How to Open for National Acts

One of the questions I get asked the most is “how can I open for national acts?” When it comes to building longevity and growing your career in the music business, it’s extremely important that you do this with a strategy. Don’t just open up for a national act to say you’ve opened up for people with names. If you want to build longevity in this business, it’s important that you don’t overexpose yourself in your hometown and that you focus on building genuine relationships with everyone involved - the promoter, the agent, the manager, and the artist. You build genuine relationships by adding value to them, and not focusing on what you can get out of it, or using this as a resume builder. Nobody ever made it to the next level because of who they opened for. They got there because they were able to build their own audience.

In this article, you will learn how to open for national acts, but also some important strategies that will help you build longevity. I assume that if you’re reading this, the ultimate goal is not to open for national acts, but for you to become the national act and have a career for the next 20, 30, 40+ years. Here are 10 steps for best practices and strategies on how to open for national acts, and build your career.

Shout out to rapper E.M.B. from Phoenix, AZ for inspiring this post, and for the great tunes. 

Check out "Ble$$ Up" by E.M.B. 

1.  Be Able to Sell Tickets & Get People to the Show

This doesn’t mean pay to play, but you have to add value to the show. You need to have fans that will actually pay and come to the show. If you can’t do that, you don’t have any fans, and you need to work on building a following first. One of my past podcast guests, Ari Herstand, and Author of “How to Make It in the New Music Business” mentioned in his book that 50 is the MAGIC NUMBER to get the attention of most promoters. As a promoter that has put on over 2,000 shows, I could not agree more with that. To take it a level further, I say 50 tickets gets you in the door, 100 tickets gets you on the radar of artist managers and booking agents, and 200 tickets gets you a serious conversation with an artist manager or booking agent. This doesn’t mean buy or pay to play by purchasing 50, 100, or 200 tickets. What’s really important about this is 50, 100 or 200 people will not just buy a ticket, but they will come to the show.

What makes your sell easier is when you have a proven track record with the Talent Buyer or promoter that’s putting on the show that you’re trying to open for. The booking agent, and potential artist manager is already communicating with that promoter or Talent Buyer. If they can say that you’re worth the amount of tickets you claim, that will help increase your chances of getting the opening slot for a show. Almost 100% of the time when an artist reaches out to a booking agent or manager for an opening slot, they will forward me the email and ask if you’re legit. People communicate, so be able to back up what you promise.

Can you open for a national act if it’s your first show? There are very few instances when it’s your first ever show that you can actually get an opening slot for a national act. I sometimes like doing that, because when it’s an artist’s first show, they’re super pumped because it’s their first show and they get to open a big show. A lot of artists will sell double or triple the amount of tickets they’ll average for their first show. This is being a smart promoter, but you as an artist want to make sure that these people will come back to your future shows and that your numbers don’t go backwards too much. They will go backwards a little naturally. More on this topic in future articles.

2. Create Your Artist ID Spreadsheet

Let’s talk a little bit of strategy. Create a list of artists in your genre or similar artists. This list should be in the following categories - A-List, Emerging Artists, Legacy Artists, Local/Regional Artists. In the case of opening for national acts, you’ll only be using the A-List, Emerging, and Legacy categories for this exercise. The A-List artists are artist that are performing at 1,500 capacity venues to arenas, amphitheaters and stadiums. The chances of opening for these artists is HIGHLY UNLIKELY, because they’ll usually have fully packaged tours with openers from the same agency, management, or label. There are very few and rare occasions they’ll take on an new artist, and that’s usually solely based on relationship.

However, the booking agents that represent these A-List artists also have new and emerging artists, as well as artists that have been around for a long time but are no longer on the A-List or may have just never broken through the threshold to the next level. These artists are performing in venues that have a capacity of 200-1,000 people. You want to put as many artists on this spreadsheet as possible. I’d say have at least 10 to 20 for each category on your list. For a sample spreadsheet, sign up for the email list, and I’ll send you one. But it should pretty much look like below.

What you’re looking for are agents that represent more than one of the artists on your list. Those are the agents whose radar you want to get on, and the agents that can provide some great opportunities for you.

