Getting a spot as an opening act is an effective way to promote your music career. It puts you in front of the fans of another artist, and gives you the chance to possibly gain some new fans in the process. But there are different ways to get your foot in the door at these venues and get noticed.
Think about the right artist to open for
When you’re ready to start looking for an artist to open for, make sure you’re looking at the right acts. This will be important to both your ability to secure the gig and the benefit to you that the gig provides.
If you open for an artist with a completely different style, you may have difficulty resonating with their fans, and that won’t do much to build your exposure.
A good way to think about who you would like to open for is to list bands you like or artists with a similar vibe to yours. Don’t think about it too hard, though.
You don’t have to play exactly the same style of music to hit the right notes with each other’s audiences. But you do need to be in similar genres.
If you’re looking for a gig as an opening act, you’ve probably already been playing a few local shows. That means you have likely made a few contacts in the industry, or at a very minimum, at some of the venues.
Those contacts are your most important link to getting a spot as an opening act. Every time you play a gig, go ahead and send out an email thanking them.
This helps you to remember their names and helps them to remember yours. It also sets you apart as an artist that people like to work with.
You can make a great start by building your reputation at home. And of course, keep going to other bands shows so you can say hi if you see a promoter or venue owner who you’ve already made a contact with.
Have something to offer the promoter
Networking is essential throughout your music career. That being said, even if you are a great networker, the best thing you can do to secure a spot as an opener is to prove to a promoter that you can get tickets sales.
Fortunately, being good at networking likely means you are good at finding people interested in purchasing tickets to a performance.
The promoter’s job is, of course, to get more people to buy tickets to the show. Often, the headliner is the draw for most of the tickets. But you probably have people you can count on to buy tickets to your shows.
If you know you will be able to put together a decent-sized crowd, maybe 50-100 more people depending on the size of the venue, offer to sell a certain amount of tickets to make it worth the promoter’s time and prove you have an audience.
Many promoters will accept this deal because it will help them to make sales. And more people at the venue also means more merchandise and bar sales. You gain more exposure; they make better profits.
Pay to become the opening act
If you are not confident that you could guarantee a certain level of tickets sales, or if the promoter is not open to that arrangement, you may be able to pay to perform. Some promoters will allow you to pay them to open up the show. Anything that will help the promoter break even, they are usually open to.
It should be noted, however, that this is not an ideal route to getting a spot as an opener. The cost ranges widely depending on how big the artist is that you would be opening up for. Use this strategy as the last resort if you really wanted to open up for a particular venue or artist.
That’s right. Though, this route will takes considerably more work and is risky, it bypasses negotiating with an outside promoter all together.
Many artists are also concert promoters themselves. It’s a great way to earn money while you are building an audience for your own music. You simply book artists so that you can open up for them and gain exposure.
And working as a promoter also helps you gain even more music industry contacts. To make the most of this situation, start booking other artists, too, not just yourself. It’s great when you have a gig, but do not underestimate getting seen and just having conversations with others at the venues.
Build a relationship with an agent
Another way to get in as an opening act is to build a relationship with an agent. However, this strategy can prove somewhat difficult because agents are usually the ones who pursue the artist and work to build a relationship.
Also, most agents do not accept solicitations, which means it can be quite difficult to get any kind of response from them. You don’t want to waste time reaching out to an agent who is simply deleting your messages.
A better bet is to practice networking in general. Don’t specifically seek out agents. Make friends with people at all levels—other artists, promoters, security staff. You’d be surprised who might know someone.
You may just get the chance to be introduced to an agent and make an impression. If you do happen to come in contact with an agent, and build a relationship, sometimes they will offer you as an opening act for their clients. You can use a music industry contacts database to find agents that represent artists that you may have built a relationship with.
And don’t let your networking stop there. Once you secure a gig as an opener, make sure you meet as many people at the show as you can to build up your industry contacts. Just be sure you’re not getting too pushy. Make the conversation natural and end it if the other person doesn’t seem interested.
Once you’ve secured your spot, be a respectful opener and do what you can to make the show go as well as possible. The best way to land your next opening gig is to show everyone you work with that you are hardworking and reliable. Who knows? You may even make a fan of the headliner.
This is a guest post by Billy Bones, booking director at BBE Booking Agency, a music booking agency that works with artists and event planners to organize events. Billy also regularly writes articles on event and music marketing.
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