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Help! Open Stage and C**p performers

GUEST,In a quandary 28 Jun 02 - 08:51 PM
Bobert 28 Jun 02 - 08:58 PM
Little Hawk 28 Jun 02 - 09:54 PM
Mark Cohen 28 Jun 02 - 10:47 PM
wysiwyg 28 Jun 02 - 11:05 PM
Genie 28 Jun 02 - 11:22 PM
Clinton Hammond 29 Jun 02 - 01:16 AM
michaelr 29 Jun 02 - 01:45 AM
NicoleC 29 Jun 02 - 01:58 AM
Liz the Squeak 29 Jun 02 - 02:04 AM
Stephen L. Rich 29 Jun 02 - 03:29 AM
GUEST,Sonja 29 Jun 02 - 04:09 AM
JedMarum 29 Jun 02 - 10:50 AM
john c 29 Jun 02 - 11:18 AM
alanabit 29 Jun 02 - 01:28 PM
Little Hawk 29 Jun 02 - 03:14 PM
GUEST 29 Jun 02 - 03:20 PM
GUEST,maryrrf 29 Jun 02 - 05:15 PM
Celtic Soul 29 Jun 02 - 05:34 PM
GUEST,Quandary 29 Jun 02 - 09:15 PM
Justa Picker 29 Jun 02 - 10:43 PM
wysiwyg 30 Jun 02 - 12:08 AM
musicmick 30 Jun 02 - 12:20 AM
Genie 30 Jun 02 - 12:30 AM
Suffet 30 Jun 02 - 11:23 AM
John P 01 Jul 02 - 08:39 AM
jmdornan 01 Jul 02 - 10:14 AM
Hecate 01 Jul 02 - 10:49 AM
MAG 01 Jul 02 - 11:03 AM
mooman 01 Jul 02 - 11:32 AM
mooman 01 Jul 02 - 11:36 AM
SharonA 01 Jul 02 - 12:09 PM
breezy 01 Jul 02 - 12:52 PM
GUEST,Foe 01 Jul 02 - 02:11 PM
Genie 01 Jul 02 - 04:10 PM
wysiwyg 01 Jul 02 - 04:15 PM
SharonA 01 Jul 02 - 05:10 PM
SharonA 01 Jul 02 - 05:21 PM
Janice in NJ 01 Jul 02 - 09:41 PM
GUEST,Davetnova 02 Jul 02 - 06:59 AM
greg stephens 02 Jul 02 - 07:24 AM
Gervase 02 Jul 02 - 07:50 AM
SharonA 02 Jul 02 - 07:56 AM
KingBrilliant 02 Jul 02 - 08:12 AM
kendall 02 Jul 02 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,Sonja 02 Jul 02 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,maryrrf 02 Jul 02 - 02:22 PM
Skipper Jack 03 Jul 02 - 02:30 PM
GUEST,Sonja 03 Jul 02 - 04:25 PM
mack/misophist 03 Jul 02 - 06:50 PM
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Subject: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,In a quandary
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 08:51 PM

It has to stop .. it just has to stop .. you run an open mic and every session you get some appalling performers along who (this week grabbed my list out my hand to see who else I had when I said we were full!)

I've tried rigidly enforcing prebooked slots only - partily successful - except your regulars good performers think that doesn't apply to them. I've tried stretching out good floor spots to squeeze em out. I've tried "New faces! - they could be fantastic, they could be crap - oh, it WAS crap! Sorry, my paying audience - we have highs and lows at this club - thank goodness for the highs - even though you might wait weeks and test your powers of endurance, loyalty and patience waiting for them"

Why, oh why, is it in the 'folkish' world we inhabit - is it okay to sing and perform appallingly and think (or not realise) that it is "only fair" that everyone gets a turn - so long as we are keeping the tradition alive or everyone is entitled to a chance, when some people should actually be confined to their bedrooms as a public health hazard?

Why is it learning one chord or strumming and singing out of tune entitles someone to instantly call themselves a MUSICIAN and thus have an EGO that they are good enough to inflict it on everyone, fer krissake? Would any other profession put up with dismal or nonexistent standards? Example - at a concert of World Class musicians and your no-hoper gives you to understand that there is no difference between what they do and what he/she does !!!! Are we just TOO nice to these people? Shouldn't we put them out of our misery?


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Bobert
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 08:58 PM

Hey, it's your club, right. Put the new folks on late or real early and limit their sets. This way, you'll get an opportunity to judge them for your prime time and they'll get a chance to prove their worth or lack there of. If they're lousy, just keep 'em out of your prime time and maybe take 'em aside and suggest they tighten up their set before performing again...


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Little Hawk
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 09:54 PM

Yes, give the Newbies a brief slot...like 2 songs...till they've proven they deserve better. Either that or...audition them (gasp!) beforehand. I used to play regularly at an open stage club where the MC would let his 6 year old daughter have a 15 minute set whenever she wanted one. She couldn't sing at all, but she pretended to. She also pretended to tell jokes and stories. This went on and on for months and months. It was pretty outrageous to have to sit through it time after time. He also allowed some neighborhood teenage boys (The "Weasel Brothers") to "perform" stuff that was so unutterably bad that it was downright indescribable. It was not music. It was the demonstration of "attitude" for the benefit of their young friends...and I mean bad attitude.

