Updated: Nov 2, 2019
In March of 2018, I had the privilege of opening for Whitney Peyton, an American female rapper like myself. On the one year anniversary of this event, I thought I'd share a bit of my experience from the show, and teach you tips on becoming an opening act.
First, I'll start off with how I got the gig. Whitney was traveling with an opening act of her own, but was picking up local opening acts on each stop to take the stage. Open Chord, the venue she was performing at in Knoxville, reached out to me about a month before the show and asked if I was interested. I jumped on the opportunity quickly, as it was my first show in 2018 and I thought it would be good exposure.
Like many lesser-known artists, there were like, five opening acts. The problem with this was when the first band went over their time slot, everybody else was forced to make their performance shorter. I got cut off about 10 minutes before my set was supposed to be over, and other people got it even worse. However, my name was on the ticket that we got to sell, so that was pretty cool.
When your career is just starting off, being an opening act for someone better-known is a great way of gaining fans. Here are some tips about being an opening act that I learned from my night at Open Chord.
1. Make yourself known to the venue to ensure you land these opportunities. The reason Open Chord knew to ask me to perform was because I didn't give them a chance to not know me. I went to every hip-hop and regular open mic that I could possibly attend, emailed them often asking for gigs, and was a frequent patron of the venue. When I did perform an open mic at the venue, I posted about it a lot. I posted the name of the venue and encouraged others to come out. When I was chosen to perform as the opener, I sold the most tickets of any other opening act. They appreciated that, and still consider me for further shows.
2. Remember that the crowd isn't there to see you, and they are likely getting tired waiting for the main act to come on stage. Give them a reason to forget that they are getting impatient. Perform songs that get the crowd on their feet and impress them. Make sure the songs you choose closely match the style of the main artist. For example, if the artist that the crowd is there to see mainly performs dance tunes, play your party songs. If the artist is more serious, play your emotional songs. You have the advantage of knowing what the crowd likes because of who they are there to see. Capitalize on that.
3. Say your name A LOT. Say it so much that it gets annoying. The people who truly enjoy your set and want to look you up later can't do that unless they know your name. In my case, they could read my name on the ticket, but it's not always that way. Say your name, engage the audience, tell them about the project you're working on, and tell them how to find you online. You only have a short period of time to win them over, so make sure they know who you are.
4. Talk to the artist, if you can. If you're not traveling with the artist you're opening for, they probably don't know who you are. There's a reason they are the headlining act for the show and you are the opener. Introduce yourself and tell them you appreciate the chance to come out. Personally, I gave Whitney Peyton my business card so she could contact me if she ever needed another opener in the area. With that being said, you ALWAYS need to have business cards on hand. Whether you're giving them to fans, the main act, or the venue, business cards can be the difference between remembering you and forgetting you. If you don't have any yet, you can quickly make some here at Vista Print's website.
Most big artists start off being opening acts before getting their day in the limelight. If you work hard enough, you'll eventually be the headliner. For now, realize that there is strength in working with people who are already there. You never know what the outcome will be, and the more performances you can land, the better.
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