays a big role in the welcoming attitude of this state’s residents. None the less, Colorado has by far some of the nicest people I have yet to meet. With this confidence, I decided to venture out and test the waters at an open mic within walking distance from me, Meadowlark Bar. What a night. You could literally leave your instrument across from the bar. Anyone was up for a conversation, and considering Denver is a huge transplant city, it was as easy as saying "so, where are you from?" Everyone had their fair turn showing off their skills which were often followed by a supportive reaction from the crowd. It was what you would expect a virtual tour of an open mic to look like.
When I decided to leave Denver, my mother hopped on a plane and helped me drive my car 25 hours back to the coast. This was not a one-day trip. I've always had dreams of seeing Nashville and with an opportunity like this, we had to go. There was only one place I wanted to visit, The Blue Bird Cafe. A Nashville gem, where Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift, among other artist, caught the eyes of people who would soon launch their career. Although, it was closed and pouring down rain, I felt accomplished. I'd never even seen photos of this place. I had imagined it being this huge music venue with "Blue Bird Cafe" designed in regal neon lights siting high above a pillared door. I know, but I'm an idealist. Sue me. Instead, it was a tiny blue hooded cafe snugly placed in a small complex off of Hillsboro Pike. I love it.
I love it now because I live in Atlanta, and this is the perfect metaphor for open mics. Atlanta amongst other cities like, Nashville, Austin, New Orleans, L.A, etc. is not shy of a music scene. A lot of the residence move here for that purpose. Because of this fad, a new opportunity has presented itself. This one is for the promoter.
I have attended several open mics in Atlanta. These people love new music. The crowds have always been supportive. I became so excited about my new-found tradition that I decided to find as many as possible to fill my week. I started with Instagram. I found a flyer stating that a promotion group called Take Off Atlanta would be hosting an open mic at a bar/venue called Union Eav. The flyer stated to "message for a slot." So, I did. I remember receiving this response:
5 min slot - $30
10 min slot - $50
I did not reply. A few days passed, and I received a message stating that there were free slots available. All I had to do was email an artist photo of myself and my stage name. So, I did. I received an email with instructions on when to show up and what to do when I get there. I was also informed that free slots were not guaranteed. Fine. I arrived. As I waited for my 1:00am performance slot amongst people getting too drunk to notice just about anything, I listened as muffled rapper after muffled singer performed on a small stage in a loft above a dimly lit bar.1:30am came, went, and so did I. What's disappointing is that I felt slightly mislead. Then I wondered, did they? The people that paid $30 to barely be heard or $50 for an extended version of that. I wondered what happened to them after that show. I wondered if they were going to come back. Lastly, I wondered why.
For my singer-songwriters, singers, rappers, instrumentalists and everyone in between, if you are considering going to an open mic think about this. The Blue Bird Cafe requires that you audition for a performance slot. That's it. After all, you are showing your talent. Other venues might require a payment, but we all have to eat, right? Is the open mic's potential exposure worth the money? What do you think about promoters profiting off this concept?