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Poll: Should Open Mic Musicians be Treated Less Well if They Buy Less – or No – Alcohol Than Clients Who Do Buy?

August 20, 2013

poor musician (from

poor musician (from

It was a strange night last night as I could not decide what to do, but circumstances sorted it all out. Should I stay at home and work, or go out and play music? I opted to go out, but found that the first open mic I wanted to attend was closed until September. So I went to meet a friend at the second open mic I thought I would attend, and once there, I decided I didn’t want to attend – thanks to my wrong mindset….

Basically, what happened was that my friend was standing out on the sidewalk and he told me that he had been greeted rather negatively by a woman behind the bar who said something like she did not want him taking up space if he was there for the open mic and not planning to buy a beer immediately. So he went out to wait.

Now this friend buys beers at open mics all the time, I know for a fact. But as he recounted this to me, he did not know that another server from the bar was hearing him tell me this outside, and that server decided to defend the other server by saying it was not normal for musicians to attend the bar only to play music and not buy beer, or to sit at a table for four if they were only one person.

So I decided that since he decided to defend the server, I would defend the musician. I told him that I thought bar servers and management should, on the contrary, be thankful for musicians turning up to open mics whether they were all consuming or not, since they provided free music that attracted other people to come and listen, and sometimes actually they attract friends to come and join them, as well – as was the case last night with me joining my friend, in fact. The more the musicians the more atmosphere and the better the reputation of the place as a meeting point for other musicians will be. Moreover, when musicians sense that they are really welcome, arms wide open, then they tend to go to a place, but if they feel they are unwelcome or only welcome if they become good paying clients – never mind free-playing clients – then they will not likely want to go, and the general feel of an open mic will go downhill. That’s my feeling, based on experience, in any case. And remember, lots of musicians are struggling, have little or no money, and would buy every drink in the house if they signed a lucrative record deal.

So once that was the outcome last night, and I realized I had no desire to be a music-playing client this particular night, and I realized that neither open mic situation had worked out for me, then my decision of “should I stay or should I go” was answered for me, and I returned home to do an apartment cycle workout and then go early to bed.

So it was all very satisfactory, and it even gave me a subject for this blog item today, and the desire to ask readers what you all thought about whether or not musicians attending an open mic should be treated with politeness by the managers and servers whether they are large consumers, personally, of booze or not. I would love to see your comments and/or have you answer the poll on the matter that I post here.


  1. Absolutely. If a bar invites musicians to come in and play without compensation as entertainment for its regular clientele, there’s no question those musicians should be treated as well as any customer who comes to listen (and buys drinks). It should be a win-win as long as the musician’s friends aren’t all teetotalers who take up tables without purchasing anything.

  2. 1) Musicians attract customers
    2) Musicians bring friends
    3) Customers buy drinks
    4) Friends buy drinks

    Now :

    5) Musicians don’t get any compensation for playing
    6) Musicians are not even offered preferential prices on booze
    7) Musicians are not offered any drinks

    And now we musicians should be obliged to buy drinks ? Yeah…sure…

  3. And if we don’t drink we don’t pi so we don’t spend water into the toilets (cause musicians are clean out of respect for their instruments) and we don’t fall on tables and break glasses neither. We don’t insult the waitress with machist speaches and we don’t fight with the customers because they didn’t pay attention to our genius songs or more often speak loud while we try to make a lyrical sound with our beautiful organ. And that’s because we are sober! So we are the perfect occupants of such hostile places, acting for the peace and the good working order of them.

  4. The bar owner has open mikes ’cause he knows it draws customers, but the wait-persons are pissed ’cause they figger they won’t be getting tips from the musicians. Short sighted on their parts.

  5. I think the open mic musician should be treated as business partner, that’s why I chose “other”.

    Chiffre L said it all :

    “1) Musicians attract customers
    2) Musicians bring friends
    3) Customers buy drinks
    4) Friends buy drinks
    Now :
    5) Musicians don’t get any compensation for playing
    6) Musicians are not even offered preferential prices on booze
    7) Musicians are not offered any drinks”

    Therefore, the presence of the musician is profitable for the bar. His presence should be profitable for him AS WELL. If he is OBLIGED to buy drinks (really expensive drinks in the case of british pubs) even when his finances don’t allow it, his presence is not profitable for him any more.

    No fee = no drinks.

    Peace =)

    • Good thinking. Some open mics DO actually offer the singers a free drink; I should have mentioned that in the post. The Coolin open mic in Paris, for instance, offers a free drink to everyone who takes to the mic for a song or two. Generous and logical.

  6. All previous comments are perfectly clear, so I can only add my anguished thoughts regarding most musicians’ livers and mental health. Let’s not kick the leper in the nuts, shall we.

    • I like that point about musicians’ livers! I’ve thought of that one carefully over the last four years of my intense open mic attendance AND intense buying of beer as a good, if sometimes reluctant, client….

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