Sunday, February 7, 2010

Musical Etiquette: Opening The Show

Dear Musical Etiquette:

We've been invited to open up for XXXX, which as you know is a big deal for us. They're one of our biggest influences and we've jokingly talked about opening up for them for years. Now that it's finally come we're a little apprehensive. What advice can you give us?

Thanks for your help!

Congratulations! This is a huge opportunity for your band to gain new fans, spread the music you've worked so hard to wrench from unwilling instruments and meet some of your musical heroes. Don't fuck it up.

You're A Handjob, Get Used To It

You are not the main attraction. Everyone came here to see Big Ass Band and you're pretty much an annoying distraction. This is not all bad, you can play it to your advantage. There's ten thousand fans waiting to see your favorite band too, so be excited about it! You are a part of the crowd waiting to see them play, make sure the audience understands this. Get them connected to what you're doing on stage instead of ignoring you and going to buy another beer.

Remember to breathe. Relax and enjoy your set. Don't worry about putting on a perfect performance, this will just lead to more mistakes. This show is like any other; if you make a mistake just laugh it off and keep playing. Too many times I have seen the stress all over the face of an opening act turn into anger onstage and more problems after the event. Music is supposed to be fun people.


Logistics are always important in live event production but in this instance it becomes more important than remembering to eat. Getting in the way of the headliners set time will not ingratiate you with their fans as you attempt to garner their affections. Here's some things to keep in mind.

  • Get onstage fast
  • Start on time
  • Prepare for the worst
  • Extra water, beer, cables, picks and drumsticks everywhere
  • Triple check your equipment
  • Check it one more time
  • Pay your roadies well
  • Break down as fast as you can

Now Is Not The Time For Your Rant

Do you have a pet cause? Do you think that whale fur harvesting should be illegal? Good for you! You're a real human being with opinions. Now keep them to yourself. There seems to be this strange middle ground where it's not alright to promote causes and go on strange rants about esoteric causes. At a small enough show, people are generally familiar with you (friends, family, other musicians) and your Stop Whale Fur Campaign is not only well known, but encouraged. At the Giant Fuck All Stadium level you can be Bono and no one can stop you even if they don't like it because your robot army will level all of their homes if they do not immediately contribute to Stop Whale Fur International. For whatever reason it is the rising star that gets no chance to speak their mind. Don't ask me to explain it, that's just the way people seem to be. Keep your peace until you have such an enormous platform (and associated robotic army) that no one can tell you to be quiet.

Don't Run Over Your Set Time

That is all. It's just really important and needs to be said several times.

Sell Some Merch

I really hope that this is obvious but you need to bring as much merch as your friends can carry to this venue. In fact, double that amount you just thought was needed. It won't kill you to take home a few extra boxes of t-shirts if they don't sell and you don't want to run out if the demand is high. You might want to knock a few bucks off of your normal price to increase your chances for a sale and take advantage of the scads of people walking past your booth. I say run the thing yourself after your set is up, get a chance to be face to face with the people you want to have as fans. It's the personal touch that'll bring them back.

If you're a clever marketer you'll have a tour specific range of Thingies for your fans that did come out to get their hands on.

Don't Suck Up

Be sure to thank the headliner for the chance to open for them and the chance to meet them. Whatever you do, don't start waving incense over them and chanting about how fundamental they are to your sound, how you lost your virginity to their music and you would have killed yourself if it weren't for their second album. Don't shy away from telling them how much you like their music, just leave the crying and kissing of feet for another time. Seriously, it's weird.

As always, rock on people, rock on.

Eriq Nelson

Send me your questions!

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