3.  Which Shows Have A Support Slot Available

You have to act fast when it comes to getting that opening slot. Make sure to sign-up for all the venues e-mail list, so you’re one of the first to find out when new shows get announced. Set-up alerts for their social media pages so you’re always in the loop of announcements and on sale dates. Usually shows get announced on Tuesdays or Wednesdays and go on sale to the public on Fridays. Once you know that a show is coming, here is a quick rule of thumb to figure out if there is a support slot available. If there are 2 or more artists already opening the show, they’re most likely on tour with them. The chances of getting an opening slot for shows that already have a full package are very rare. You want to be strategic when asking for opening slots, and don’t want to be the annoying person that asks about opening for every show. Try to find shows that don’t have an opener listed or may only have one opener. However, if they are artists on your Artist ID (see #2), and you want to focus on building a relationship with their team, you can reach out and mention that you see there are already openers on tour, but you’d like to help with promotion for the show. Adding value to the relationship!

4.  Reach out to Promoter, Manager, & Agent

Once you figured out which shows to reach out for, here is a sample pitch to write to the promoter, manage, or agent. If you already have a relationship with the promoter, you can reach out to them first and let them know that these managers and agents are on your radar. Some promoters get territorial, make sure they’re aware you’re not trying to go around them, but you’re just trying to build a relationship with these artist managers and booking agents to help build your career. Even offer to copy them in on the email. That might actually help your chances.

Here is how the chain of command usually works (avoid buy ons, usually promoters are legally not allowed to sell opening slots per their contract with the artists, but some do it anyway because they know most artist won’t say anything to protect their relationship those promoters). The artist or their manager usually makes the final approval for openers. Sometimes an Artist Manager and their artists, will sell opening slots for their tour. This is usually offset by some kind of small guarantee to you that the promoter has already committed to. I always recommend to try to avoid buy ons, but there are ways to get a lot out of them. However, they’re not going to make or break your career. You don’t not have to buy on a show to “make it” in the music business. Back to chain of command - the promoter will go to the agent, and the agent will go to the manager/artist for approval. Sometimes that trust is passed on by the manager/artist to the booking agent or promoter. Always error on the side of professionalism unless you have an established relationship. Always address the person by their first name followed by a comma OR Mr. or Ms. with their last name and comma. Never start an email with "Hey," "Hey man," "Hey bud," "Hey bro" or anything similar. 

Sample e-mail to Joe Agent, keep it short, to the point, and mention a couple of things to sell yourself:

5.     Don’t play shows 8-10 weeks before or after

One of my next articles will be on touring strategy and how often you should be playing in each city. Generally I preach to only play the same city every 8 to 12 weeks. You want to avoid over-saturating the market, and the bigger your following in a particular market, the more you should increase the time between shows. However, say you’re playing every 12 weeks - 4 shows per year. When you try to play an opening slot for a national act where you need to prove yourself to that agent, manager, and promoter, and you should all out with your promotional. You’re giving up one of those 4 shows for that market, and you should get the most out of it. You’re giving up some of your value to add value to someone else and establish relationships and build longevity. Be strategic about this. Don’t just open for someone just to build your “resume.” That won’t matter in the long run, unless you’re opening an entire tour.

6. Ask for Promo Materials

Ask the promoter, agent, manager, or whomever you’re communicating with for promotional materials and pre-box (or consignment) tickets ASAP. You want to get a leg up on promotion right away. Try to get at least 50 tickets to start out with, sell those as quick as possible, and ask for 50 more. Usually you’ll have to return the money for the first batch of tickets before getting more. So make sure you’ve actually sold them. Also, a lot of venues will hold you accountable for the tickets, so don’t lose them. If you lose 10 tickets that are $20 each, you’re coming $200 out of pocket. Don’t make costly mistakes. Get as many flyers and posters as you can get your hands on, and start getting to work. Your goal should be to out promote everyone involved in the show. You should be promoting harder than the promoter, manager, and artist themselves. It’s your career, don’t wait for someone else to do the work for you. Take it in your own hands and get to work.

7.     Deliver on Your Promise

This one is straightforward. But if you say you’re going to sell 50 tickets, sell 50 tickets. In an ideal world, you’ll want to over deliver. The strategy here is under promise, over deliver. This will always make you look good. Again remember, 50 tickets opens the conversation, 100 gets you on the radar, 200 gets you looked at seriously. Don’t come short. You’ll look bad in front of the promoter, booking agent, artist manager, and the artist. This will delay the time for when you get the next opportunity.

