It can be tough for independent artists to break through and get their music heard by larger audiences. It’s a long, slow process to get to the top of your local scene… And it takes even more work to break out regionally and nationally.
Opening slots for larger, more well-known artists can be a great way for independent artists to get their music out there and start building a fanbase. The problem is most opening slots are gatekept quite tightly, and getting your foot in the door with the right people can be quite elusive.
This episode is all about finding and booking shows opening for other acts, so you can maximize your chances of success. Listen now to learn more!
What you’ll learn:
Click here to join the discussion in our Facebook community.
To help keep Bandhive going, we sometimes use affiliate links. This means that if you buy something using one of the links below we may get a small commission. This absolutely does not affect what you pay for any of the linked items – your price will be the same whether you use our links or not. This trickle of income is what helps us keep the free content flowing!
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Now, the quick answer is it really depends on the level of the band that you want to open for, in this episode, I'm going to break down how you can grow a potential audience and get there how you can make the right connections. So you know how to get on those larger shows and of course, what you should do and what you shouldn't do when it comes to playing those shows or trying to get on those shows.
Now, of course, you probably know this already, but just to put it out there. Opening for larger acts is one of the best ways to grow your potential audience. The issue is that playing larger shows with established [00:01:00] acts takes a lot more work than playing in bar or coffee house with other local or regional bands.
one of the major factors. There is a very different set of gatekeepers involved. So when you're trying to book a local show at a coffee house or a bar or a small club, you're going to reach out to the venue or a promoter directly, and just, they're going to help you get on a show or you're going to say, I have a lineup.
Can we put together a show for this date? And you're going to work it out with them, but that's not how it works for the larger tours that are coming through. So first things first don't even think about trying to get on an arena theater or large club show. Those tours are 100% package deals, and you're never going to see a local band on those, except for very, very rare exceptions.
So I should say, you know, 99.9% package deals with no local support allowed even for small to medium clubs, you're going to see a lot of [00:02:00] packaged tours. but sometimes locals are allowed. It all depends on the needs of the touring bands. Specifically, if they've already sold out the show, they don't need any local support to sell more tickets.
But if they're not doing well on ticket sales, they might pick up a few locals, but if they're not doing well on ticket sales, they might try to pick up a few locals in the hopes that they can sell more tickets. And of course, earn more money from the.
So now the question is how do you get opening spots for established bands who are playing large shows, which is, you know, 250 to a thousand cap venues? Well, the easy answer, and the quick answer is you ask the right person a lot of times. Rather than asking the venue or promoter, you need to contact the headliners team directly.
But that's the difficult part because who do you contact? A lot of artists don't have their management contact listed online. It's a lot easier if they do, but many of them don't.
Now here is where connections come in because all of these [00:03:00] artists are booking shows through their agent or their management team with local venues. Each venue either has an in-house talent buyer or a promoter they work with, or perhaps multiple promoters. And those are the people booking the national acts that come through.
so if you've already established a relationship with the venue or promoter who is putting on the show you want to open for, it's much easier to ask because chances are, if they're able to add a local, which keep in mind that they can't always add a local, they will do their best. If they don't have that power for this package, that's coming through.
Then if they know unlike you, they might give you the contact information for the headliners team. so you can ask the right person that directly alternately if a venue or promoter has no idea who you are and you reach out or perhaps even worse, if they don't like you and you reach out, they won't even consider it because why should they, they don't know you and they don't want to risk the relationship with an established.
By putting [00:04:00] on a local who ends up being a terrible person or just not selling any tickets, not putting any effort in there's so many different things that could go wrong. So they're going to focus on the artists. They know will do a great job and also keep everyone at the venue, especially the headlining talent.
Happy that that local is on the show.
That means we're now at the question of how do you get into a position where you can make this ask of a local talent buyer or. Well, it's a lot easier than you think, but it does take quite a bit of work. You have to play five to 10, great local shows before you try to get an opening slot for national tour.
That's coming through your city. now this does a few things First and foremost, it lets you get your sea legs. You're going to have more experience. You're going to play better shows. If it's your first show, you're going to be awkward.
You're going to be shaky. Are you going to be nervous if it's your 10th show? Yeah, you're still fairly new to it, but it's going to be a [00:05:00] lot easier for you to get up on that stage in front of a larger audience, because you've already done it a bunch of times with a smaller audience. There's a few ways to go ahead and do this.
The first thing is try to open for smaller shows at a venue that does big shows. So for example, here in Vermont, we have higher ground and they have two rooms. They have a 750 cat ballroom and they have a 300 cap showcase lounge. instead of just reaching out and asking to be put on one of the ballroom shows.
I see some local artists that are playing in the showcase lounge and ask to play the showcase lounge as an opener for that artist. That's one really great way to start building those relationships. And then when you're opening those shows.
Anyone you interact with, be friendly, easy to work with and make sure you show your appreciation for everyone who's working there. And last but not least get people to show up for your set. If no one cares about your set, then they're going to think you don't have a draw, but if you have a bunch of people right up front for your.
People will notice that. So ideally the talent [00:06:00] buyer or promoter is there and sees that. And that way you can kind of use that As proof that, Hey, you know what, maybe you should be on one of those larger shows in the larger room. Now, obviously not all venues have multiple rooms.
