When you get an opportunity to open a show for a national act, you might start jumping up and down. After all, playing a show with one of your favorite bands is a thrilling experience!
If you want to play more big shows, it’s important to not screw this up!
The process starts long before the show, with professional communication and proper rehearsal of every aspect of your show.
It doesn’t end when the show is over, either. Leaving a lasting impression after the show is extremely easy, but most artists don’t bother.
Listen now to learn how you can make the most of any opening slot so your band can grow to new heights!
What you’ll learn:
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you'll be opening for a national act that's coming through your local market. Congratulations. That's absolutely fantastic. And I have to say, opening for bigger bands is one of the absolute best ways to bring your music to a new audience if you do it.
and that's because to properly take advantage of opening a show, you have to set yourself up for success, and that starts before the date of the show. Now keep in mind these tips will really apply to any show you play, whether you're opening for a local act, headlining a show, or opening for a national touring.
But they are especially important when you are on a bigger stage in front of more people, So let's go through three main categories here. We have before the show, day of the [00:01:00] show, and after the show.
Starting off with before the show, the first and possibly one of the most important things is rehearse. Rehearse a lot. You really can't rehearse enough. You want to rehearse by yourself in front of a mirror, try your movements out, whatever you're gonna do on stage, because if you're gonna be playing a bigger show or really any show, You want to have good stage presence, so rehearse.
Then when you're done, rehearsing in front of a mirror, go rehearse with a band. Plan out your show. Play through the entire set a few times time, your set time, how long it takes you to set up and tear down your gear. You're gonna have to set up and tear down in about seven minute each because with the 15 minute change, You have seven minutes, you have half of that, and that's if the other acts before or after you don't cut into that.
So really, if you can get it down to five minutes, that is perfect because you also have to keep in mind the line check and that kind of stuff. So seven minutes tops, five minutes is a better target to shoot for. But either way, [00:02:00] rehearse. You want to rehearse your stage presence, you want to rehearse your set.
and you also want to rehearse that setup and tear down. I cannot stress this. The next thing is keep your communication with a promoter. The venue and artist management, whatever teams you're speaking with, keep it clean, concise, and positive. that means you're not going to write any essays with tons of typos in them.
You're not gonna ask rambling questions and absolutely you're not going to whine because yeah, you know what? Life's tough, but they are dealing with a lot more than you are, so you're not gonna whine to anyone on these teams. I don't care if you want a five minute longer set.
I don't care if you want a green room. None of that stuff matters when you're the local opener. So don't wh about it Or anything else, this is the fastest way to get removed from a show, or even if you don't get removed from that show, to be prevented from getting invited back in the future.
After that, we have Be Ready with the stage plot and input list. You should send this over to the venues production manager And [00:03:00] bring printed copies, multiple of them to the venue day of the show. You also wanna make sure that you have enough merch available for the show.
You never wanna play a show empty handed, because that means maybe people are gonna buy your merch and you're losing on money. Maybe people would've bought a CD and fallen in love with your music. Maybe they would've bought whatever novelty item you have, and it would be a good reminder that your band exists.
All of that stuff is really, I. Make sure you have that merch available for the show. This next one is something that I see a lot of artists mess up and it's so easy Promote the show even though the headliner is probably going to be selling most of the tickets. Wouldn't you love to have your friends, family and fan base at the show so you can highlight that?
Yeah, you actually have people who like your music. The more work you do on this, the more likely it is that the venue is gonna invite you back in the future. The promoter is gonna invite you back in the future. Way too many bands think that opening for a national act means that they can show up and play without doing anything else, and that is absolutely not true [00:04:00] because this is essentially a tryout.
If you do well with this, you will get invited back on relevant shows in the future. So even if it's sold out, talk up the show. You can say, Hey, it's sold out, but we'd love to see you there if you're, you know, if you have tickets, we'd love to see you there. Come say, Hey, come early, come see our set. All that kind of stuff.
But most likely it's not sold out because people don't add local openers to sold out shows. which means do whatever you can to sell more tickets. You don't even have to have tickets to sell, but you can say, Get your tickets here. You just want to keep pushing the show as much as possible.
Don't focus as much on other shows and absolutely don't book any shows within a month or two within that same area. So probably about 50 miles. If it's not built into the contract as a radius clause and force that on yourself and say, We will not book any shows within 60 days, either way and 50 miles, because that is one really good [00:05:00] way to stop people from coming to that show, by giving them another chance to see you somewhere else.
The next thing is ask the folks you're in contact with, what they'd like you to do to promote and make the show run as smoothly as possible. And chances are, they'll tell you some areas to focus on. They'll say, Hey, you know, the headliner is doing ads, so don't worry about that, but can you hang up some posters in town?
