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Opening for a touring act/band ...


FranE

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There are a couple of threads up about this at the moment. I've often wondered how this comes about - ie opening for a well known act/band on one stop of their tour.

 

I am totally clueless, never been involved in getting gigs and have no experience of playing in a band that had an agent, so forgive me for what are probably stupid questions.

 

I presume it's the venue that books the opening band. If that's the case -

 

Who decides whether there will be a support band? The venue, or the main band? If it's the venue, does the main act (or their agent) have any input?

 

I've also assumed that this sort of spot would be regarded as something of an "honor", so it wouldn't pay well, if at all? Do venues try to get a support act "on the cheap", to offset some of the cost of the main act?

 

A local band in my area once opened for a very well known, international artist. There was no mention of them on the main artist's website (ie with the tour dates). I wouldn't actually have expected that - except that the support band at a couple of other venues on the tour did get a mention. Any idea how that works?

 

Any info would be interesting to me. It may be that there's no regular routine anyway, but even that would be helpful to know.

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What I've experienced is that if the record company/tour manager doesn't have a support act on the bill, then the venue gets the green light to book a local band. You're correct, the venue usually doesn't pay the local band for the "privilege" of opening for main band - what usually happens is that they make the local band buy 50 tickets (or more, depending on the venue) at a lower cost that the band can then sell to make money. (band buys 50 tickets for $500 and sells them at $15 per ticket) They also usually let you sell merch and that helps too.

 

If anyone is getting mentioned on the headliners webpage/tour info they're either being pushed by the record label or the management company. Or both

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Some acts I opened for in the 80's:

 

Cheap Trick

Heart

Johnny Winter

BOC

John Hiatt

Madness

The Motels

Tina Turner

Night Ranger

Alice Cooper

Nick Lowe

The Fixx

Thompson Twins

Lone Justice

The Tubes

 

This was while being signed or just prior to being signed. Typically it's a case where the touring act has no opener doing the tour with them and and is looking for a band that has product on the shelves, is popular in that town, and is of a like genre. That like genre stuff is usually way off.

 

Usually the promoter did the picking of band upon headliner approval. Not much money but we'd always pick up new fans doing this.

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There are a couple of threads up about this at the moment. I've often wondered how this comes about - ie opening for a well known act/band on one stop of their tour.


I am totally clueless, never been involved in getting gigs and have no experience of playing in a band that had an agent, so forgive me for what are probably stupid questions.


I presume it's the venue that books the opening band. If that's the case -


Who decides whether there will be a support band? The venue, or the main band? If it's the venue, does the main act (or their agent) have any input?


I've also assumed that this sort of spot would be regarded as something of an "honor", so it wouldn't pay well, if at all? Do venues try to get a support act "on the cheap", to offset some of the cost of the main act?


A local band in my area once opened for a very well known, international artist. There was no mention of them on the main artist's website (ie with the tour dates). I wouldn't actually have expected that - except that the support band at a couple of other venues on the tour
did
get a mention. Any idea how that works?


Any info would be interesting to me. It may be that there's no regular routine anyway, but even that would be helpful to know.

 

 

 

It can be for any/all of the above and more.

 

In my experience, it has generally been the case when a headliner is touring with no 'official' support, that the venue puts in whomever they feel works best. That can be because you're the big fish in a small pond local act, friends with the promoter/venue staff, and on and on.

 

I've opened for nationally touring acts who were personal friends, and when they told us they wanted us to open for them, had the venue tell s 'there's 50 other bands that want that spot as well...', so we went back to the friends in the headliner and had them make the venue understand clearly that we would be opening, period.

 

I've also opened for same level bands who had openers on the tour that didn't work out resulting in them getting fired, and the headliner asking the venue to add someone local less than 5 hours before show time, and as our frontman happened to be there working that day and saying 'we can do it'...presto. And then when the headliner heard us in sound heck, they arranged for us to get 60 minutes instead of 30.

 

And then there the cases where the venue knew us, knew we were a great fit and really good band and they called us up to do so once the date was locked in.

 

In some cases, we got local promo, in some cases not.

I'd guarantee none of the headliners knew we were playing with them ahead of time with the exception of the first example.

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We're opening for a couple of semi-national acts at the end of the month. The main act has the second one on the bill as a split-headliner type of thing (two bands with the same fan base and creds) and we've got the opening spot through the promoter of the show, he loves us and is trying to give us all th egood opportunities he can.