You might just have to start with a smaller venue and work your way up and hope that the right people are there or just, you know, kind of build a resume for your band. This is what's called history. I actually have a free template that you can use to track your history. And also does some really cool stuff like telling you the biggest show you've ever played. The highest merchant per head you've ever had an issue.
Your record for merchant sales at a single show, all kinds of lifetime stats. If you want to get that template and go over to a Bandhive.rocks/history, and you can get access to that and, you know, tracking your history like this is one of the best things you can do, not just for your homework, but for any market you play.
So you can go back and say in this city, this is how many people we typically bring. And this is why we should have a show at your venue. again, [00:07:00] the link for that is a Bandhive dot Rox slash history. That'll also be in the show notes at dot rocks slash 1, 2 7.
That's the number of 127. The next thing to keep in mind is that support acts are there to get energy going for the heading. So you have to make sure that people are engaging with your set instead of staring at their phones like zombies, because no, one's going to care.
If they're just staring at their phones, you're not amping up the audience for the headliner. This means it's up to you to refine your show, rehearsed your show, get your stage presence down as tight as possible, and keep people entertained during your set. Once you can do that at local shows people in the local scene will start to notice, And at that point you can start to look for larger shows, opening for acts that are coming through town. Another really important thing to keep in mind is that you should not play your city too often. And this goes for any market, really, but if you play every month or every two weeks, you are running the risk that people will say, oh, you know what?
I [00:08:00] can't see Joey play. But he'll be playing again in two weeks. It's whatever, I'll go, then. That's not what you want. You want your shows to be an event. If you oversaturate the market, then people aren't going to come to your shows because they think, oh, I can go next time. So I would recommend.
Two to three shows per year, max in any market as a rock artist, you know, different crowds and different genres that might change. And especially if you're the type of artists who just wants to play venues with a built in crowd, instead of playing to fans of your music, then that's fine. If you're going for a built-in crowd, you can play more frequently or do resident.
You know, there's no big deal with that, but if you want to be the artist who has fans of your music and you go out on the road, you want to make sure that you're not over-saturating any of these markets. Here's my list of what you should never do when you're trying to get on a bigger bands bill as the opener. The first thing is if it's sold out, don't even ask, there is no need for more bands. There's no benefit for any [00:09:00] party. By having more bands on a sold out show. The idea of adding more artists is one to somewhere tickets and two to get people amped up for the headliner. if the show's already sold out, Well, then you're not going to sell any more tickets. And chances are that the existing support act will amp up the audience because they're already on the tour.
And they were at least a small part in selling out that show, assuming that they weren't added to the bill after it was sold out. I have seen some tours where the headliner is announced and then after it sells out, the opener is announced and you know, that happens, but it is rare. Typically the headliner and the opener are announced at the same time.
the next thing is you shouldn't beg whine or complain about never getting the good shows.
There's a reason you're not getting those good shows and your attitude might be one of them, even if it's not, there is a reason there just trust me on that one. The next thing you don't want to do is talk about how you deserve to be on the show.
Why, why do you deserve to be on that show? What have you done? you have to be able to show that you [00:10:00] deserve to be on that show. Don't say you deserve it proven. And, you know, it might suck even if you do genuinely deserve to be on that show, even if you can prove it don't ever say that to anyone because that is an instant red flag for so many people and close fiend related.
You never want to say we should have been on that show instead of this other band. No, you shouldn't have that attitude is the. As my co-host Matt always says on the episodes, he's on a rising tide, raises all ships. so instead of tearing other artists down, congratulate them on getting that opening.
And work together because who knows, maybe if you treat them really well for getting that show, if they get offered another opening slot and they can't do it, they might say, Hey, we can't, but you know, my friend Johnny's band can do it. So why don't you let Johnny on the show and grow that relationship?
You want to make friends not. now overall, the point is by [00:11:00] becoming known in your local scene for putting on a good show, bringing people out, getting the crowd engaged with your set and just being entertaining. You will eventually meet the gatekeepers at the larger venues. And if you can impress those people, you will have much better chances of getting opening slots on larger shows, but just keep in mind that a lot of those larger tours don't take any local support at all. So don't get frustrated with the venue or promoter if they can't put you on the bill.
A lot of times it is beyond their. now as the overarching topic for this, just be friendly, be easy to work with and go out there and play good shows.
So take this knowledge, get started and work your way up the chain. So you can play those opening slots for larger acts coming through.
That does it for this episode of the Bandhive podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in and listening. I really appreciate it. And I hope you got some value out of this episode. I know I mentioned earlier, the Bandhive master show log, what you can get by going [00:12:00] to Bandhive.rocks/history. It is so incredibly important to track the history for the shows you're playing.
So you can go out there. And again, like I said, prove how many people you had at each show. You have that history, you can look back and say in this market, we typically bring this many people. So this is what we would expect.
Here's the information, please. We'd love to play a show. You cannot beat that. And if you're well-organized about this and it's going to save you a lot of time and headaches down the road. So again, that is at Bandhive.rocks/history. Thank you again for listening. We'll be back next Tuesday at 6:00 AM Eastern time until then I hope you have a great week, stay safe. And of course, as always keep rockin'.
Find out how!