8.     Document Your Efforts

Keep good track of everything you're doing promotionally and document all of your efforts. Everywhere you put up posters, take a picture of where you put up the posters. When you pass out flyers, take video, pictures, or Snapchat or IG stories of people holding flyers. Keep track of how many tickets you sold. Take screenshots of any posts you put up on social media. Upload all of your documentation of promotional efforts into a Dropbox, Google drive, or Box folder, and send those after the show along with a thank you to the promoter, manager, and booking agent.

What’s next? When you get an opening slot, the next most important thing besides promoting and delivering on your promise, is day of show etiquette and the follow-up thank you. More on those in the next articles.  

Thank you for your time, and good luck with getting an opening slot. If this article brought you value, please share this with your community on social media. I’d love to hear from you, and your results. Feel free to reach out and send me a note - chris.goyzueta@gmail.com. Please be patient, and I’ll get back to you. Thank you!

Promoter and Artist Deals and Settlements

Percentage of Net Deal (Door Deal)

These are your most typical type of deals for an up and coming band performing at a small club that holds 100 to 500 people. In these types of deals the expenses come off the top, and the artist receives a percentage after expenses and state sales tax. The expenses in these types of deals typically are for the audio engineer, security, and door person (box office). Usually these expenses range from $100 to $400, depending on the venue. For venues in the 100 to 500 capacity range, try to always avoid paying more than $400 for the venue. Usually expenses range $100-$150 for audio engineer, $50-$100 per security guard, and $50-$75 for door person. 

In this example, the artist receives 85% of NBOR after $350.00 for expenses and state sales tax. 

Guarantee plus Bonuses Deal

In this type of deal, the artist receives a guarantee plus bonuses. These bonuses get paid at specific points based on how many total tickets were sold, or can from time to time also be based on the gross. For example, the artist gets a guarantee plus bonuses at 600, 700, and 800 tickets sold. Try to make sure that the last bonus always reflects a sell out of the venue. This is your sell out bonus. 

In this example, the artist receives a $5,000.00 guarantee + $500.00 bonuses at 500, 600, 700, and 800 tickets sold. 

Zero Guarantee Versus Percentage of Gross Deal (NBOR) 

In these types of deals the promoter and the artist are both taking risk at the show. This type of deal is similar to a partnership in traditional business. Both sides have their own expenses, which they will cover out of their end of the deal. Booking Agents a lot of times try to pull the card that the artists have expenses. The promoter in me says, "nobody is forcing you to tour, but if you want to grow your business like I do, we both have risks." Don't let the booking agents twist your arm promoters. 

Guarantee Versus Percentage of Gross Deal (NBOR) 

These are usually the best types of deals for artists. You get a guarantee and you get a percentage of the gross NBOR with no expenses being deducted. The only deductions here are state sales tax and any adjustments to the gross. Examples of adjustments include facility fee, charity fee, album download, and Meet & Greet. This type of deal can also be called a greater than deal. The artist either receives the guarantee or the percentage of the NBOR, whichever is greater. 

In this example, artist receives a $2,000.00 guarantee versus 65% of gross (NBOR) after 6.5% state sales tax. Deal reverts to 70% at 400 tickets sold. 

The Promoter Profit Deal:

At the end of each show the artist settlement is usually the responsibility of the tour manager, tour accountant, artist manager, or the artist themselves. The Promoter Profit Deal is the most common type of deal that’s used by all major promoters. Below is a step by step guide on how to settle a promoter profit deal. In this video the terms are as follows:

In this example, Artist receives a $5,000.00 guarantee + 85% of Net after expenses, 6.5% state sales tax, and $1.00 per ticket Facility Fee (FF).

In this deal example the following tickets were sold:
500 tickets at $20.00
500 tickets at $25.00

Promoter Profit Deal Step by Step Guide:

Step 1: Add up all the ticket sales to find Gross Box Office Receipts (GBOR).

Step 2: Find the total facility fee. This is the total number of tickets sold multiplied by the total facility fee.

Equation: Gross Facility Fee = Facility Fee x Total Tickets Sold

Step 3: Subtract the Gross Facility Fee from the GBOR to find Adjusted Gross.

