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The Art and Craft of Becoming an Opening Act

Did you know that Ed Sheeran got his start as the opening act for Passenger when he was only 15 years old? Or that the Beatles got their start by being the opening act for Roy Orbison on his 1963 tour of Great Britain?

Every great band has humble beginnings, and while the goal for most artists is to sell out stadiums and arenas, the first step might be becoming a lovable opening act. This can often be a challenging stage in a musician's career, but it has the potential to be life-changing. Whether you are a seasoned local artist, or a band looking for their first big gig, these tips are essential for making a great first impression with talent buyers and headliners.

Before the show

Opening for a headliner poses plenty of its own challenges, but the first step is getting booked. Here are the best ways to put yourself in the right position to be recruited as an opening act.

Grow your own fanbase and build a positive reputation

In order to become a successful opener, it is important to focus on building a dedicated fanbase. This can be done by utilizing social media platforms to market yourself to potential fans, as well as reaching out to local bars and clubs to perform live shows. When talent buyers and headliners see that you have built a buzz for yourself on social media as well as on a local circuit, they are far more likely to trust you as their opening act. Not only does your fanbase invite further ticket sales, but it also proves you are a rising talent who can captive a venue or headliner's target audience.

Do your research

When researching venues and their fanbases, look at the types of music they typically host and the types of crowds they attract. It’s helpful to research the type of performance space available and to look at past performances. Additionally, remember to check the capacity of the venue and to check whether the venue has a music licensing agreement. It is also important to research the contact information of the venue manager and to read some reviews and comments about the venue on social media or other websites. This will help you understand which venues to book for yourself or to reach out to about availability for opening slots for a major artist.

Develop your stage presence and polish your act by performing locally and regionally

Performing as much as possible is one of the best ways to develop stage presence and polish your act. Look for opportunities, both locally and regionally, to perform at open mics and other events. This will give you a chance to get experience and feedback from audiences, as well as build up a fan base and network with other performers in the area. By performing locally, you’ll also become better acquainted with the scene in your area and gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Being well-known locally is often attractive for bands coming from out of town when they look for an opener who can help draw in locals to the show.

Consider using tools like Opnr and Indie on The Move

Opnr and Indie on the Move are great resources for opening acts. Opnr is a platform that enables emerging artists to reach new audiences by connecting them to promoters and audiences looking for new music. With Indie on the Move, booking agents, promoters, and labels can easily find and interact with emerging artists, helping them to gain a larger following, get paid gigs, and build a career in music. Both services are designed to help emerging artists get the most out of their live shows, allowing them to connect with new audiences, and network with industry contacts. 

Fulfilling the role 

Once you have booked a show as an opening act, you may feel like the job is done, but there are still a few important things to keep in mind before stepping out on stage. 

Promote the show

A great way to make sure you're invited to open up again is by doing your part in promoting the show and selling tickets. Be sure to post on social media, invite your fan base, and use your local connections to get coverage of the show. When headlining acts and their team see the effort you put in to ensure a successful show, they will be appreciative. 

Respect the set length

When performing as an opener, it is important to respect the set length and make sure that the set is performed in the allotted time. This is done by planning the set and allowing adequate time for dialogue, sound checks, and making sure all songs fit in the set. It is also important to be aware of the venue's rules and restrictions and to communicate with the headliner to ensure that all needs are met. Additionally, it is important to listen to any feedback provided by the headliner and make adjustments as necessary to ensure a successful performance.

Network, network, network

When networking with artists who have given you the chance to open for them, it is important to approach the situation with respect, humility, and professionalism. It is also helpful to do your research on the individual artist before reaching out. Read about their successes, music, and any other information you can find. Having knowledge of their career trajectory will make it easier for you to make a good impression and learn how to build your own music career. 

While at the venue you can also network with the venue owner, booking agents, and even the sound engineer! They are all important pieces of the puzzle and having connections in various parts of the music industry is really beneficial!

After the show

Be sure to thank the headliner and their team for having you along. Gratitude is always a great best practice in the music business and any industry. 


Being an opening act takes patience and perseverance, but can have an extremely positive effect on any artist's career. Having the chance to open for a popular artist not only builds your network but can also help you gain a larger following and stand out in the music industry. As an opening act, be sure to use the stage to the fullest and make an impactful impression on your potential new fans in the crowd, the talent buyer, and of course the headliner themselves.



How many songs should an opening act have?

There is no set number of songs that an opening act should have. It depends on the agreement between the artist and the venue, as well as the length of each song. Usually, an opening act might perform between 3 and 10 songs.

How long should my opening set be?

The length of an opening set depends on the event and how much time is allotted. Generally, a set should last around 30 minutes, but it can vary from event to event. If you are opening for a larger act, it is usually recommended to keep it around 15-20 minutes.

How much should I charge as an opener?

This really depends on the size and scope of the event. Generally speaking, an opener should charge between $100-$500 USD per performance. The more experienced you are, the more you can charge. Make sure to research local area rates in order to determine a fair and competitive rate. Check out our gig pricing tool for more insight on pricing shows. 

Sophie Randolph

As the founder of Green Room, Sophie Randolph is dedicated to providing innovative solutions that empower touring entertainers to take control of their careers. Before Green Room, Sophie worked in operations and customer success roles for startups, managed emerging artists, and completed her MBA at Rice University.

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