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I've opened for a number of national and regional touring artists at the club level, and it was almost always because we knew the owner or manager of the club personally, and he felt we'd be a good fit for the bill. (In otherwords....for the shows I've done, it was almost always left up to the venue to book an opening band.)

 

Truth be told, opening for an established or up-and-coming artist usually sounds cooler and more impressive than it actually is. In most cases, you don't load in until the headliner is finished with their soundcheck, and you're forced to set up in front of their stuff, which often leaves you very little room on the stage.

 

In many cases, the opening band is mic'ed up and mixed with whatever channels are left over after the headliner has soundchecked; it's not unusual for the opening band to have only 6-8 channels on the board and only one or two monitor mixes. (Of course, this isn't a big deal if you're already used to working with small PA's).

 

The funny thing is, even though you know it's probably not going to be a big deal, you often find yourself getting excited about that opening slot and looking forward to the gig.....but when it's all said and done, the experience rarely lives up to expectations.

 

It sounds impressive, it looks good on a resume, and you can get some good networking opportunities that you might not have gotten otherwise....but as far as the gig itself goes, it's usually just another gig.

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It really depends on what it is. I've done these in the past with a band that made nothing and had to use six channels on a board, and I've done them where you get paid well and are treated well.

 

The one we did tonight was solid, with the production staff going out of the way to make us sound good, and we were paid an amount that fits within the pay scale of what I'd ask to do an outdoor gig, even if we weren't opening. While the rain kept people away, I know we brought a few more people and sold a few more tickets, and I know that we did an excellent job of warming the crowd up, which was what were hired to do!

 

 

 

 

I will say this. There is a disconnect. Opening for a band or act like the Black Crowes, Drake, or Eric Church isn't the same as opening for a smaller national act that happens to be touring.. in the same way opening for an act like Madonna, Garth Brooks, or Aerosmith would be a bigger deal than the first ones mentioned. That would be three different levels, and three different sets of rules. If the national act you're opening for has hit songs on the radio and tour bus... it will be different than a national act struggling to get airplay (or getting airplay on a bottom ranked station) and living out of a van. Typically, the people who hire the van act are more concerned with "the music" than actually making any kind of money on a show.. where as the people booking the "tour bus" act tend to know the business end a little better, and understand the value of live music. Generally, you'll be paid accordingly.

 

 

Of course, all that said.. I still remember my three piece band making $250 for the entire band to play a show headlined by Rascal Flatts that also featured Gary Allan, and new-to-radio Eric Church.. so your mileage may vary. :)

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Mike, I'll read and comment on that thread...

 

We just played a 'Battle for Bite' which is a battle of the bands to play a local food and music festival and open up for the headliners - this year is Matchbox 20 and Alanis Morisette.

 

Bands submitted their stuff (EPK/CD/Whatever you've got) to the radio station/ event team and 12 bands were chosen to play 3 song sets yesterday (though rain caused the event to be shut down with 4 bands to go, not sure how they are going to work that out). The top 8 will play at House of Blues on the 25th.

 

The cool thing is that the bands that don't get the main-stage spot get to play on a local stage at the event, so it's really a win-win.

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I've done a few main support gigs for national acts. Many of these gigs came about because I had a local rep for doing extremely technical original material, so I was pretty much the only act that closely fit the genre of the headliner. In every case, a promoter cold-called me asking if I'd like to be on the bill. I never had to chase after them.

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It's been lots of different circumstances with bands I've been in. Most often it was the club owner who offered up an opening gig. Sometimes it was our booking agency who scored opening slots and sometimes it was the organizers of festival type events that put us on the same bill as nationals. Pay was all over the place for these types of gigs - sometimes they'd try to get you for nothing or next to nothing by selling you on the "exposure" but there have been some of these gigs where they offered more than we'd have normally made for a whole night to just play a set. One thing that many of the gigs had in common, though, was that they were a real pain in the ass. As some others here have mentioned, sound can be awful due to not getting much real estate on the board and a sound crew that doesn't want you to upstage the headliner, headliners who want to borrow your equipment (NEVER let 'em do that!), not much room on stage, hustled on and off stage in a hurry, no/minimum soundcheck and lots of other things you don't normally have to deal with when it's your gig. It can be big fun, lots of excitement and sometimes even lucrative but once you've did it a few times it's not usually very glamorous. Sometimes we'd take a gig like that in the hopes of meeting the headliner and then never even get to say "hello". Usually, the biggest benefit was the advertising you got from it and the chance to maybe play for new people. And yeah, it looks good in your press kit...

