I have very mixed feelings about open mic nights. On the one hand they are a platform for musicians/songwriters to air their new material. On another some people say they are killing the live pub scene and taking work away from other musicians. I don’t generally subscribe to this view as open mic nights usually happen once a week in a venue leaving potential for another 6 nights of live music so that argument doesn’t hold up with me.
In general I see two types of open mic. There is the acoustic sessions where they conveyor belt as many composers and singers as possible up to fill the allotted time for the night and then there are the band jam sessions where there is a resident band that run through their usual repertoire of RnB or Blues/rock. In both cases somebody is getting paid and in both cases there is a certain amount of nepotism. The same people will get up week in week out and sing the one song they know really well or band members get up and like in my case last night try to back my flavour of a blues song I was trying to sing that got the musical slaughter treatment. All band members playing their flavour of blues loudly instead of listening to the singer consequently making the singer – in this case me – look bloody awful. I hate these jams they are just not conducive to a good outcome for newbies and I don’t see any potential collaborations come from them. I just see a load of ego’s going “aren’t I the best musician you have ever seen”. No, you don’t listen! Rule number one when playing to a singer is listen and shut the fuck up if you can’t hear them. I got one throw at the dice before the compare came back on to announce she wanted the house band back on stage please. Shameful!
The feeling I come away with from both types of open mic, not so much the acoustic sessions is that they have their favourites that play week in week out, someone just got paid for this and the conveyor belt system is usually an unorganised sham.
In retaliation to this I have opened up a night called “Vulture culture” where everyone who performs gets a cut of what the bar has offered.. I do the comparing with a flavour for anecdotes of life and sing maybe two or three songs just as a filler for the night. But I think it is really important the artist feels worth something even if it is only £10 they still get a proper billing and money to travel. That’s £10 worth of self esteem worth more than any conveyor belt of an open mic night or musical slaughter blues in my humble opinion.
Just to add to this you’d be better off busking to try out and hone in on your new material than attend any of these open mic nights where the time you are given is very limited. Some people are not even given the time of a sound check. Wham bam no thank you mame.