Guide to organizing an open mic night at your bar

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Planning your first open mic night? Well, it isn’t as easy as plonking a single mic in front of customers and praying that someone takes the stage.

If you want to host a truly memorable open mic, then be prepared to put in some thought, advance prep, and promotional efforts. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps for organizing an open mic night at your bar—and making it a resounding success.

1. Pick a good day for holding your open mic

If your bar is already packed to the brim on certain days of the week, then don’t hold your open mic on those days. Why? Because doing so will just make your crowd situation worse.

Instead, pick an off-peak day for your open mic, where your bar typically gets fewer customers. What these days are will differ from bar to bar, but Wednesday is generally a good choice.

After all, it’s midweek, and people may be so absorbed in their work that they don’t think about heading to the bar. Holding your open mic night on hump day can hence help shake up their week, and give them something to look forward to after knocking off for the day.

And as for you, you could earn more revenue on what is usually a slower evening!

The UnderBar bar definitely knows what it’s doing in this regard. It holds its weekly open mic nights on—you guessed it—Wednesday:

2. Recruit performers for your open mic

While some bars let open mic customers hop onstage on an impromptu basis, this approach runs the risk of nobody doing so. And an open mic night without performers is just an empty stage (surrounded by disappointed and bored customers).

The better approach is to book at least one performer in advance for your open mic. This way, you’ll know for sure that customers will have at least one act to enjoy.

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You can put up an open call for performers on your website and social media pages, while stating any eligibility requirements. For example, perhaps you’re looking for comedians for one night, and bands on another night.

Also, once you’ve secured your open mic performer(s), tell your customers all about it to get them excited! This is exactly what Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar did when it managed to get artist Olutayo for its open mic night:

3. Design your bar’s ambiance

Your bar’s ambiance goes a long way in creating an epic open mic experience. Accordingly, use your open mic’s theme and performance lineup to design an appropriate lighting, ambiance, and decor scheme.

You don’t have to go all out and rent expensive lighting or props, especially if your open mic will be a regular affair. However, you should still make the effort to get customers in the mood to enjoy the show.

As an example, if you’re going for a cooler, more intimate vibe for a music act, then pulsing and rotating blue lights might do the trick:

@groove_pad19

This Wednesday!! 🎤🎙 #music #viral #viralvideo #openmic #pub #bar #blowthisup #trending #drinks #party

♬ Kickstart My Heart – Mötley Crüe

Alternatively, you may be having someone stand on stage to tell jokes. In this case, you might not need much fancy lighting or decor. Just be sure to have a spotlight trained on the performer at all times, to keep your customers’ focus on them.

4. Provide a good audio and instrument setup

When watching your open mic, customers need to be able to hear what’s going on clearly. And this doesn’t just mean turning up the volume: you can make your audio loud, but if what comes out of your speakers is a (loud) garbled, inaudible mess, then you’ll only annoy your customers.

To avoid such a fiasco, procure good-quality audio equipment such as microphones, in-ear monitors, speakers, and a mixer if you don’t already have these for non-open mic days.

Also, train your employees to be competent in using such gear. Hire a professional sound engineer to conduct such training if needed. It’ll cost you, but the investment will be worth it when customers love your sweet, sweet sound.

Just take a look at the equipment that bar/cafe Groove Pad prepped for its open mic:

@groove_pad19

This Wednesday!! 🎤🎙 #music #viral #viralvideo #openmic #pub #bar #blowthisup #trending #drinks #party

♬ Kickstart My Heart – Mötley Crüe

(Side note: Groove Pad’s open mic night fell on a Wednesday—see what we said earlier about Wednesday being a good day for holding open mics!)

5. Promote your open mic night with social media flyers

Finally, you’ll want to spread the word on your open mic night to get people into your bar. And social media can help with just that.

Use a flyer maker to create social media flyers about your upcoming open mic night. Different social media platforms have different optimal post sizes, so check that you’ve created your flyer in the right dimensions.

For instance, if you’ll be sharing your flyers on Instagram, where most Instagram posts are square-shaped, then you might want to use Instagram templates that have their designs in neat squares.

In your flyers, include details such as:

  • Eye-catching images of your open mic or bar
  • A feature of your open mic’s performers (see point #2 above)
  • The date and time of your open mic
  • The address of your bar
  • How customers can RSVP for your open mic, or even sign up if they want to perform

For inspiration, check out this flyer that Bar Nine posted on Instagram to promote its open mic:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CZjme–Fjh-/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Time to get organizing!

Open mic nights can be a lucrative source of income for bar owners (that’s you!), but only if done right. Start by picking a strategic day for your open mic, preparing an exciting lineup, and providing a good ambiance and audio experience for customers. Last but not least, promote your open mic on social media widely to build hype.

Good luck as you venture into organizing your first open mic night!

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