This MC's utter disinclination to in some way regulate the quality of the acts on his stage led to my loss of interest in going there, and contributed to the demise of the entire establishment eventually, though it was not the only reason for that. His daughter now performs at home, I presume, and the Weasel Brothers are probably vegging out in front of their Nintendos or sneaking beer and smokes illegally in back of the barn.

- LH


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 10:47 PM

I understand your dilemma, but "open mike" does include the word "open"... Sometimes lousy performers get better with experience or as their stage fright evaporates. Sometimes they don't. Putting them on early or late would work the first time, but not after that. I would suggest talking with the person in a kind and supportive way after the performance...but it's true, some people are just convinced they're wonderful when they aren't. Unless you restructure your "open mike" to require auditions -- this is what happened at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, which was originally open to anyone who applied -- I think you'll just have to try to talk to those who will listen and let peer pressure deal with the rest. It takes a lot of courage to stand on a stage in front of people...

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: wysiwyg
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 11:05 PM

1. What do YOU think you should do about this? What would you really like to do?

2. What's in the way of your doing that?

3. Go for it! Adjust as you see results. You're smart and you will not kill anyone by being in charge-- go for it!!!!!!

4. GO FOR IT!

Here's to good music, and you getting it to that level.

~Susan


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Subject: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 11:22 PM

Well, guest, I guess there are really lousy singers out there (some of whom become major c/w, rap, and rock stars), but when an activity is staffed by volunteers, isn't it to be expected that some of 'em won't be "professional?"  You expect musicians to play for nothing, and--surprise!--some of 'em suck!

You could try having each person have no more than 10 minutes on stage unless the audience clearly demands an encore.  Other than that, I really don't know how to hold a true "open mike" without allowing the lousy ones as much time as the enteraining acts.  Of course, you could restructure it as a "showcase" and require auditions, tapes, or prior knowledge of the person's work.

On the other hand, as Mark suggested, some of the good entertainers may have really sucked when they first started doing open mikes.  For one thing, stage fright can make you sing off key, forget lyrics, and play sloppily.  Nothing will get you used to performing in front of an audience except performing in front of an audience.

Also, if the lousy performer brings in a slew of buddies and they all order drinks, some pub owners may welcome them in preference to a better musician who comes in alone.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 01:16 AM

An Open Mic I know of got rid of one horrid guy by banding together...

When it came his turn, while he was getting up to get onto the stage and getting set up, a BUNCH of us would pick that time to file outside for a smokebreak...

Twice, maybe 3 times was all it took, and he quit coming out...

;-)


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: michaelr
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 01:45 AM

GUEST - you mentioned a "paying audience". If that means you're charging admission at the door, you have a responsibility to keep the level of talent relative to the door charge, and keep the really bad ones out. People don't like to pay to get into bars/nightclubs in the first place, and if you don't make them feel that they're getting their money's worth, they will quit coming in.

If you only meant "audience paying for beer", you can afford to be more tolerant of beginners. I began my public performance "career" (more a "careen", as Richard Thompson used to say) playing open mics, and that was extremely useful to me for overcoming stage fright and developing an idea of how to address an audience. I've been playing semi-professionally for 16 years now.

As far as telling someone he/she sucks, I'm all for it (if it's done with kindness), but these days many shrink from leveling any criticism at all, however well deserved, for fear of appearing impolite or hurting someone's feelings.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: NicoleC
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 01:58 AM

It seems like most true "Open Mic Nights" are at music stores or small clubs where the performers also tend to make up the paying audience. In that case, you have a bunch of musicians that understand what Open Mic Night means, and they'll deal with the worst of the lot.

One option I've seen work fairly well is to skip the "Open Mic" part and install a Jam Session instead. Have a (paid) guy host it, have a set or more or less regular performers, perhaps on the dinner and free beer plan (and you already know who'll work from past evenings), and make it the hosts' problem to allow people onstage a second time or not. It seems to generate a higher caliber of talent, because there's more pressure to live up to the guys onstage and it looks like less of a free-for-all.

It also deflects the blame of "I want to perform and they won't let me" on the host performer and away from the establishment. :)

But it's a different feel. I agree with Michael -- if you have folks paying for the entertainment, you really need to make sure the entertainment is worth the price tag.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 02:04 AM

If someone is dreadful, I mean REALLY dreadful, you have to tell them.... it's cruel to let them get their hopes up and then have them smashed as soon as they start thinking they can make something of this.... the recent Pop Idol and Pop Star programmes on UK TV have shown this.... many of those who turned up for the auditions couldn't carry a tune in a bucket! To make matters worse, those who COULD sing were often eliminated on grounds of their looks or body shape. This gives the impression that no matter how crap you are, if you look good, you'll get the gig.

