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The Ramblin' Mike

The Transition from Open Mics to Gigs
by Michael Guthrie

For some musicians, playing open mics is all the fulfillment they need. After all, everything is taken care of; they only have to sign up and play their allotted time. This experience is rewarding in and of itself, especially for musicians new to performing on stage.
However, some musicians are playing open mics to prepare for something bigger, their own show. You might be after your first gig ever or maybe you are coming out of retirement to gig again.
So how does someone make the transition from playing open mics to playing gigs? If you have played gigs before then you probably know the drill, although the process may be a little different now or different from where you used to live and play.
Getting to know people in the music community is a great place to start. The open mic community is a great resource for this. Many of the musicians you meet at open mics are also working musicians, either part-time or full-time, and some of them go to open mics looking for other like-minded musicians that they can form a band with or share a gig with. Should you connect with another musician like this, then your transition to playing gigs can be fairly seamless. Sometimes musicians are offered their own gigs by an agent who sees their performance at an open mic. You never know who is watching at an open mic, so for those of you who want to move on to playing gigs, you should treat your open mic performance like you are playing a gig. Be prepared and put your all into it. Be sure to network with people and be sincere, volunteer where you can, and become part of the community.
Playing gigs with another musician is a great way to get to know the venues and to meet some of the folks who book these venues. Even if someone asks you to come and only do a few tunes at the break, you should do it—this is a good way to break out on your own. However, you don't have to wait around for this to happen, you could always ask a musician you like if you could open for them or come and play a few tunes on their break. If you don't have enough material to share a gig, a short guest set is a golden opportunity to play at the next level and you can learn some of the skills needed to do your own gig.
One way to find out what venues are appropriate for your music is to look at the Web sites of musicians who play a similar genre of music. Most such sites list where the musicians are playing and sometimes have links to the venues' Web sites. You can access the venues' sites and find the contact info you need. Then you can send them your press kit or call them and see if they have an open mic where you can go and audition for a gig.
There are a lot of fun music festivals you might want to consider. Some of them pay and some don't, but it's a great way to get exposure and maybe sell some CDs. Some of these festivals have an open mic stage (Yakima Folk Festival, Tumbleweed Music Festival and The Duvall Sandblast Festival, to name a few), so you can go check out the festival and play the open mic. Most festivals require you to apply as much as 6 months in advance, so this type of gig requires some planning ahead. Festivals are a lot of fun and they are one of the best places to meet musicians and learn from the many workshops that are offered, usually for free.
Booking your own gigs takes a lot of time and work, so be prepared. Put together a good demo and press kit with a photo and your bio. Demos should reflect what you will sound like when you play the gig—any experienced booking agent will tell you this. Polished studio recordings are great to sell to people, but all too often performers show up to play the gig without the band of studio musicians to back them up. All you need is a good live recording of yourself playing a gig. The agents with experience want to hear it all; how you relate to the crowd and their response to you. A demo can be recorded on any basic recording unit. This doesn't mean that there aren't some great bands who have great live recordings they can use as a demo. If you want to do your own gigs, be ready to do some work.
There is an abundance of info out there on how to get gigs, way too much for this small article. Once you start looking for it you will see what I mean. I think starting local and making a name for yourself is a good bet; you can then build on this and expand your performing area. Remember to be thankful to those who help you along the way and treat the staff at venues with respect. This approach will help you build some clout for yourself, you never know when you will meet these people down the road. It's all about building relationships with people who support you and your music—don’t worry about those who resist you and are negative towards you.
I hope this info can be of use to you and maybe some day you will be sharing your info with others. Good luck in your endeavors!

Michael Guthrie is a singer/songwriter who regularly plays venues in the Northwest and is a Victory Music sound volunteer. He has produced his own CD and run his own coffee house/cafe, The Village Green Cafe, in Kaslo, BC from 1973-79. He studied sound engineering and recording at Sound Master Recording Studios in North Hollywood, CA in 1987.
Contact: moorafa@mindspring.com www.moorafa.com



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