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How to Open for a Major Artist/Band

There are a few ways to make sure you get to open for a major artist in town:

  1. Develop a consistent reputation with promoters in your area that you can pack out whatever venues you play. Part of getting this great buzz about your music is getting into local press or radio stations (usually with the help of a publicist), being proactive about promoting your shows, and demonstrating that you’d make a good fit for the show.
  2. Buy your way in. Either you’ll be asked to sell a minimum number of tickets (and pay the difference if you are short) or pay the performer up front.
  3. Enter a random contest that you have no control over (sometimes local promoters or radio stations have a contest for local artists to enter), but the results usually have to do deal with option #1 (how much of a buzz do you have).

The first option takes time, energy, and hard work. In the process, you’ll gain the respect of the local music industry. You’ll build true fans that will come to other shows, buy your merchandise, and support your career. It’s the equivalent of a business building solid, regular customers. If the act you’re opening for likes you, you’ll be invited to do future shows with them and they’ll probably encourage their fans to support you.

The second option requires money. You won’t gain respect in the industry (most managers, booking agents, and labels smell a “buy on” act a mile away). You might make new fans if people show up to the concert early (many people skip the opening acts), are paying attention, and you blow them away. These fans might or might not buy your merchandise and the probably won’t come to your future shows unless you really develop a rapport with them. The band you’re opening up for probably won’t watch you and doesn’t really care about you. This is akin to the business that just buys a bunch of ads and gives away free stuff, hoping people come back to shop.

It’s odd: people are so reluctant when they encounter “pay to play” models from promoters yet they’re so desperate that they’ll throw thousands of dollars down in order to open for a touring band they admire. The pay off usually isn’t there. I’d only recommend it if you weren’t losing money on the deal (you’ll have no problems selling all of the tickets). Same thing goes for people who “buy” friends on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Myspace (there are companies that sell a “like” service); one look at any of act’s pages and you can tell that there is no true engagement. Your time, money, and energy would be better spent elsewhere.

I forgot to mention a fourth option: be the promoter yourself. Rent a venue, book the band, put yourself on the bill. I’ve done it myself a few times, I know other promoters and bands who do this. If you know how to run a show, it’s a lot different than when you’re at someone’s mercy for the terms.



Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking, a full service agency that offers tour booking and music consulting services. Simon has appeared on stage at over 1,200 live events and has traveled North America presenting ideas about the music industry. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at

Reader Comments (7)

i own a think tank already big bank

January 26 | Unregistered Commenterbig q

Hey Simon,

So, I've worked with a few bands/artists that have had the opportunity to open for a lot of major acts through the years (always the bridesmaid!)

I have to say, every single time it's been the Headlining artist themselves who has personally handpicked the opener, and many times signed off on the local opener as well.

Sometimes this was part of a touring package, but sometimes not.

The money (as you know) has always been horrible for support acts, and the return on investment of these types of shows/tours is most times questionable (especially i you're paying to play or going into debt at the end of the day).

In the end all of the acts I worked with wound up gaining more understanding of playing on big stages to tough audiences, and really seeing how professional, successful acts function day in and day out.

Sometimes that lesson in professionalism is the best thing you can get out of these situations.

January 26 | Unregistered Commenteryup


I am a part of a Hip-Hop group out of Raleigh,NC. We are #3 on ReverbNation ( If you know of any opening acts. Email my management at

Thanks for the Support!

- J Bama

January 26 | Unregistered CommenterJ Bama

This is a very good article. I sing gospel and paying to on a concert is nothing new. However, i have never done it. I'm more with the create a buzz concept. If I can get on a show with a "Major" artist that would be good as long as there are not alot of artist on the concert. The key is to make sure your motive is clear when you book the engagement. If you want to gain exposure then you should sing your best songs and make sure your merchandise is cheaper than the Major artist. Your time will come, but you must start somewhere and remember you have not arrived. Be humble and doors will open for you. It has worked for me.

February 4 | Unregistered CommenterElijah Bradford

I would love to be able to support the notion that hard work is a substitute for a "buy-on." If there is a band out there that has secured a leg of a major national tour as an opener for no fee whatsoever, I think it's so rare that creating the expectation at all might be torturing the definition of "objective journalism."

Here's my piece on this very issue and the actual costs of Buy-ons and reader' comments that come from real experience,

February 9 | Unregistered CommenterMoses Avalon

This article leaves one (the most important) aspect out . Build a reputation with the venues that are hosting National Acts. Get out and play the clubs that are getting Nationals on Routed Dates when the Nationals are NOT playing. Show these Venues that you are willing to play the regular shows before beating their door down about an opening slot. As you build a professional reputation with the venues they will be more willing to consider you above all the people who craw out of the wood work wanting to open for (insert popular group here). With 15 years as a Talent Buyer one of the things that annoyed me most was all of the groups who suddenly wanted to play my venue because their favorite band was headlining the show. In almost all instances I went with a band that had taken the time to build a professional relationship with me prior.

April 26 | Unregistered CommenterMike Garrett

I have a few artist from my label FREEKI Ent. We are out of Ohio Currently doing hip hop and R&B. My artist are willing to open for any major or indie artist that welcome us. Please send all response to You can sample one of my acts @ " Thanks for allowing us to comment. "

May 10 | Unregistered CommenterMr Freeki

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