Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival

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Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival

There comes a time when you’re sick of seeing the mainstream performances from musicians and you want to see some good old raw and original music, the kind that is usually offered at open mic festivals. With over 150 acts across three days and nine stages, the Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival is perfect for those who want some quality local music and everyone else just wanting a good time. Forte had a chat to festival director Marty Maher on the ins and outs of the festivals and the special secret act they have lined up.
Hi Marty thanks for taking the time to chat with Forte, how are you and what are you up to at the moment? 
I’m very well but very busy at the moment and trying not to get overwhelmed! This is our 8th festival and it just gets bigger every year.
Where did the idea first come to create an open mic festival? 
We saw an opportunity that was not in the festival space at all. People forget that the largest demographic of musicians in the world is not those trying to make a full time living from it,  it’s actually artists that have normal jobs or are studying but play part time or semi professionally. We cater strongly for this demographic and also see ourselves as a pathway for those who would like to be full time artists. The level of talent out there is incredible. We just give them a stage and a good sized audience.
Why is the festival so beneficial to the young musicians performing? 
We have a strong youth focus and to get stage experience in front of good crowds is invaluable for any young musician. Our shining example of a successful pathway has been local band Altitude. They played their first gig at the first Aireys Open Mic Music Festival and have played everywhere since. They went on to win the State Battle of the Bands and then went on to play Big Day Out. They have significant radio airplay and, after a bit of a break last year, will headline again this year. Other local acts like Famous Will, Audemia and Imogen Brough are all regulars that we love. We get a lot of Melbourne  acts and even one who has registered from the USA this year.
It’s been going for eight years now which is an incredible achievement, has there been any particular memory that’s stood out to you over the years? 
There has been so many but each year when I announce the Special Mystery Guest to close the festival is always a great moment for me personally. Not only is all the hard work over for another year but you have this incredible build up to the SMG being revealed. We have had Colin Hay, Dan Sultan, Tim Rogers and Mark Seymour in the past. Last year we had the Sweethearts because it was their 25th anniversary and we wanted to pay tribute to the work of Ross Lipson, their legendary band leader who sadly lost his fight with cancer recently. He was there to see them, probably for the last time, which was very emotional for many.
Now we know the mystery guest is a secret, but can you give our readers a little clue of who to expect? 
It is a very big name. We are so excited. If you are not there you will hear about it. Those that make it will brag for years that they were there when…..You just have to be there. Sunday March 15 at around 5.30pm. Come for the whole day or the whole weekend, there is plenty of great music all over town.
We saw too that while the event is free, there’s a pay as you feel for entry. Where does the money go towards? 
The policy is “pay what you think it’s worth”. Entry is free but we have donation buckets on all the stages and festival goers donate to support the festival. They do pay and show their support – it’s a great system. We don’t have to worry about all the infrastructure that goes along with ticketing and the personnel to staff it.
Every cent goes back into running the festival and any surplus goes towards the following years festival. We call it a music making festival not a money making festival. Every year it gets more expensive to run but we scrape it all together each year from grants, sponsors and donations. It’s such a brilliant festival for the artists and our community that there is a strong will to maintain it.
Thanks again for chatting with us, is there anything you’d like to add before we finish up? 
If you haven’t been before you should come, you will love it. Check out the website at But whatever you do, do not miss the Special Mystery Guest on Sunday March 15 at around 5.30pm. It will definitely be one of those “I was there when” moments.
When&Where: Aireys Inlet – March 13, 14 & 15