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.... headliners who want to borrow your equipment (NEVER let 'em do that!).....

 

 

I've never run into this, but I'm guessing there's a story (or stories) behind this statement. I've got to ask......without naming names (unless you want to), what's the deal? Did you let a headliner borrow gear and they trashed it? Or the crew loaded it out with the rest of the headliner's gear, never to be heard from again? Just curious.

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We've opened for a few up and comers, a few more successful acts, and Katatonia, who is one of our biggest influences as a band.

 

We got in with a club owner by playing a battle of the bands there and impressing him. That's where most of those opportunities came from. In our case it's usually a split of ticket sales. Like a couple bucks per ticket. They can be awesome or a letdown, usually depending on how we draw that night.

 

They're fun, but by no means a golden ticket. In my experience all-local crowds are more receptive on average. Also, the quality of local support will determined the turnout in most cases, because the locals are often who is really bringing the people out.

 

I would be looking to play local bills first. Less risk on the venue's side, and better opportunity to build relationships with other bands.

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I guess to clarify- use your judgment. If you think there will be a "whoa, they're playing with Band X" reaction among your fans/friends/family where you think you'll draw well, then take the national. If not, it may be wise to save it for a better opportunity. They're counting on YOU. National support gigs really aren't fair in a lot of ways.

 

But there is something to be said for just playing any show you can get especially when starting out.

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In the 70s and 80s we opened for/performed with

 

Rare Earth

Buckinghams (who hasn't)

Shadows of Knight (again, in Chicago, who hasn't)

Warrant (showed up while we were playing a club)

Motley Crue (showed up while we were playing a club)

Willie Wainwright

Marshall Crenshaw

Chuck Berry

Jump 'n the Saddle

Rick Saucedo (Elvis!!!!!)

Tres Hombres

Gambler

REO Speedwagon

On Broadway

Depeche Mode

James Young

Andrew Dice Clay

Kansas

Johnny Frigo

 

Most of these sucked and paid very little ($50 or so). Some were great because we were young and naive and we enjoyed the experience. That being said, I doubt if we would do any of this over again if we had the chance.

 

In almost all cases we were booked through an agent that was contacted by the venue.

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In the 70s and 80s we opened for/performed with


Rare Earth

Buckinghams (who hasn't)

Shadows of Knight (again, in Chicago, who hasn't)

Warrant (showed up while we were playing a club)

Motley Crue (showed up while we were playing a club)

Willie Wainwright

Marshall Crenshaw

Chuck Berry

Jump 'n the Saddle

Rick Saucedo (Elvis!!!!!)

Tres Hombres

Gambler

REO Speedwagon

On Broadway

Depeche Mode

James Young

Andrew Dice Clay

Kansas

Johnny Frigo


Most of these sucked and paid very little ($50 or so). Some were great because we were young and naive and we enjoyed the experience. That being said, I doubt if we would do any of this over again if we had the chance.


In almost all cases we were booked through an agent that was contacted by the venue.

 

I think someone needs to pull your 'cred card'...

I do NOt see any mention of gigging with Ides of March (and/or Peterik)...

:cop:

:poke:

;)

 

Of course, there's still time for you to make good on that since we're still well into the middle of street festival season.

:thu:

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I think it really depends on what level and how big of an act, but the New England rock scene has a lot of touring bands work their way through, playing high level local venues (400-1000 seats) with 1-2 local openers.

 

There

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I think someone needs to pull your 'cred card'...

I do NOt see any mention of gigging with Ides of March (and/or Peterik)...

:cop:
:poke:

;)

Of course, there's still time for you to make good on that since we're still well into the middle of street festival season.

:thu:

 

Damn, I forgot Survivor... Yep The Ides should be mentioned with Buckinghams, Shadows and Cryin' Shames... I guess the list was too long and I was getting embarrassed. All those shows and if you take out the Excalibur stuff I wouldn't have made enough money to pay for my phone's data package. We have made a lot of money over the years, just not in the support role for "national acts".

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The booker at a local but famous concert venue told me openers get picked because of their draw, period. He didn't care about buzz, press, history of playing gigs, or talent. Then again, he hired me as a solo to support a famous act. I know at least two people came to the show because I was playing......and one was my wife.

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