There is one guy who regularly travels the festival circuit in the UK with a penny whistle. He plays at sessions, but he only plays with the fast sets. He doesn't play any known tune, he just stands with the crowd, running his fingers up and down this whistle, whilst overblowing and not paying the slightest attention to anyone else. He will bask in any applause as if he'd just played the Albert Hall solo. No-one has ever had the courage to tell him he sucks (*well, he blows really, it being a penny whistle), they just move further away from him. One year, people sort of started to go and get beer as soon as he got the whistle out, or play slow airs and feature solo instruments, so he sort of got the message, didn't stop him though. Consequently, whenever he is seen, the session vanishes, or else he's blocked out of the door. He appears to be alone, and aching to be one of the crowd.

Hedging and stalling will only stir resentment. If you can possibly tell the person that they are not really suited to a musical career, then do so. Sometimes it's just a change of material, instrument or attitude that's needed. Suggest, rather than criticise (Hey, you know what, I bet you'd be really good at ......)but if they get bolshie, then I'm afraid you have to bite the bullet and tell them straight.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 03:29 AM

I am somewhat torn as to how to respond to your dilemma. On the one hand, having spent many years of my career as M.C. of one form or another of open stage, I know exactly how you feel. My empathy is boundless. On the other hand, your attitude would seem to be at odds with the resposibilities of your job. You would appear to be displaying roughly the smae level of arrogance as some of those "C**p perfomers" about whom you complain. My anger at that nearly cancels out my empathy. Here are a few things which you need to keep in mind. 1)Bad performers at such events are inevitable. They are to open stages what tides are to oceans. In order to do your job properly you have no choice but to accept this fact. 2) Don't under estimate your audience. Most people understand that open stages are like Vaudeville (or, if you're in the UK, Music Halls): If you don't like this act, hang around for a few minutes. The next one may be wonderful. 3) You have two basic responsibilities: A) Keep the audience happy. B) Make the performers feel as comfortable and welcome as possible. Despite bad performers, the first part isn't that hard. Use what skills you have to get the crowd up again (humor, sining, juggling, biting the heads off of rats or whatever). Have these techniques polished and ready for whatever occasion might arise. For example develope some poetry jokes to follow someone who has just assulted the audience with his or her latest twenty-minute, suicide epic. I don't mean ridiculing the poet. I mean something like, "What a wonderful thing it must be to be able to write or recite poetry. I only know one poem. 'Mary had a little lamb... and a little mashed potatoes, and some peas, and a bit of mint jelly...'". The latter is not all that hard to achieve either. Remember that although you are being paid (with as much guff as you have to put up with in that job, I darned well HOPE that you getting paid) the other performers are not. For that alone, regardless of the quality of their work, they deserve a bit of extra coutersy. Make sure that the sound is properly balanced for each artist. It requires extra vigilance and some extra fussing with the P.A., but it's worth it in the long run. Enforce whatever rule there are universally (INCLUDING YOURSELF). If the rule is three songs or fifteen minutes, whichever comes first, don't make your opening set half an hour to fourty minutes. Do three songs then introduce the first act. Above all, remember that, as the host, YOU set the tone;YOU shape the attitude and nature of the event. If you are courteous and friendly so, for the most part, will they be so. Finally, ALWAYS thank them,from the stage and personally, for having been there to perform. They are playing for free and, even if they sing badly enough to commit the musical equivalent of fellating dead frogs, they deserve that much. This won't reduce the number of bad acts, but it will make them easier to deal with.

Stephen Lee Rich


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,Sonja
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 04:09 AM

Well said, Stephen.

I'm especially glad mentioned setting the sound right for each performer. I've been at open mikes where the sound was set at certain levels at the outset and you dared not ask for it to be adjusted for your voice. I'd rather sing with no amplification (provided the room isn't too huge) than with the sound set for talking or for a bellowing baritone with a small-bodied guitar--which makes my voice sound tinny (if you can hear it over the guitar at all).

Quandary guest, I'm not saying you run sound that way, just that sometimes performers at open mikes can't 'put their best foot forward' because of the stage set-up itself.

~SWO~


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: JedMarum
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 10:50 AM

You could have a 'performer's selection' team (you and the bartender, you the manager and the waitress, etc) who gives you the authority to tell a c**p performer that they have one song tonight, and it's the last song - OR that the team has decided that performer needs to go off and rehearse his/her material before she/he can play again (in say 6 weeks). You don't need to involve the 'team' much in those decisions, just let them know you need their occasional concurrance on matters.

I have seen some really terrible performers at open mics. And some who keep coming back week after bloody week. They will eventually drive out the non-performing audience if allowed to conitinue. Youhave to find a way to weed 'em out.

It's a good idea to limit all new comers to a very short set. Even one song - with a time limit (no songs longer then 4 minutes). I saw one lunatic drive out the audience at an open mic when the MC gave everyone 5 songs, and this c**p performer sang 5 ten minute songs; all terrible, all badly played, all badly sung, all with missing words for which we had to wait (because presumably they were important). The songs were all deeply personal. He was 30 years old and still angry at his parents for 4 songs - angry at his girlfriend for the last one. The Cmissed the whole set because he chose that time to go smoke refer in the parking lot, then to cruise back and forth between the kicthen and the bar. He apparently didn;t notice that the absolutely c**p performer took up most of the prime time, drove out the listening audience and the rest of the folks who did follow the rules (5 songs or 15-20 minutes) got pushed off the list or played to a room emptied by this as*hole.

