Sometimes poets who want to start an open mic are hesitant about approaching bars or cafes with the idea. They feel as if they are asking the owner to do them a favor by allowing them to use space for a gathering of poets, but that’s only half the story.
I thought it would be interesting to do a little research to fill in the other half of the story, and find out a bit about how having an open mic on the premises benefits the venue. Of course poetry always increases one’s hipness quotient. Everyone thinks poetry is cool even if they don’t read it or go to readings. So, hosting a poetry event adds to a venue’s coolness cache, an admittedly abstract notion. But what about more tangible benefits.
Poetry events bring in people who spend money so that the venue benefits financially ,and here’s the data that proves it.
One Monday evening in late 2015, in a neighborhood bar in Forest Park, IL, while attending a once-monthly open mic that’s been running for over a decade, I gathered a little information in order to shed light on the issue of who is doing who a favor. I was curious to check my supposition that an open mic brings people into a venue who would otherwise be very unlikely to ever be in the place.
Here’s how the research went. Twenty-two people were in attendance and all of them answered all of the questions. The questions had been prepared ahead of time, and were designed to determine benefits to the venue for giving a group of poets a comfortable room in which to read.
It was no surprise to learn that the open mic resulted in business for the venue that would not have happened without the open mic. You’re probably thinking, “yeah, right, I could have guessed that.” Of course you could—behavioral science research often supports our common sense notions of human behavior.
Specifically, here’s what the data says:
--Almost all (21 of the 22 open mic attendees) had never been to the venue before attending their first open mic there.
--All 22 said they would not be at the venue on the evening data was collected if there had not been an open mic.
--When asked if they purchase food or a drink when they attend an open mic, all 22 responded always or almost always.
--4 of the 22 said they come to the venue at other times when it is not open mic night.
The conclusion is obvious: the presence of the open mic benefits the venue’s bottom line. The open mic/venue relationship is synergistic. Poets obviously benefit by having a space for the open mic, and the venue benefits by the presence of customers who are extremely unlikely to be there if the open mic did not exist. It appears that many of the open mic poets who answered the questions for this little survey would likely not even know the venue exists but for the open mic.
Pictured above, Gregorio Gomez holds forth at the 3rd Saturday Coffeehouse in Oak Park, IL as part of a 10 year series of open mic-with-feature event.