Opening Band Tips to Success
Headliner Rules The Roost
Whether you’re the local opener for a touring band, another local act or actually on the road with someone, the headliner dictates how things are done. There will be certain things that they require pre-show and you should make sure to adhere to their wishes regarding sound check, arrival time, gear. The easier you are to work with them and make the entire event run smoother - the more likely they’ll be to invite you back, more so if your performance is excellent and you act like professionals in every regard. Be on time, make sure your gear is all ready to go with no delays and remember to praise them from the stage and acknowledge their latest CD or single release to show you did your homework on them.
Do Your Own Promoting for the Show
This is the BIG issue to being asked on an opening slot - selling tix.
Your responsibility is to sell lots of tix to your fans, friends and family to put bodies in the venue - and to impress on those people to actually show and stay for the entire show. Bands that sell a whack of tickets pre-show will be noticed by the headliner and make you more valuable to them for future dates or to other acts that hear about it. Sell very little and your "value" drops dramatically to headliners - and the word will spread making your band toxic to them. Get your ENTIRE band to take ownership of this on social media, selling tix and spreading the word about the event - it needs to be a priority to them - if it isn't, maybe time to hire members who are more invested in your band. At the end of the day you want to impress the headliner, the promoter and the venue owner that you have a following who will come and see you play - the importance of this point cannot be stated strong enough.
Working for the Headliner
You've been asked to open for a band and you have a chance by their generosity, to perform in front of their fans which hopefully will gain you more followers as well. It will give you an opportunity to sell merch if their fans like you such as tee's CD's, hats - do it right and the rewards are there for the taking. Conversely, praise the headliner as I mentioned above, shout out about THEIR merch table and on a regular basis through your set thank them for having you open and tell your crowd to stick around for them - that aspect goes along way.
Word of Mouth
This is the one market tool that sells everything be it restaurants, personal service like contractors, mechanics and bands - the power of people telling other people about you. When you are an opener and your set is over - talk to people !!! Hang out with fans in the audience, walk around to people you know and don't know and thank them for attending the show, buy some of the headliners merch and put it on when they are onstage to show you are a fan of theirs too - this little gesture goes a long, long way. LOTS of patrons love it when a band member comes to their table just to say "Hi and thanks for coming", it shows you are interested in them as a person and appreciate them coming to the show.
During your set give a huge shout out to the Soundman for making you sound awesome, their servers for all their hard work and to tip them well, the cooks who are behind a wall but made that awesome plate of tacos and to the venue owner for having you play in their bar.
As an opening band or closer - ALWAYS clean up the stage before you leave for the night. Gather up empty bottles, glasses, broken sticks, guitar strings and set lists from the stage. The server has worked hard all night too and its not her job to clean up your mess. Remember, a word from a server to the venue owner on how you left the stage a disaster can lead to you not being asked back again - I've seen that happen numerous times.
It all comes down to courtesy, respect and common sense when you are an opening act of a closer and those that "get it" will always do better than those that don't.
Blog Author: Jim McCormick
President of Allstage
Member of London Chamber of Commerce
Member of London Musicians Committee
Member of London Business of Music Committee
Member of the Executive Board at London Musicians Association
Member of 2017 JRMA Steering Committee
Drummer/founding member of Bender
Endorsed by: Tee Custom Drums (England), Eccentric Systems Drum Company, Schecter Guitars
2015 London Music Award
Winner, 2016 JRLMA Winner