As an MC you gota figure out how to make it work, and how to keep it reasonable.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: john c
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 11:18 AM

Back in the sixties in Edinburgh, they had this problem at a folkclub I used to go to. There was one young would-be performer who turned up regularly, played pretty good guitar but couldnt sing to save himself. As he was a quiet, sensitive sort of guy, it wasnt easy to stop him from playing without hurting his feelings. Somehow they managed but still he persevered, improved and became nobody less than the great Bert Jansch!!


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: alanabit
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 01:28 PM

His singing must have improved an awful lot, because it sure dosn't sound too bad now!


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 03:14 PM

Jed - This is what happens when young, lonely guys listen to Dylan's bitter stuff or Jackson Browne's melancholy stuff, and then decide to bare their souls to the world at large...without having first learned how to do it in an effective and interesting manner.

OUCH!

The set you describe probably surpassed anything I've yet witnessed...but my early stuff was a bit like that...some of it.

- LH


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 03:20 PM

There is one word.
Auditions.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,maryrrf
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 05:15 PM

Yes, that is a problem with some singer songwriters. You can only be introspective, bitter, angry, etc. in your songs if you can find a way to make it interesting or compelling for the audience (if you want to have an audience, that is) - be it through your skill with lyrics, your delivery, or whatever. I've seen so many singer/songwriters sing what appears to be lines from their diaries, and most of the time it just makes me feel like "Well get over it!". However, some of these people have gotten away with it because I hear their songs on the radio. And, many probably do get better with age and experience.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Celtic Soul
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 05:34 PM

You're charging the entrants to come in and listen, but not paying the people to play?

I am a firm believer in the old adage that "You get what you pay for". If it's an open mike, you're making a crap shoot each and every time. If you want guaranteed decent performances, audition folks, and pay them what they're worth.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,Quandary
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 09:15 PM

A couple of things: I don't get paid for doing this - in fact I subsidise the club up to hilt with time, phone calls and other stuff I loose the receipts for, like petrol driving about far and wide either promoting the club or sussing out acts within striking distance, printer ink, shoe leather slogging around town sticking up posters. We have a professional sound engineer who also donates his time and equipment for free, we have a doorman who hates folk music but does it as a favour to me and to local community ie., there is no other equivalent within 10 / 20 miles to play at. We have 100 quid in the kitty which we keep hoping we will increase to pay a decent guest with. Performers pay £1. The next nearest place to play is free to get in (if you can get a spot booked months in advance) and your supporters, last week, would have paid £6 each. The other nearest place charges £2 to everyone which subsidises guest nights - the other place charges £3 to everyone regardless. Or there is always karaoke.

Steve L Rich. In fact, altho' only this evening I was told that I have been 'blessed with a beautiful voice' I don't consider myself a musician (God knows why not then?) In mind, 'Real' musicians can sing unaccompanied and/or play an instrument - so running the club for those people who can do those things is my priority - because I think it's important. Is that arrogance? I get tremendous support and goodwill from most of the club but I AM getting ticked off with performers who don't co-operate or try and blag aggressively on the door about or whinge at £1 (when my phone bill alone for organising a special event was over £100) and then when being told "2 songs!" go on to sing Sir Patrick bloody Spense very badly in half time and then have a go at me because everyone's walked off to the bar or started talking amongst themselves.

Several solutions have been suggested: 1) the sound engineer pulls the plug after 10 minutes 2) I get REALLY Arrogant :) 3) I give it all up and run a Blues club instead with no open mic spots at all. 4) I get past my mid-life crisis of confidence (Why I am I doing this? What is the meaning of life, etc)

Actually - I'll post back later as I'm reaching a point where, well never mind ... I'll post back later (muse.. muse..) a guest MC, actually had one a while ago ... I think I need someone else doing that .. I think this is down to overwork ...


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Justa Picker
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 10:43 PM

I like option # 3!


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: wysiwyg
Date: 30 Jun 02 - 12:08 AM

I think you have spotted this for yourself quite accurately-- overwork. It would be a shame to burn out on something you love so much. I hope you will find good people to help spread the load around a little more, because it's starting to sound like you versus THEM-- and the list of THEM sounds long. What might help would be to focus firmly on what you fairly think each of these folks does best-- and then love that out from them. It sounds like you are providing a really good thing-- if you focus on what you love about it and get help with the rest, I bet you can keep providing it for a long time to come and have even more fun with it. And-- what would it take for it to pay its own way? (Not what do people say it will take, what do YOU think could happen?)

GO FOR IT!