We'll give you posters. Or they'll say, Yeah, you know, we've had troubles with local bands doing XYZ in the past. Please make sure you don't do this. Whatever you can do to learn from this experience and. as close to perfect as possible because no performance, no show is ever gonna be perfect. It's not possible, but if you can get as close as you can to that, that is the ideal. Another thing you can do, and really I think everyone should do, is hire a concert photographer to come to the show and get photos. Do let the venue know in advance that you're gonna do this, because they might need to arrange for a photo pass. But either way, it's good to communicate this in advance so there's no confusion at the door. Now I wanna say this should be someone with experience in concert [00:06:00] photography, not just a friend with a camera, because.
Being a concert photographer is unlike any other photography gig. It's very different. You need to know how to work with low lighting. You need to work with changing colors. It's really important that you get somebody who's actually good at concert photography, and not just somebody who says, Oh yeah, I do portraits from my friends.
Last but not least, hype up the show on your personal social media pages, not just the band accounts. Also on your personal accounts, whether it's Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, whatever you use, make sure you're posting about it on there.
Moving on, we're gonna talk about Day of Show. A super simple thing you can do is remind your followers that the show is that night. Just make a post and then also message your key fans and your friends privately to let them know you're looking forward to seeing them that night.
Then show up 15 minutes before your scheduled loading time. Do not be late. This is a tryout, like I said earlier, so whatever else it is you have to do, reschedule it. Unless it is a true emergency, you are gonna [00:07:00] be 15 minutes early and a true emergency. That's so. Hospital visit a trip to the vet because your dog ate something they shouldn't.
That kind of stuff. so, unless it is truly an emergency, figured it out and be there on time. There is no excuse to be late. You can plan ahead for that kind of stuff. Anything that is a true emergency, people will understand and you're probably not gonna be playing the show. leaving your house late is not an emergency.
Getting stuck in traffic is not an emergency. You can plan ahead for all that kind of stuff. And as a business owner, this is what you have to do. You have to foresee things that could go wrong and plan around them. So one thing that I did, When I was on tour, or at least I liked to, sometimes the artist I was working with pushed back on this.
I would plan on getting somewhere near the venue about an hour ahead of time, and then we would get food there or go grocery shopping or go into a guitar center, whatever it was. But this would be typically within 15 minutes of the venue. So then all we have to do is drive around [00:08:00] the corner and we're at the venue at load.
That is a really effective way to be early without wasting time. Another thing that you really need to focus on is being organized. You want to load in your gear together quickly and efficiently. You should not all be showing up at different times. If you're in multiple vehicles, make sure you all get there at the same time and load in together because that's less confusing for the venue staff.
And on that note, listen to the venue, staff. Their instructions are there for a reason and also if you don't know something ask, they will absolutely be happy to help you. One other really big thing, which I've seen so many local artists and ego get wrong, is when things change, which they absolutely will go with the flow.
Don't freak out. Don't have a meltdown. Just say, Okay, we'll roll with this. Be easy to work with, and people will absolutely take note of that. Going back to what I said about rehearsal, get your year on stage quickly and don't be picky about. Like I [00:09:00] said, you have five minutes, maybe seven if you're lucky.
This means get your stuff on stage, set it up, and be ready. When it comes to your actual set, plan it to be three to five minutes shorter than the allotted time. Never go over on your set time, especially when you're opening for a national act, because the headliners team will absolutely notice if you do and it makes you and whoever got you on the show look bad, even if it wasn't your fault because your set got a late start for whatever reason.
If the band before you played late or took forever, taking their gear down, Doesn't matter. You finish on time, and so by planning your set a little shorter than it's allotted for, if there is any issue, you can get off stage on time without cutting a song, or if you did start a few minutes late, then you'll still be off stage on time.
Now. On the other hand, if your set ends up a few minutes short, that's fine, because guess what? Now the next band has a little extra time to set up and the staff [00:10:00] will notice this and they'll probably appreciate it. So always plan your set a little bit shorter than you actually have, and that way you don't have to make last decision of which song to cut.
Then during the set, be sure to thank the headliner by name. Thank the other bands too. If you can, as well as the venue staff who are making the show possible. do your best to remember the sound engineer's name as well as any other key staff, and thank them specifically on the mic. And don't forget security. People don't realize how much a genuine thank you on the mic can change a person's day. So any of these venue, staff, any of the people in the other bands, thanking them on the mic Publicly can do wonders. Now keep in mind, you're doing everything you can to be invited. And that's the main goal here, Aside from just playing a killer set and getting your music into new ears, one big pet peeve for all sound engineers. Do not ask the audience how the sound is. That's the fastest way to make the engineer dislike you, which probably will hurt the rest of your set cuz they're not gonna care about your [00:11:00] mix as much.
and really the only other thing I can think of that would upset them that much that quickly is you just walking up to them and punching him in the face. So never ask the audience how the sound is. That is a total insult to the engineer who's mixing your set.
at the end of the set. Make sure you move your gear quickly off the stage and you can talk with people later. Break down your gear first, then talk to people. That's how it goes. Now, while you're still playing your set, do mention that you'll be by the merch table after the set to meet.
