I want to put aside the songwriting topic for today, as we’ve been dwelling on it all week. I’ll put a melody to it and post it on myspace in the next week. I have been getting a lot of solicitations regarding opening acts and sharing the bill and I want to talk about that today.
There is not that much opening act opportunity as there once was, due in part because of the economy and also the fact that there are so many acts of varying drawing power that many of the acts that were headlining a while back are now sharing a bill or opening for someone who’s presently hot.
The job of the opening act is essentially to provide entertainment for the crowd as it filters in, because hardly anyone arrives on time, so it goes to the opening act to endure the milling about, searching for seats, getting a drink, saying hi to friends crowd and to turn them into a galvanized responding unit…an audience, and then turn them over to the headliner.
When a headliner can fill an auditorium, then they can afford the luxury of hiring a person to do the task I just described. When a headliner isn’t filling a room for whatever reason, then the other reason for an opening act is to provide some additional people in the audience.
If a performer is not famous enough to fill a room, then that person is working for whatever the door and the guarantee arrangement is, and it’s usually not too much against a high percentage of the door.
When I get an offer to share the bill with someone or have them open for me, I have to take into account whether this person is going to increase the audience or not. If they aren’t then, what I would be doing is drawing upon my audience and then sharing the revenue with the other act.
I also have to take into account the fact that I only can play most venues once a year. If I share the bill with someone else, I need to make as much money as I normally do or my bottom line is impacted. And with gas at $4.00 a gallon instead of $.30, that’s a consideration.
I like to play with other people, as that way we cross pollinate our audiences. People who like the other person may not have ever heard of me and vice versa, so this can be a good thing. But each person on the bill has to bring something to the party besides there songs. They need to promote the show and to bring an audience. And so do I.
There is another consideration and that is the show itself. If you are going to ask someone to play with you, then they must be given enough time on the stage to warrant them contacting their audience and promoting the date. If you are going to play with someone then you need to play a shorter show than you would normally do.
When I do a concert, I perform for sixty minutes or so, and then take a break, do a meet and greet and usually sell some CD’s. Then I return to the stage after about twenty to twenty five minutes and do fifty five more minutes. So my show takes up about two and half hours.
If I have an opening act, then I’ve got to cut at least thirty minutes from my show…provided the opening act is professional. If they go longer than the thirty minutes that I stipulate, then they really cut into my show, my impact and my CD sales.
Which brings to mind the fact that if there are several acts on the show, then each act is going to sell less CD’s. It’s a fact. When I do a show, I consistently sell thirty five to fifty percent of the audience a CD. When I share the bill, we do the same kind of numbers, but we each individually sell less CD’s
And finally there is the billing. People tend to take inferences from the billing, so it is best to be listed as the “Special Guest” than, say the headliner with you , or the headliner and opening act, you. You start out being diminished in the audiences mind, not in a conscious way, but in a subliminal way.
And when you put together a show with other people, talk about the billing in advance, so that you don’t step on anyone’s toes, or make yourself look desperate. Make it a win – win situation otherwise you may find that they don’t want to work with you again.
This is your career. Present yourself in your best light, and if you are trying to be the opening act for someone or want to share the bill with someone, then figure out how it would benefit them to have you be the opening act.. If it won’t benefit them yet, then offer to do it for free and do your best twenty minutes. Brevity is more than the soul of wit.