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: musicmick
Date: 30 Jun 02 - 12:20 AM

Dear Guest,

I'm sorry that you are having the open mike blues and I'm sorry that some of your acts are not up to tyro-par and I'm sorry that these unworthy souls are driving you and/or your audience to drink. There are, I think, some things you might consider before throwing in the crying towel. First, you are not paying performers, so you are unlikely to get real, working professionals on your stage with any degree of regularity. Those pros who do show up are coming for reasons of rehearsal, material tryout, or whim. You cannot depend on their attendence and you surely cannot advertise, either directly or by inferrence, their participation. Stiil, I am aware that a pro brings a level of compitence and showmanship that any show requires, so you might consider some covert token of payment to insure some quality (you still cant advertise his appearence but after a while the audience will come to expect a wothwhile show, and your landlord will find that he is selling as much hooch to music fans as he was to the squawkers' friends) You will then simply preselect your performers adding only those you are sure will please your customers. Unknown artists will have to audition and your decision will be final. It is, after all, your club, your show. Yeah, I know, then it wouldn't be a real Open Mike but truth in advertising is never in question when the customer gets an even better deal than he expected. And dont feel too bad about saying no. If an act cant please a commited music nut like you, you'll be doing them a favor. If I dont have the confidence in my talent and ability to audition for an opportunity to expand my market I dont belong in this business. When I was on the road I sang at open mikes in areas where I was not known. As I am a professional entertainer, I never gave my host the tsouris that some of your wannabes give you. That's not bragging. when you do a job long enough you learn how to do it well. Showcases audition and so should you. Good luck.

Mike Miller


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Genie
Date: 30 Jun 02 - 12:30 AM

maryf, I know what you mean about singers seeming to be singing lines from their diaries. Some of them get by with it because they have really good voices or because there's are good studio musicians behind them or because they have some good guitar licks, but how they dare call themselves "songwriters" is beyond me. I guess the bottom line is: Do they entertain the audience?

Quandary, I think you need a break -- not just from the c**p performers, but from the whole thing for a while. The scenario you describe is all too familiar, and no one person should have to do all that.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Suffet
Date: 30 Jun 02 - 11:23 AM

Give the audience credit for knowing that when they come to an open mike they are attending a crap shoot. Most of the open mikes I have gone to, and the few that I have run, have provided enough pleasant surprises to counterbalance the horrors. Anyway, here in New York City, time is generally at a premium, and most open mikes allow everyone only 2 or at most 3 songs. (The open stages at the Postcrypt at Columbia University allow performers a 10-minute slot regarless of how many or few songs fit into it.) So the suffering is never so long as to drive anyone bonkers.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: John P
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 08:39 AM

Guest Quandary, you said:
"Why, oh why, is it in the 'folkish' world we inhabit - is it okay to sing and perform appallingly and think (or not realise) that it is "only fair" that everyone gets a turn - so long as we are keeping the tradition alive or everyone is entitled to a chance . . . Would any other profession put up with dismal or nonexistent standards?"

Two things on this: it happens in any genre where people are allowed to get up on a stage without being vetted first. Have you ever gone to an open stage at a comedy club, or an open jam at a rock, blues, or jazz club? Also, the profession of folk music DOESN'T put up with dismal standards. The performers you describe will never have a professional gig.

Since you are charging musicians to play, you are getting exactly what you are asking for. All the "professional" musicians I know laugh at the concept of paying to play. Why not just stay home and play? Are you really surprised you are getting acts that can only get on stage by paying for the honor?

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: jmdornan
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 10:14 AM

When I got started, a number of "pros" took me under there wings, and told me what was expected in this buisness!! WOW I was given the chance to NOT make the beginners mistakes. When I look back on some of my first performance they WERE crap.. there was no staging, there no order to it, and most of all quality was embarassing! I was lucky to have a "mentor", perhaps if more of the Pros were willing to give encouragement, and help uplift the beginners, we would all raise the quality! An open Mic night is a pot luck dinner of music. We've all done them, and have all sat through some bad sets, and at times were the bad set :) Sometimes a good sencere chat with a musician is what is needed so they understand the AMOUNT of work that goes into a show. There will always be the ones who need to make a new career choice... but if we can help them ENJOY music anyways...why not. Put you musicans who have earned the audience's in your prime spots, explain to the newbies it's all about the crowds they draw and the biggest draws get the best and longest stage spot. We do this for the audiences. Put in in perpective for them, and help them attain there goals in the same way, the ones who continue to work on it will get there spots. Also if there is someone who is doing something SOOO bad, pull them aside and tactfully tell them you expect a certain standard for the paying customers, and they have to meet that standard. We all have to get used to the criticism, and the rejection since ther eis more of that thn there is "glory" :) It's good that you are thinking first and not doing what some have done, and just be harsh and mean! Good luck! Jill


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Hecate
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 10:49 AM

People at my folk club have varying levels of ability from those who could be professional down to those who couldn't at present. Our youngest member is just a kid, and he only knows a handful of tunes, which we hear most weeks. (he does play them quite well and is coming along in leaps and bounds, its nice to watch.) On singers nights this is fine, and we give performance opportunities to those who are just getting into it and those of more limited skill. With time, the tuning improves as the nerves go away, the quavering goes, the volume increases, the repertiore broadens and those who started out as 'dubious' make an unmistakable march in the right direction. Some who at first hearing might have been written off bu the less tolerant have since grown to be very good performers and a real asset to the club. There's a good atmosphere as well, and I have to say that the vast majority of developping performers have never behaved in any sort of antisocial or demanding way.

