Top 5 Questions I Get As An Open Mic Host

I host open mics on Tuesdays at The Starry Plough in Berkeley, and starting March 27th I’ll be hosting the open mic at Oakland’s Octopus Literary Salon from 7-8PM, every Monday. As an open mic host, I see a wide variety of different types of performances and people, but the questions I get as a host who looks like she’s “in charge of things” are invariably the same. Here are the top 5.

What number are we on?

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This one tops the list in terms of frequency. We’re on Number X, you’re on Number Y, and there are Z acts before you. It’s cool to ask, but repeatedly asking doesn’t help. Everyone is here to perform and will get their time, so I encourage you to be patient!

I got here late and missed signups. Can you sign me up?

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Depends on two things: if the list is long, and if I specifically said that signups were closed. Sometimes open mics get crazy and signups reach the 40s (or if you’re at Hotel Utah, 60 is the norm). If I think there’s no way I could realistically give you a slot towards the end, I will say no. If the night looks chill and you’re not an asshole about it, I will probably say yes. Easiest way to avoid this situation? Get to signups on time!

Can I see the list?

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Yes, you can see the signup list. It won’t make it get to your slot any faster, though. Neither will asking to see the list multiple times throughout the night. I’m guilty of this, however: I just want to see who signed up. 🙂

Can I borrow a capo/tuner/pick?

Alternatively for rappers, “Can I plug in my phone? / Hold on, I need to pull this up on YouTube”. Make sure you’re mostly set up before you get on stage. Otherwise there will almost certainly be an awkward silence, and the open mic host may have to fill up that time by telling unfunny jokes. There’s a reason I don’t do comedy.

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Can I play another song?

If you’re new at a mic, it’s a good idea to ask the host how many songs or minutes are allowed, and respect the time that you’re given. If you’re allowed two songs, then you can go for it. If it’s a 5-minute/one song open mic, then you don’t get another song. But if the audience is screaming for an encore from you, I can’t say no!


Aside from performing, knowing open mic etiquette is one of the best ways for you as a performer to not only have fun, but also make good connections at venues. Next time you hit up an open mic, remember that your hosts are people too, and working hard to help everyone have a good time. Want a cool spot to play a song or interested in a potential feature set? Come hit me up at the Octopus and LEX talk music!

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