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How to get an opening slot on a concert bill by Derek Hoiem

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I was talking with a concert promoter today and he was saying how many bands bug him for opening spots at concerts. It reminded me that I should write a blog entry about how to get those spots. So here it is.

There are a few methods from easiest to hardest:

Build relationships with promoters: I once heard a wise person say, "The way to get ahead in the music biz is just to be a good hang." So true. Make relationships with concert promoters and venue owners in your area. This may take some time, even years. Promoters are not going to have you open on a show if you don't know them. They need to know who you are, what your our your band is doing, and how you carry yourself business-wise. If they don't know this at a minimum, don't ask to open on the show. Optimally, the promoter will want to see that you can bring a crowd to the show and/or sell tickets to the show. Some promoters are visionary and want to help unknown bands, although this is rare. Promoters thrive on ticket sales. So, what do you bring to the table for them? If you can show them what you can do, or what you've done in the past, then you may get your break.

Promote the show yourself: Here's a kicker. Everyone wants a gig, but no one wants to create them. What if you booked a bigger band yourself, and made your own band the opener. That's a game changer. And, you might even earn some money if you know how to promote the show. The key is finding a headliner that would complement your band, in the same or similar genre. You also need to be able to prove that you are good enough to open. A garage band will not open for established artist on a major label. However, if you can provide a great demo and/or youtube clips of performing live, you'd be surprised at how many acts do allow "unknown" openers these days. Everyone wants gigs, so create one!

Establish a direct relationship with a bigger artist: The whole idea of the music industry thrives on apprenticeship. I once saw on a starbucks cup a quote from Wynton Marsalis, "The humble improve." If you don't get that, then you won't succeed in music. You must learn from the jedi masters, in your instrument, in your business, in recording, in your professionalism. Find the artists that inspire you and are succeeding and become friends with them. Learn. Put yourself in the "I want to learn" mode and it will show a bigger artist that you are willing to do what it takes - to do what they did to come up through the ranks. Only through this kind of relationship will a bigger artist possibly create an opportunity for you to open for them.

Land a booking agent: Booking agents are from the land of fairies and unicorns. I've heard they exist but I've never seen one myself. Hahaha. These days, most bands will never have a booking agent. In fact, your booking agent will probably be someone in your band. Your survival depends on it. If you can't book yourself, you'll never develop a following. This is what weeds out artists/bands from the music business. You will probably be booking yourself for years, and this is common. You are not alone. You will have to work hard, but someday there may come a time when you may sight one of these rare creatures in the wild: the coveted booking agent. When I say booking agent, I mean a larger agency that represents a portfolio of artists some of whom will be on major labels. (Check their website for acts that they book and venues where they book.) The booking agency wants to see that you have a) a record deal b) management and c) a following. This eliminates 99% of the bands out there. The booking agent will often "require" that the promoter books a smaller act as an opener on a show if one of their bigger artists is the headliner. If you are lucky enough to be in that situation, you can be placed as a show opener by the booking agency.

These aren't the only ways, but this gives you a sense of what it takes. Get out there and create relationships and build community. Music is a team sport. When people see you have their interest in mind, you will start to go places.

About Derek Hoiem,  @derekhoiem
derek hoiem save the city recordsDerek was a software designer for Microsoft for over a decade, bringing many projects to market from start to finish. After Microsoft, Derek was an administrative pastor for a church and, having been a drummer himself, was curious about the music industry and how it related to churches. He began to learn all aspects of the music industry and experiment with digital recording. During that process, he created Rain On Me Productions, the parent company of Save the City Records. From it's inception in a backyard, to now recruiting top acts in Christian music today, Derek brings his various backgrounds to running the operations of the company. In addition to being CEO, he is currently an adjunct professor at the Creatio program at Northwest University.


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