Booking the opening slot for a big headliner isn’t as untouchable as you’d think, and getting it is a killer win for artists looking to gain more exposure off of a big name you may even already be a fan of. Playing smaller, more intimate shows is fun, but after touring all around the country playing the same size gigs, I know you’re craving something more. Opening for for a big headliner can get your foot in the door to bigger and better shows faster than you can mic check. All you need is a smart strategy to get you there. Here’s how to do it…
How To Land Opening Slots For Headliners
Let’s talk basics…
When bigger, more mainstream bands go on tour, odds are they’ve played at these stops many times before. To get the fans out to see them again and again at the same venue comes down to the openers. Staying in touch with the pulse of the genre they’re in and booking cool, indie bands to open for them shows they still care about the scene and still know what’s up. The last thing the real fans want to see is their favorite band sell out and lose touch.
To ensure you fit the bill, here’s what you can do…
Your dream show lineup isn’t going to appear out of thin air and ask you to join them. You need to make a list of bands you’d ideally love to open for and work on that list consistently. That means reaching out to their managers, sending over your EPK*, and making a connection with their team.
*Keep in mind, your EPK is your resume as an artist. In it, you should have:
- A great artist bio
- Professional press photos
- High-quality video
- Your Music
- Links to socials
- Contact info
Before anything, make sure this is in tip-top shape. Then as time goes by, keep an eye on the band’s tour schedule. See a date that’s in your town (or travel-able) down the line? That’s when you reach back out with the “Remember me?” and shoot your shot. This industry is all about connections, and these don’t come over night. It’s important to plant the seed and nurture it with time, dedication, and just straight up passion.
As they say, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
Know Your Audience
Booking opening slots requires the same consistency that booking festivals and other shows do. In addition to that, you need to make sure you’re only applying pressure to shows that you have a real shot with. Always do your research before you start pushing to be booked. Don’t waste your time pitching to pop shows when you’re a metal band. (I mean… duh.)
Make sure you and the headliner share the same genre, fanbase, niche, etc. and that it just makes sense for you to open for them in the first place.
🧠 Feed your brain…
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Be Active In Your Community
Oftentimes, the supporting acts are booked by the venue and promoters rather than the headliner’s agent. If you’re already active in your community, these people should already be on your radar (and you on theirs, for that matter).
If not, introduce yourself! — Go to shows, talk to the owners, follow their socials, and let them know you and your band are always looking for places to play. This relationship will come in handy when it comes time for them to book openers! Now, they’ll know exactly who to call.
Hire a Booking Agent
If you’ve been booking your own live shows since before the pandemic, you’re already aware of how difficult and time consuming it can be to do it yourself. Although you don’t have to have an agent, it can certainly help. Especially for bigger festivals and shows, it helps to have someone in your corner with connections.
This post explains exactly what they can do for you and how to find one.
Playing the opening slots for big names can get you major exposure in just one show. They’re a great opportunity to have your music shared with fans that are almost guaranteed to like you, too. They came for the big name, but they’ll leave with a newfound love for you and your music. Making sure you stay up to date with your local shows, keep in contact with local venues, and be consistent with your efforts are the best ways to ensure your next gig is a good one.