By Jeri Goldstein

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 band your band 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 eventually to make your own.

1. Select a group that is at least one or two steps ahead of you within 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. You also want to open for someone whose audience can realistically become your own.

2. 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.

3. Select acts of the opposite sex in some instances. For example, single female singer/songwriters, 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 of the same sex.

4. 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 being on the bill.

5. 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.

6. 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 headliner. 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.

7. 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. Leave the audience wanting more rather than wanting you to get off the stage.

8. Try to arrange for a welcoming introduction. If you have any connection to the headliner 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.

9. Make friends with the main act's sound engineer. Unless you travel with your own sound engineer, the house sound engineer is usually the one that is designated to mix the opening act. If you can get to know the headliner'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.

10. 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.

Think carefully and strategically about opening slots. They could be a valuable addition to your audience development plan and your group's expanding recognition in your market.

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. Her book, CD-ROM and information about her other programs are available at or phone (434) 591-1335.

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