Three Methods to Getting Openers and Support Act
By Jeri Goldstein Copyright 2007
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.
Whether 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 slots.
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.
Once you 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.
3 - 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 arise.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 sex.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Getting 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
Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent
The Musician's & Performing Artist's Guide To Successful Touring
2nd Edition UPDATED. 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 released a 3-hour
seminar on CD-ROM, Marketing Your Act. No expensive conferences
to attend-learn at your convenience to boost your career. Her book,
CD-ROM and information about her other programs are available at
www.performingbiz.com or phone (434) 591-1335 or email Jeri firstname.lastname@example.org