Singer-Songwriters and Musical Open Mics is an ethnographic exploration of New York City’s live music events where musicians signup and perform short sets. This sociological study dispels the common assumption that open mics are culturally monolithic and reserved for novice musicians. Open mics allow musicians at different locations within their musical development and career to interactively perform, practice, and network with other musicians. Important themes in the book include: the tension between self and society in the creative process, issues of creative authenticity and authorship, and on-going cultural changes central to the Do-It-Yourself cultural zeitgeist of the early 21st century. The open mic’s cultural antecedents include a radio format, folk hootenannies, and the jazz jam session. Drawing from multiple qualitative methods, Aldredge describes how open mics have etched a vital organizational place in the western and urban musical landscape. Open mics represent a creative place where the boundaries of practicing and performing seemingly blur. This allows for a range of social settings from more competitive, stratified, and homogenous music scenes to culturally diverse weekly events often stretching late into the night.
Marcus Aldredge is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, USA. His articles have appeared in edited books and journals including Symbolic Interaction on a variety of expressive cultural practices. His general research interests focus on art/music, food practices, everyday deviance, and sociological theory.
'Aldredge studies this transient community of musicians, bringing us into bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn where open mics were and are held. The time frame of his experience in New York City begins in the 1990s and points to today’s participatory culture of open mics.' Rock Music Studies ' ... fills a much-needed gap in the field of popular music studies, with relatively little having been written on the open mic night up to now. All in all, Singer-Songwriters and Musical Open Mics provides an important foundation for studying the open mic. By connecting musical genre, cultural history and local geography, it asks us to think about how social scientists, historians and musicologists might work together and how a study of events such as the open mic can help us to better understand issues such as race and gender within geographical and cultural locales, as well as the role of night-time economies and the effects the emerging creative class is having on urban areas'. Popular Music ’Aldredge presents a vivid and empathetic depiction of the social life of open mics. The book’s engagement with what is popularly referred to as maker culture, particularly in the context of arts-driven urban development, is a notable highlight ... I would be most excited to recommend it to those teaching cultural sociology, urban studies, and even urban planning or arts administration. ... Aldredge’s book has everything that fans of interactionism want: empirically grounded concept development, deep depictions of interaction and meaning making, and an insider’s look at the production of culture. Also, like most good ethnographies, it encourages the reader to think beyond the subject at hand and imagine how future-related studies might be inspired by the work’. Symbolic Interaction