You don't need to directly pitch your merch. You don't need to say, Hey, we have shirts for sale over there. Everyone knows you have shirts for sale. Just say that you'd love to meet folks by the table, and they'll be more inclined to buy just by being there. So say something like, Thanks so much xyz Citi. We'd really appreciate you coming out early to see us. If you wanna meet us, we will be over by the merch table five minutes after the set ends. So come say hey, and we'd love to chat with you. That's all you need to say. They'll be more inclined to buy just by standing there seeing the merch and talking with you.
You don't wanna [00:12:00] hang out with people elsewhere in the crowd while other acts are playing, that can be really disrespectful. So keep it to the merch area. And really the reason that's disrespectful is I've seen so many acts who stand in the middle of the room meeting fans and they're yelling over the headliner's music, which is ruining the experience for fans of the head.
I've seen a few bands do this lately, and it's always cringy, especially more laid back like acoustic or indie rock shows. And this is the exact reason why some national acts will ban openers from being in the venue during the set. Now, they can be backstage, but they cannot be on the floor of the venue, And I really can't say I blame them cuz they're looking out for their fans. Their fans paid to be there to see that band. And if everyone's just talking over that band, their fans aren't having a good time. So I can totally see why bands have this rule. I used to think it's totally lame, it's not.
It makes sense. So to avoid artists having this rule, be smart, be respectful. Don't talk to people over the headliner. Go to your merch area and talk to people. when you're leaving [00:13:00] the venue, do a dummy check and thank everyone who is there one last time.
Be genuine about it and thank people for the specific things they did. if at all possible. So something like, Hey Jenny, thank you so much for running monitors for us tonight. We really appreciate your patience getting that mix just right.
It was so easy to hear ourselves. It was fantastic. So thank you so much for doing an amazing job with that. And last but not least, when you leave the venue, leave no mess because anything you leave behind has to be cleaned up by the venue staff, especially if you're given a green room. Make sure your trash and recycling are in the proper bins and that the room isn't gonna need a deep clean before the next van can use it.
Because that's the last thing you wanna do is make extra work for the venue staff. Moving on to part three of this episode. The very next morning after you open a show for a larger. Or really play any show for that matter. Send an email to all the people you are in touch with and thank them for what they did for you.
Don't just send one mass email to everyone. Send a personal email to every individual person [00:14:00] and mention their specific role and what they did for you. This is a way to cement in their minds, like, Hey, this is a band we wanna work with more. They appreciate what is going on. Now, obviously you're not gonna have everyone's email.
That's fine. Send this to the people who you do have an email for because you were working with them before the show. You also wanna make a post using the photos from your photographer or at least one photo. If they haven't edited all of them yet, ask them to get at least one good shot to you that you can post the very next day.
Tag the other artists, tag the venue, and thank everyone, including your fans for coming out to the. Because you wanna say, Hey, this show is fantastic. Look how cool it was. And kind of put the idea in people's minds of, if you didn't come to this, you missed out. And that will make them more likely to come next time.
the other thing I wanna say with content from this show is save some of it. you want to have content for future posts? So don't dump everything online at once. instead, save it for your content library.
So to recap, before the show you want to communicate, well communicate [00:15:00] early and be prepared at the show you want to be on time, move quickly.
Be thankful and meet your fans. After the show, send thank you notes and post about the show. That's really what I have for this, and there are so many little details that you could put in here, but these are the main points that I see bands get wrong, And I think every band should do this for every show they play, but especially when they're opening it for a larger act.
So please, next time you're playing a show, use this as a type of checklist and go through everything on this list to make sure that you have the best chance possible of being invited back to that venue and making a good impression on the people who are there at that show on that night.
That does it for this episode of the Bandhive Podcast. Thank you so much for tuning and listening. I really appreciate it, and I hope that this episode has given you some insight on how you can make yourself a more effective opening act, not just with the venue or the bands who are playing, but also with the audience.
You want to make a [00:16:00] good impression, and I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a show and looked at the opener and said, they should not be up there. Why are they on this show? They don't know what they're doing and they're not going to get any benefit from this, and they probably haven't brought any benefit to the venue or the headliner.
No one's here for them because no one cares about them, Or maybe they didn't post about the show. That's all fine if you want to keep playing local shows for the rest of your life. But if you want to go out there and make this a career, you absolutely have to make sure that you are doing everything you can to make every single show amazing.
And that is what this is all about. Now, if you want help with this, I do have a coaching program where I help artists hit the road in a smart way. It's called Road Ready. You can learn more about it by going to Bandhive.rocks/tour. That's B A N D H I V e.ro c ks slash T O u r Bandhive.rocks/tour. I'd love to talk with you [00:17:00] about what you want to do for your band. So hit me up we'll chat and I'll see what I think your band can do in the future.
We'll be back next Tuesday with another brand new episode of the Bandhive Podcast at 6:00 AM Eastern.
Until then, I hope you have a great week. Stay safe, and of course, as always, keep rocking.
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