Wednesday, June 23

Opening Act Etiquette Tips for Musicians

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when you are an opening act. On a daily venues get request from acts who have never played the club and are looking for a spot on an existing bill. Check out what Glenn Boothe has to say as she is the owner of Local 506, a music venue in Chapel Hill, NC.

As an opening act at a venue of this size, your role goes beyond just providing entertainment to early arrivals. Another expectation from both the venue and the headliner is for the opening act to help get a few extra bodies in the room, whether that is your own fans OR people you might have turned on to the headliner via your own promotional tactics

With that said, opening bands sometimes ask questions on the day of the show that often make me wonder to myself that if you haven’t taken the time to figure this stuff out before the night you are playing, then did you really tell anybody they should come to this show? But if there is one thing that makes me cringe more than any other pre-show conversation, it’s this one line: My band has a short set, can we move the start-time back?

First and foremost, I always wonder why is this coming up 30 minutes before your show instead of the 30 days since the show was set up? Every detail about a show is pretty much known the day the show is booked – if you think the show should start later, then that would be the time to have that discussion, not the day of the show when all the advertising has been set (some of which can be costly for a venue.) Think about this: Would customers like it if restaurants or banks just changed their opening time each day instead of the time posted on their door?

Secondly, changing the advertised show time on the night of the show displays little respect for the most important people of all, the patrons. Without paying customers, both bands and venues would suffer greatly. Basically, the suggestion is to penalize the people who arrive on time for the benefit of those who are arriving late. Think about this: Should we really encourage a behavior that, in a work environment, would likely get you fired.

Thirdly, those folks are likely intentionally coming late, as they aren’t that interested in seeing the entire set of your band. You are the opener for a reason - you are less popular than the headliner. However, in my opinion there is a benefit to someone only seeing a portion of your set – if they only get a taste but like what they hear, they are more likely to either buy your CD or come to your next show to experience more. Think about this: There is a reason grocery stores give out samples of the food they are selling, and not the entire product.

With all that in mind, most opening acts would still argue that anyone who is coming on that given night has already made up their mind to come, so there is little harm if the show is pushed back. However, as a venue, the goal is for those patrons to come back again and since people do put value on their time, waiting around for the band they want to see leads to a less desirable experience. In turn, patrons might think twice about attending a show here in the future, as it’s much easier for someone to NOT go to a concert than to try and guess what time makes sense for them to arrive. Think about this: most other forms of entertainment, from movies to television shows to sporting events all start on time, they don’t wait for the audience to show up first.

So, if you wanted to go see the latest Hollywood Blockbuster, would you choose the theatre that starts the movie on time, or the one that waits for more people to show up before starting? I don’t think that type of movie theatre would last very long and in this age where we collectively have shorter attention spans, I’m not sure a music venue that operates this way can survive either. And fewer venues mean fewer opportunities for you to play. Now, think about that!


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