I think there's a lot to be said for nurturing people and giving them a chance to develop. That said, come a guest night, only the people already performing at a high standard are asked to do spots - I've found that those who aren't so able are generally far less inclined to get up the front anyway. I've also found that if I open singer's nights to 'vote for the last few spots' it is always the really good singers/musicians who are asked to sing again. Everyone has to start somewhere, you need a balance between nurturing the beginners and showcasing the talents.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: MAG
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 11:03 AM

Our (Friends of Acoustic Music society)open mike charges $1 a head, which covers room rental, with no charge to anyone who gets up to share -- er, perform. Naturally, everyone, mostly, comes up with a little something to do.

The local duo of Wink Wink started an open mike at a (very smoky) tavern which is very very well attended. no cover. People are glad for the experience, you do have to sign up first thing (which means I never perform there because I work until 8:00 that night), and a couple of people have ended up cutting very decent CDs with the local studio (Satellite City). Every community is different.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: mooman
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 11:32 AM

I probably won't make myself popular here but IMHO some of the replies above seem to suggest that the organizers or "good level" regulars at such an open stage have just as much of an "ego" problem as the people they are criticising or calling "appalling" and this seems to me to be part of the problem.

Let's face it, we all started somewhere...even the top professionals...and somewhere, sometime, somebody gave us all a chance. Some of us haven't progressed to any great degree since even in decades. I have several students who couldn't play a note six months ago who, today, are beginning to do things I can learn from myself.

I MC'ed a club in the UK for 6 years and I can remember we had everybody from the the very best to the very worst at some point doing a spot. Perhaps it's because we tried to foster a "club" atmosphere that even the "worst" performers were accepted and, funnily enough, these "bad" performers gradually built up confidence and more skill due to a supportive environment and it was a joy to most people to behold their progress even if they never became "good" performers (whatever the criteria for that is). I've also been to some clubs where the MC has berated performers and, frankly, have not cared to go back because of that attitute.

Surely "folk music" or "acoustic music" (I'm not going to attempt to get into a definition or split hairs on this) is by its very nature by everyone for everyone. That implies, at least to me, trhe need for a certain level of tolerance as to the varying degrees of confidence and proficiency of ones "guests".

Respectfully,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: mooman
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 11:36 AM

P.S. The act that we put on that I personally felt was the very "worst" over the six years I went to that club was incidentally considered one of the "best" by a club regular...so it just goes to show...! That was actually a real learning experience for me and I am far less judgemental and more accepting now.

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: SharonA
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 12:09 PM

My solution was to give up being an open-stage MC (at least for now). Maybe some of these tips will encourage me to give it another shot, but... I dunno... toward the end I was hosting two open stages and, in addition to the c**p-performer problem, the owner of one establishment was stiffing me part of my payment (and giving me hell for wanting to be paid at all), while in the other establishment the teenage audience was getting unruly and stealing tips from the waitresses' tip-jar. Besides, the boyfriend who was my "roadie" had broken up with me and moved west, so I had to set up and break down my equipment myself (and trust that any performers who helped were not breaking anything!). I finally realized that it wasn't any fun for me anymore – and I already have a day job that's not always fun, so I figured "Why am I spending my off-time doing something I no longer enjoy? And am I making it a less enjoyable experience for the performers and audience by struggling on when I'm burned out?" So I decided to give it a rest; I quit the job where I was being given hell (the other was cancelled by the owner, who then changed the theme of her place from coffeehouse to "upscale" restaurant with no amateur musicians); and did not seek any more open-stage MC gigs.

But I do remember that one thing I used to do was to schedule a "showcase performer" to do a longer set, usually in the middle of the evening. The aim there was to let some folks do their 2-3 songs, then hang out and enjoy the showcase (and, in some cases, learn something!). Then, afterwards, those folks could play again (or if more performers signed up in the meantime, it would be their turn). This method met with mixed success; too often, the young-adults who'd already played or who were waiting to play would go out back and smoke. Entreaties to stay and listen to their peers fell on deaf ears.

Kudos to all those who are sticking it out and putting up with the disadvantages in order to provide a place for performers to be seen, to hone their craft, to find support and advice. I know from experience the personal cost and the sacrifices you are making!


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: breezy
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 12:52 PM

Refer them to this thread, print it out and hand it to them, saying this could help them.When they come again, if they are below par, tell them they have either not read the thread or that they have missed the point.Recomend them to another venue.
At my club, small 'm' it by invitation or audition a I have to keep the punters happy first and foremost.Good luck .However a session or singaround is a different kettle of fish, and fish smells when its off.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,Foe
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 02:11 PM

It might be of value for some seasoned performers to run a "performance workshop" where anyone could do a few songs and then get instantly critiqued in a constructive way aimed toward helping him/her become a better "act".


