to Getting Openers
and Support Act Slots
Jeri Goldstein. All rights
Back to The
One method to expand your audience is to
serve as a support act for a known main act on multiple tour dates or to open a
show for a larger act. These are choice slots and many acts are vying for them.
Sometimes you can get lucky and be in the right place at the right time. If you
are more interested in process rather than chance, here are a few suggestions on
how to go about landing some of these choice performance slots.
you are attempting to open a single date or be considered as the supporting act
for a full tour, there are three methods to follow that may help you land those
1. Contact the acts you have selected as logical, compatible
choices. In some instances, you may know a compatible band personally and are
friends with some of the members. This would be the most direct route to getting
on a tour or single date.
If you were unfamiliar with anyone in the act,
the next step would be to contact the act's management. Emerging acts, still
building their own following, but much more established than you, often have a
hot list of new acts on the scene from which they select potential support or
opening acts. Get on that hot list. First you need to contact the act's
management. Check on their tour schedule for an upcoming or recently played
date. If they are playing locally, check with the venue, if not look on
Musi-cal.com or check Pollstar to see if they are listing their itinerary.
Pollstar, www.pollstar.com has a management directory and Billboard's
International Talent & Touring Directory, lists management, agency and
record company--but there is a charge for the directories.
reach management, tell them you are interested in being considered for an opener
or support act. Let them know you are very familiar with the act and why you
think you would be a good addition to the show. Offer to send your current press
materials and latest recording and some support materials detailing your
activities. Be realistic, you may be one of many acts attempting to be
considered, make sure you represent yourself well.
This process may take
some time as you develop a relationship with the act's management. Be
persistent. Keep in touch with your contact. Provide them with updates as your
career and tours take shape. The payoff may not be immediate, but it may be well
worth a wait if you have selected the right act.
2. Contact the Booking
Agency. Acts may not have management but may have a booking agent. They would be
the next contact. Approach the agent in a similar manner as you would
management. As you build a relationship with the agency, this may also serve as
your entrée if you have been looking for an agent for your act. As you consider
logical, compatible acts for which you may open, it is likely that those
agency's rosters would also be logical choices to represent your act.
Contact the Venue Booking Person. As you determine where you would like to play,
specific venues in certain markets become important. As you identify these
venues, you may find it impossible to get a date if you haven't previously
played the venue. Asking for an opening act slot may again be a way of gaining
entrance. Find out which acts have been booked for upcoming shows from the venue
booking contact. If you can identify a few of the acts mentioned as ones that
might be compatible with your act, suggest that to the booker and ask to be
considered as the opening act. Send your promotional material. Often, they will
have to check with the acts management or agency. You can ask for the act's
management contact in case you need to establish contact and begin your process
with the management or agent as suggested above. I would first let the venue
booker make the initial contact. Some venues have the ability to arrange openers
for certain acts and sometimes they receive strict instructions from the act's
agent regarding the act's policy on openers. If you begin to let the venues know
about your intentions, they may keep you in mind when appropriate situations
The opening act is so often frowned upon as being a bad slot.
However, the opening act can be a very strategic position if you plan
appropriately. I don't believe opening for just anyone serves you well. It is
important that you consider which act your act is compatible with in order to
play to an appropriate audience. You want to expand your audience, so your
choice of main act ought to be one whose audience you would like to eventually
make your own. Here are some further tips to consider as you search for
appropriate main acts.
1. Select an act that is at least one or two
steps ahead of you with the market. If you aim too high, for an act that is
playing arenas when you are playing 200 seat clubs, you are unlikely to achieve
an opening slot. Even if you did get to open for a much larger act, your ability
to really use the occasion to your fullest advantage may be hampered by the fact
that you are probably not ready to do so. You want an act that has a large
enough draw to have some room in the budget so you can get paid something.
2. Select an act within your own genre of music. If you are attempting
to gain a country fan base select up and coming country acts. If you play rock,
hip-hop, blues, etc., select the appropriate genre.
3. Select acts of
the opposite sex in some instances. For example, single female
singer/songwriter, most often, would select a male act rather than another
female singer/songwriter. The same would work for male acts. This doesn't always
have to hold true, especially in situations where many acts who know each other
decide to join together to create a special multi-act tour. The other exception
may be in cases where a solo male or female act opens for a group or the same
4. Select acts that you may have some personal familiarity with or
even have a friendship. Start with people you know. If they know and like your
music, there is a greater likelihood of them being open to you sharing the bill.
5. Make sure you are added to the date in time to be included in media
promotions and added to any flyers or posters. This will help build your
reputation in the areas where the dates are played.
6. The money for
openers and support acts may not be great depending on the main act's budget,
the venue budget and your relationship with the main act. In circumstances where
the fee is low, negotiate 100% or as high a percentage as possible on all of
your merchandise. Many openers make up for a low fee with their merchandise
sales when they have a large and receptive audience.
7. Don't over stay
your time on stage. Be clear about your arrangements with the main act. Set your
start and end times and be prompt. If you get called back for an encore, check
with the main act before heading back on stage for an encore. Leave the audience
wanting more rather than wanting you to get off the stage.
8. Try to
arrange for a welcoming introduction. If you have any connection to the main act
at all, it helps if you can be linked to the main act in some way. For example,
"Please welcome the XYZ band, one of ABC's favorite new talents." If the
audience is made aware of the respect the main act has for the opener, the
audience is usually more enthusiastic about the opener.
9. Make friends
with the main act's sound engineer. Unless you travel with your own sound
engineer, the house sound engineer usually is the one designated to mix the
opening act. If you can get to know the main act's sound engineer, perhaps they
will mix your sound as well. Sometimes you may have to pay them something. It is
often worth the money.
10. Landing a support act tour can boost your
career a notch or two. Make the most of it. Make sure you notify the media of
any support tours by getting your tour itinerary listed in the appropriate trade
magazines and online sources. Issue press releases and get your CDs to as many
radio stations along the tour route as possible. This may be the right time to
explore hiring a radio promotions company to get airplay.
opening act slots or a support tour should be one of the many strategies used to
expand your audience. Begin this process by making a list of acts you might
consider appropriate main acts. As time goes on and your act develops, the list
will need updating. There is no time like the present to begin this strategic
audience development process.
Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent: A
Performing Artist's Guide to A Successful Touring Career. She had been an agent
and artist's manager for 20 years. Currently she consults with artists, agents
and managers through her consultation program Manager-In-A-Box and presents The
Performing Biz, seminars and workshops at conferences, universities, for arts
councils and to organizations. Jeri has just release a 3-hour seminar on CD-ROM,
Marketing Your Act. The Seminar is set up in 5 modules with information about
Marketing, Creating Effective Promotional Materials, How To Access the Media, A
Marketing Template and Niche Marketing. Her book, CD-ROM and information about
her other programs are available at www.performingbiz.com
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