5 Tips for Musicians to Ace an Open Mic Night

Every master was once a beginner. Every Pro was once an amateur.” – Robin Sharma ,

Open Mic (Microphone) is not a new concept. It has become a phenomenon only in the last decade or so among the Indian youth. Today, there is not a single big city in the country that does not host some kind of Open Mic Night event, be it for stand-up comedy, poetry, drama or music. So, how did this happen so quickly?

Open Mic Nights are completely different from talent search events. Unlike televised shows – such as Idol and Got Talent competitions – that are professionally staged and carefully orchestrated for mass entertainment, Open Mic events are under-staged, unplugged and often host untested talent. They provide a safe and non-judgemental environment for new artists to hone talent and improve their stage presence and presentation. They are also relatively inexpensive to host with low (or no) cover charge, which makes it easy for the audience to participate. Besides, it is one of the biggest aspects of pop culture in the youth of today.

Here is a sample video from a popular host based in Bangalore called Dhvani.


A successful Open Mic event is the perfectly blended concoction of four main components – ambience, audience, amateurs and arrangements. When these elements come together in the right proportion, the result is nothing less than phenomenal. Few nights can be a big hit, while the others can be called a miss. The surprise element is part of their USP! Many a time people have witnessed the birth of a superstar talent at these events! Or watched established artists test out some of their new unreleased material!

In this blog post, we will cover a few tips for a musician to prepare and make the best use of an opportunity at an Open Mic. You can also read our post on tips to make a live music audition a success to prepare well for a big event.

  1. Know Thy Ambience

/ˈambēəns/ the character and atmosphere of a place

One of the first things that you must do if you plan to register for an Open Mic event is to attend a few in and around your city. We have listed a few popular ones in various cities in India at the end of this post.  Is it a coffee shop or a cocktail bar, a beachfront or a bookstore? Is it too quiet or is it very noisy? Does it seem like a clean place or a getaway shack? Will your persona fit in with the ambience? Studying the ambience will help you decide what kind of music you can play, whether you need to pack a big amp or if you should dress up cool or comfy.

  1. Know Thy Audience

\ ˈȯ-dē-əns \ the people who give attention to something said, done

While they are important for any performance, the audience becomes even more critical for an Open Mic night. Once you pick a particular place (or event), visit the place for a couple of nights to be part of the audience. Observe what kind of people show up (other than the family and friends of the performers). What kind of music they like more and cheer for – is it an old Kishore Kumar number or a classical flamenco guitar piece from Villa-Lobos? Do they boo if a performer messes up or just become indifferent? Do they encourage performance and demand encores? Do people dance when a band plays a groovy number? All these will help you decide what you should play, how much preparation you need (a lot if the audience is very discerning), how to get everyone in a happy mood or what to do when things go wrong!

  1. Know Thy Arrangement

/əˈrānjmənt/ something made by arranging parts or things together

Since Open Mic events are more about culture than about the performance itself, you need to decide what kind of genre you should play. And more importantly – how you plan on doing it? Are you going to play a song people can dance or clap along to? Or are you going to choose something that will take them to a nostalgic time in their memory? Is it a contemporary song or something from the distant past? Are you going to need an accompanist or do you plan a solo?

Two important aspects to remember:

  • Make the start of the piece exciting and upbeat
  • Finish it up-tempo, leaving the audience craving for more!

Practice the piece a lot before you get on stage. When the audience cheers along, you will know it was all worth it.

  1. Know Thy Reason

Thinking of the story you will be sharing with the audience before you start your performance is one of the most important Open Mic night tips. You need to tell the audience why you are choosing to play something so they can connect to it better. It could be how you chose the song, how you learnt it, or why you want to share it with this audience. People who don’t forget to do this at least win some applause, and sometimes a bottle of their favorite aperitif on their way out!

  1. Know You are Testing the Waters

Unlike competitions or gigs, there is no one judging you here and this is not the last time you are going to be here. You are still testing the waters and may not be ready to go into the deep end yet. So keep your first performance shorter than the allotted time. If the audience request an encore, be prepared with a second piece and make it the performance they will remember for the rest of the evening.

Below are some popular hosts at various cities! Always call to find out if they are still open and attend a few before you choose yours!

Mumbai:                The Habitat – Comedy and Music Cafe

Bangalore:             The Orange Octopus Records,

Hyderabad:            Random Tadka

Kolkata:                 Platform For Artists

New Delhi:            The Hard Rock cafe arena

Nagpur:                 Barista open Mic

Shillong:                Cafe Shillong

Pune:                     The Orange Octopus


Make sure you check them out, or find your city on sites such as Big Mic to look for events. Life is too short to not be doing anything but fun. Good luck and enjoy!

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