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Genie
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 04:10 PM

Good point, John P. It's bad enough when the performers don't even get a free pint for their trouble, but to have to PAY for the privilege of providing entertainment?? Like you said, it's only worth it if you're still cutting your musical teeth or you're just so bad you can't even get an audience by playing for nothing!

What jmdornan, Hecate, and mooman said, too.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 04:15 PM

Foe, that's a great idea!

As we get things started up in our area, open mikes are very much on my mind, and I see much to learn from, here in this thread.

One thought for our area as it develops-- If the people who come to our monthly jams graduate to being able to do "open mikes," and if we keep the jams a mutual teaching-learning experience, maybe we can head off some of the stuff that can otherweise run away with the whole program.

Another thing-- I never knew till this thread that some open mikes are on an audition basis, or that they could be. I really like the idea that a quick audition could happen as people sign up and tune up their instruments.

And how to structure the thing-- It sounds like it should be possible to say to newcomers, "OK, you get one song/4 minutes limit," and then as they come off the stage, put them on a ready-list for NEXT time if they should get a longer slot. Imagine how affirming it would be to hear: "Wow! Can you do a 15 minute mini-set next time?" And if the mini-set folks go first, as a rule, then paying customers could get a lot of good music before sitting through the less-polished folks' efforts.   

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: SharonA
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 05:10 PM

The one song/4 minute limit may work for someone who needs no set-up time, but typically it takes 5 minutes at the very least to get one performer unplugged and off the stage and the next performer up onto the stage and situated and preliminary sound levels checked. Keeping the performer on-stage for at least two songs means a higher ratio of music (no matter what quality of music) vs. emcee-chatter filling the empty air between performances. And more music means more audience interest!


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: SharonA
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 05:21 PM

BTW there's a showcase in the area that invites performers to send an MP3 of their work to the showcase organizers for review before the performers are actually invited to participate in the showcase. Perhaps the same could be done for an "open-mike audition"... but at what point does it no longer become an "open" mike, if those who fail the audition are allowed less performance time or are barred from the stage altogether? Doesn't it then become a showcase format, for most or all of the evening?


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Janice in NJ
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 09:41 PM

Mudcatter Suffet is too modest. The open microphones I have seen him run are always filled with pleasant surprises because he works his darndest to bring out the best in everyone. He believes even a marginal performer has at least one thing she or he does well enough to be worth sharing with others.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,Davetnova
Date: 02 Jul 02 - 06:59 AM

While not a singer (and not that much of a musician) I have mixed feelings about this thread. While I can sympathise with Qnandry, Folk music is for everyone. It may be nice to give polished professional performance, but polished performance isn't all. Listen to some of the travelling folk. Mary Morrison comes to mind or some of the American old timey music. Is their singing tolerated because they are travellers and/or old and they have been the guardians of the music? If so this is no better than succeeding because you are good looking. I was brought up in a tradition of parties where everyone did their bit talented or not and I feel that open mikes and singarounds are places where people should be encouraged. If you want proffesional performance go to a concert or a guest night.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: greg stephens
Date: 02 Jul 02 - 07:24 AM

I'm sure the best way to deal with these problems is to walk away from them. Being an MC in these circumstances, or running a session or whatever, is a very difficult art, involving painful moral decisions taken at high speed while other people are having fun. You burn out,naturally. Run away when it stops being fun,and come back to it weeks/months/years laterwhen you're ready for another crack.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Gervase
Date: 02 Jul 02 - 07:50 AM

From the pont of view of a member of the audience, I sometimes welcome the crappier slots because it gives me a smoke break and a chance to empty my bladder and refill my glass.
At one club I know there's a very nice chap who sings the most dire songs of his own composing (with, it has to be said, a superb 12-strong accompaniment) who prompts a Gadarene rush to the bogs whenever he comes up to the front, and who is often drown out by the squeak and squelch of the beer pump!


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: SharonA
Date: 02 Jul 02 - 07:56 AM

Greg: Thanks for validating my own decision to walk away! I've sometimes wondered whether I did the right thing, or just the cowardly thing. But ultimately I've had to tell myself that, with my medical problems, getting out of a stressful situation that I didn't need to be in was the right thing for me.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 02 Jul 02 - 08:12 AM

I think that sometimes the quality issue could be smoothed over by paying attention to the mix of style/songs. If there are several dire-ish performers then they need to be scattered throughout the evening rather than following eachother - otherwise you risk the mood dropping irretrievably, and you can get a lopsided effect to the evening if it was crap for an hour, then good for an hour &tc.
So I suppose that means that you'd have to go for a point-and-shoot "your go next" MC-ing.
Hopefully you could then use your good regulars to pull back the mood from time to time. But I suppose you'd have to vary that duty a bit, otherwise some poor sod will always have the hard work of regaining a bored audience.

Personally I don't mind the odd crap performer, because it gives you a chance to rest your concentration (its hard to listen intently all night). But what really drags me down is if I can see that there is a run of naff stuff coming up. That becomes a chore to sit through.

