Before a Rock Star Make You
Back to The
It’s the dream of many a
musician to open up for either: their favorite band or the favorite band of
their childhood. For many, the ultimate
in true rock star status is to share a stage with the musicians who made you
want to play music in the first place…to see you name in lights (or printed on
a flyer, as the case may be) with the guys (or gals) whose music you listen to
almost as much as (if not more than) your own.
But is it really a good
idea, as an unsigned artist, to open up for an act already known to the general
public? Will you get anywhere near the
recognition opening up for "Pearl Jam" in a large venue that you would at a local
club playing with other unsigned bands?
Will you fans dig your music as hard as ever or will they forget all
about you in a mad frenzy to have Eddie Vedder sign their backs?
It’s a double-edged sword
that many artists forget to think over carefully before rushing starry-eyed
into the excitement of being the opening act for: (Insert Name Of Famous Rock
Star Here). In many cases, venues and
promoters still expect your crowd to turn out and drink it up at shows, even
though the headliner will draw a big crowd of their own. Many of these shows are an hour plus away
from your local area and tickets can be upwards of $100. Is that something you can expect your friends
will be up for?
And then there’s the issue
of press. Do you dare ask a reviewer to
come out and cover your show and expect that a large portion of your article
won’t be about how “Pearl Jam rocks!”
You score local radio play only to have the DJ announce the show and
play, “Alive.” Sometimes opening up for
a signed act can make an unsigned artist feel even more invisible than usual.
The following are a few tips
that may help you to weigh the pros and cons of grabbing a spot as the opening act
for a famous band:
1.) Would You Take The Show If You Weren’t Playing With" Pearl Jam?"
Many artists think that playing with a famous act is so
important that they don’t even bother to check out anything else about the
gig. Many assume that rock stars always
command rock star stages, but this is often not the case. Many acts, especially classic rock/retro acts
on revival tours, are looking to get out and play anywhere that will put them up
the right kind of front money. Often
times this means that the venues are in more remote areas either looking to get
on the musical map or using a well-known act to entice people to drive in from
far away. Sometimes, the clubs are older
rooms looking to get their groove back or new places that haven’t yet acquired
a regular crowd. Before booking
anything, drive out and check out the venue on a few different nights and make
sure that you like the room, the stage, the regulars, the area, etc. and ask
yourselves if this is a venue that would play if it wasn’t for the draw of the
signed headliner. Since many of these
shows can cost unsigned acts anywhere from $200-$2000 in ticket guarantees, you
want to make sure that your getting your money’s worth musically.
2.) Would "Pearl Jam’s" Fans Listen To You If They Caught
You In Your Local Bar? For a lot of upcoming acts, the lure of playing in
front of a crowd of adoring fans is a huge plus. But, you need to make sure to remember that
just because people are coming to a club doesn’t mean they plan to listen to
you. Sadly, often the followers of
signed acts could care less about unknown openers and will arrive right before
the headliners set. Sometimes, they sit
in at the bar in another room praising their favorite band while the openers
play to their friends and the wall.
Worst case, many of them will rush the stage yelling, “Pearl Jam! We want Pearl Jam” while you do your best to
win them over musically. This is why
it’s important to only open for signed acts that fit in the style of your
music. If you loved Pearl Jam in high
school but your band sounds like John Mayer, you might want to think twice
before deciding that their fans are automatically going to dig your tunes.
3.) Find Out All Of The Details Before Committing To A
Signed Act Show. It’s fairly easy to book a local show: two to five unsigned
acts, 20-45 minute sets, all ages to 21 and up, $0 to $10 cover, sound check or
line check, maybe free parking, possibly some free drinks, sometimes backline
gear, occasionally free food, and pray for a decent sound man. It’s all pretty much cut and dried and if
your band has been around awhile, you can confirm gigs in your sleep. Signed headlining acts are a whole different
animal and promising your crowd to a venue two hours away, with a $40 cover
charge where your band is playing a 15 minute set with your gear scrunched up
on the front of the stage so that the headliner’s gear can remain set up might
not be as easy as you think. Your fans
are used to seeing you rock the house, down the street from their homes, where
you play long, get an encore and the house buys everyone a shot! Unless they’re dying to see Pearl Jam, they
might not be up for all of extra energy it takes to see you open up for a
4.) You May Not Be Signed But You Can Act Like You Are.
you decide to take a gig opening up for a signed band and you want to impress
them, their crew, their reps, and the club’s management, then make sure you’re
act as professional as your headliner.
Get there early, have your gear organized, make sure everything is
working perfectly, load in at the speed of light, have your set list ready, be
courteous to the sound guy (gal), keep your set on time, and load off at the
speed of light. Most importantly, have
your merchandise in order and professionally displayed at the club/arena: CDs,
DVDs, t-shirts, bumper stickers, hats, thongs…you name it. You know you're unsigned but the headliners’
fans don’t, so why advertise it? Put on
a fantastic show and maybe you’ll sell some CDs, etc. and make some extra
There’s one more thing to
consider here: fulfilling a dream. If
it’s your dream to open up for an act you love, then throw caution to the wind
and do it just for the dream. If you
lose money, hate the club, get booed by over-zealous fans…who cares? For that one set, you shared the stage with
the band that put the dream in your heart to get up on a stage in the first
place. Plus, it’s great bragging rights
for your band. You can throw it up on
your website and talk about it to your grandchildren. If you don’t mind the extra effort,
commitment and sometimes hassle, then go for it! Who knows?
Maybe they’ll pick you up as the opener on their tour? Maybe their label will see you and sign you? Maybe Rolling Stone will come out to review
them and mention your name? If you’re
doing it to fulfill the dream, then everything else is a bonus. Just remember
to get all of the details, and stay smart when undertaking a huge gig. Now, get up on that stage and wow that big
crowd, you rock stars!
Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer,
promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and
musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway
Radio, airs on over 700 affiliates to more than 126
million listeners. Her musicians’
assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows
weekly in the Los
AngelesArea, where she resides. For more info: http://www.sheena-metal.com.