The 6 Step Guide To Starting Out As A Singer/Songwriter

Open Mic - Lonely
Posted on: October 28th, 2013

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Whether you’re taking to the scene for the first time, or cutting away from your background of performing with a band to go solo, stepping up to a microphone with nothing but your guitar can be daunting.

In Northern Ireland the singer/songwriter scene is pretty huge (as i’m sure it is in most scenes over the world). Hell, it’s pretty big in Belfast alone, which is great. Bars are almost always looking for someone to sit in the corner and play at least one night of the week, and a lot promoters like kicking off their gigs with an acoustic act. I know, I know, you’re thinking ‘Why do I need to read a guide? Sounds like it’ll be hard to NOT get a gig…’

I’m afraid it’s not that simple. Don’t let the soft acoustic progressions and broken hearts fool you. Singer/songwriters can be pretty competitive. Here are some tips to help you survive.

Open Mic - Lonely

Performing with the spotlight solely on yourself at an Open Mic can be a nervy experience…

1) Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Open Mic

Open Mic Nights are a brilliant way to start gigging. Chances are they’ll only ask you to play 3-4 songs, which is great for easing you into performing, rather than having you prepare a full set. Remember these nights are all about making first impressions; you want to be short, sweet and to the point. Leave ‘em crying out for more!

Furthermore, don’t feel that just because it’s not an organised gig and doesn’t have your name on a poster that these nights can’t boost your career. You’re building both your confidence and an audience, and you never know who’s listening. Anyway, we all know that if even one person approaches you at the bar and says ‘Nice set, man!’ you’ll go home with a smile on your face.

Open Mic performer

Open Mics are a great way to build confidence and get your name out there…

2) Make Friends

Getting to know people is important. Talk to the bar/club staff; make your face a familiar one and you could get asked back for more events. More so, make friends with the guy/girl that organises the Open Mic Night; chances are this isn’t the only dent they’re making in the local music scene. Have a chat, maybe they’ll offer to pass on your contact details to someone, book you for other gigs, or at the very least have some advice on how you can progress. Most of all, talk to the other performers. As said above, it’s a competitive scene, making friends with other musicians is great for future gigs, collaboration projects and just generally getting your name out there. Try your best to stay to the end of the night, show the other artists you have time and respect for their music.

Adding a friend on Facebook button

Who knows what opportunities may present themselves by adding some of the people that you talked to after the show on Facebook…

3) Choose Your Songs Wisely

If you’re a singer/songwriter, it’s quite likely that there’s some burning feeling inside you that’s telling you that you’re destined to be some reincarnation of Dylan, or Cohen depending on your vocal range. Despite this, even these greats didn’t exactly shoot to stardom when they first started.

There isn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that your bedroom session songs could one day be topping the lyrical charts, but for now it’s all about making an impression.

By all means play a few original numbers, but dilute your set with a few covers that the audience can respond to. Don’t be ashamed of it, no one thinks you’re covering The Backstreet Boys because you want to. It’s a laugh, a sacrifice that has to be made, and will probably get more of a reaction than you initially thought.

Click on to page 2 for three final essential tips….

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21 year old Film & Media Graduate from Lisburn. Currently with a lot of free time on my hands and spending far too much of it on the internet. Favourite local acts include Mojo Fury, ASIWYFA, and Kasper Rosa.

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  • odibal

    can’t really add much to this….but to re-iterate the advice, “MAKE FRIENDS” – be nice to people, it’ll take you further than you think….after all, no-one likes a “Prima-donna muso” do they??
    Also, if another player comes up and compliments you on your set, ask some questions….. “what song”, “how was my vocal / playing” etc…also ask them about other gigs / contacts…anyone who takes the time to tell you that you did good, will normally be happy to pass on helpful information

    hone your “stage-craft”, people pay more attention to a polished performance than a nervous looking mumbler…no matter how good the song quality is!

    one last thing….OPEN YOUR EYES ….. shoe-gazing was fine once upon a time……..but really, engage your audience !!!

    superb article…we salute you !!!