I have in the past been to a regular open mic where a couple of lads would stand up each week and sing stuff from a book, badly, because they had not bothered to prepare at all. They always had rapturous receptions because they were popular local lads - which made it doubly annoying for those of us who had prepared!!! Then, one night, a seasoned performer took them aside and suggested that they should practice a bit before the next time. They took it very badly initially - and disappeared for ages with confidence shattered. But when they reappeared they were TONS better and starting to really get somewhere. So people clearly do NEED the feedback if they are going to improve - it might feel harsh, but its actually a big favour. The same seasoned performer had a word with me about the fact that although my voice sounded nice, the words were very indistinct. I was pleased that he thought it worth telling me, and have sorted that problem out now. So, having been the criticisee I would still say - go ahead and give these people some advice, limit their performances until they are of reasonable quality, and if they are still dire and not going to improve then you'll have to gradually fade them out somehow (that'll need another thread I expect).

Finally - if this thread makes no sense then I apologise - but I am at work and supposed to be busy, so don't have time to proof-read.

KRis


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: kendall
Date: 02 Jul 02 - 10:23 AM

AUDITIONS. Your main loyalty should be with the audience, not the dork who couldn't carry a note with a co-signer.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,Sonja
Date: 02 Jul 02 - 12:56 PM

Dunno about auditions per se, Kendall.  If you have to audition beforehand --and, especially, if you can only "qualify" by being pretty good (as opposed to just so-so--, it's not an open stage/open mike any more, is it?  Most of the open mikes I've been to are on nights of the week that would otherwise not draw crowds to the coffeehouse or pub.  Sometimes they're even in late afternoon to early evening, with the paid performers or the unpaid "showcase" performers taking the stage at, say, 7, 8, or 9 PM (depending on the night of the week.  It is the open mike performers and their friends who ARE the "audience."

Given that, it would seem that the ideal arrangement would be to rotate the performers the way TV variety shows often do.  Performer A does 2 songs, then B does 2, then C, then A comes back for 1 or 2, then B again, etc.  That way, performer A  and her friends don't leave as soon as her set is over, and so on for B and his friends, etc.

Mike and sound set up can be tricky if folks have a lot of gear to amplify, but in some acoustic clubs the set up is simple enough that it doesn't have to take too long to adjust to each new act--especially if the sound person writes down the settings from A's first set to use for A's first set, etc.

The open mike performer's first performance can be the "audition," and if s/he is hopelessly bad or offensive, there should be a way of uninviting her/him for the future.  At one club in Portland, OR, where a friend of mine holds an open mike, the owner told one guy he couldn't be on stage any more, thus being the "bad guy" and letting the emcee stay in a nurturing, energy-boosting mode.

One humane way of dealing with folks who are so bad that they shouldn't be inflicted on an audience would be to tell them what it is that they need to change to pass muster.  E.g., "Learn to sing on key," "Learn to tune your guitar,"  "Please limit your original songs to 7 minutes apiece,"  "No singing The Ball At Kierimuir when children are present," "We don't allow groups with only banjos and accordions," etc.  Constructive feedback should be tactful, of course, but if you can tell folks where it is they need to improve, they'll probably take it better than if you just  say "You suck."

~SWO~


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,maryrrf
Date: 02 Jul 02 - 02:22 PM

The above is good advice, I think. At most open mikes I've noticed that it IS the performers and their friends who compose a lot of the audience. I think the tolerable should be tolerated, the really bad ones should be given some tips for improvement, and the intolerable ones should be told they can't come back till they "get their act together". And this could certainly be said in a constructive way.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: Skipper Jack
Date: 03 Jul 02 - 02:30 PM

We call our "Open Nights, "Come All Ye" or Singers Nights

I recall the time when I was M.C at the Swansea Folk Club. A punk came into the club complete with what looked like a bin-liner for a dress and the "statutory" safety pins, etc. But she wanted to sing. Well it was an open night, so I gave her a spot. Needless to say she sang everything but a folk song, but she didn't have a bad voice!

Some months later, a rather attractive female came into the club, she was modestly and respectably attired, she wanted to sing and I gave her the opportunity. She sang a couple of traditional folk songs. The voice was familiar and I realised that it was the "Punk" girl who had come along previously. I spoke to her afterwards and discovered that she was converted to folk music by that first visit to the club. It also changed her view of life, hence the transformation.

I felt good that I had made her feel welcome and had given her the opportunity to sing.


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: GUEST,Sonja
Date: 03 Jul 02 - 04:25 PM

Great story, Skipper!


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Subject: RE: Help! Open Stage and C**p performers
From: mack/misophist
Date: 03 Jul 02 - 06:50 PM

I'm in a bind here. I really, really, REALLY, want to say that music's important enough that any one who wants to try should get a shot, no matter how bad. With a paying audience, though, I don't know what to say. Perhaps you could make an issue of the lack of space and let the audience decide who gets to return? Now that I've said that, I realize you're doing something terribly right. Figure out what it is and tell everybody else. That's wonderful.


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