Equation: Adjusted Gross = GBOR - Gross Facility Fee

Step 4: Deduct State Sales Tax to find Net Box Office Receipts (NBOR). Remember that state sales tax is already included, therefore we have to calculate the inverse and add one in front of the decimal point. Ex. 6.5% state sales tax = 1.065

Equation: NBOR = Adjusted Gross / (State Sales Tax + 1)
*Note - If there is no adjustment, then use the GBOR

Step 5: Add up all your expenses. Remember that the guarantee is an expense.

Step 6: Calculate Promoter Profit Amount. Promoter Profit percentage is given in terms.

Equation: Promoter Profit (PP) = Total Expenses x Promoter Profit Percentage

Step 7: Calculate the Split Point. This is the amount that needs to be reached for there to be a bonus for the artist.

Equation: Split Point = Promoter Profit + Total Expenses

Step 8: Calculate the share amount. This is the amount that’s left over after expenses and promoter profit that the artist and promoter share. The percentage the artist receives is the artist bonus, and is usually given in the terms. In this problem it’s 85%.

Equation: Share Amount = NBOR - Split Point

Step 9: Calculate the Artist Bonus Amount

Equation: Artist Bonus Amount = Share Amount x Artist Bonus Percentage

Step 10: Calculate the Total Artist Pay

Equation: Total Artist Pay = Guarantee + Bonus Amount

Tunes I Found: "Colourblind" by FEELDS

This song was such a fun and refreshing find. The voice of James Seymour has a very smooth tone with a great vocal range, accompanied by very mature and catchy lyrics. As James mentioned, the story behind the song is a lustful one of a person caught up in two different worlds. This really comes across by the vocal performance of the song. The genre blends electro acoustic vibe with a pop sound. Feelds is based in Melbourne, Australia. When I listen to this songs I feel like I’m going on a journey both lyrically and musically.

I sent Feelds a few questions that are part of the “Tunes I Found” series, and here is what they had to say:

1. What’s the story or inspiration behind this song?

Colourblind is about being caught up in two minds. As the lyrics suggest, it's a pretty lustful story, but the protagonist is hesitant or somewhat unsure about what seems right. Production wise, I've really tried to push my sound envelope lately in the quest to define what the Feelds 'sound' is. At the moment, it's somewhere in the midst of blending acoustic sounds amongst evolving electronic/soundscape-y environments. It's proving to be very enjoyable, and Colourblind is the first big step in that direction.

2. For those that are new to your music, what is something you want them to know about you?

I recently left my retail job to pursue music, and I'm now in 4 bands (including Swim Season & Slowcoaching), helping produce 3 other artists, and writing music for film/TV. I'm pretty strapped for cash, but it's building, and I'm loving every minute of it!

3. Any tools or resources you can share with artists who are trying to “Make It”?

It might seem pretty cliche, but I find that setting goals and objectives is huge. You can use all of the tools in the world - but if an artist is not motivated, has little to no idea as to where they want to be, and isn't actively trying to push their craft all of the time - I think that can be the most detrimental thing to an artist's career.

4. If someone wanted to reach out to help and support you, and spread your music. What is the biggest thing you need and what could someone to help you with that?

Any help is great! To know that people are out there listening to and enjoying my music is part of the reason why I keep releasing material. So when people share it around, my sounds are being heard by more and more people, and it drives me to write more.

5. What’s your definition of making it?

'Making it' really relates back to those goals I was talking about. Personally, I want to be writing & producing music full time, touring & playing festivals, and using my music as a platform for where I want to be.

Share the Love and Follow Feelds:
https://feelds.tumblr.com/
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Soundcloud

About this series:

This is a series of cool tunes I found on Soundcloud to help us remember why we started the careers and journey that we’re on. For me it’s music, so I’m sharing cool tunes I found. When I found these artists they had less than 5,000 followers on Soundcloud. I have no connection to these artist or any idea of who they have on their team. If you’re an aspiring student of the business trying to build a career in the music industry this could be an opportunity. Reach out, promote their music, book them an awesome show, help them with their socials, help them sell merch, or whatever else they may need help with. To find more cool tunes such as these and more, they’re all on a spotify playlist and some are reposted on our soundcloud page. The spotify playlist or soundcloud reposts will include some artists that have over 2,000 followers, but not the blog series. Hope y’all enjoy!

- Chris Goyzueta

Tunes I Found: "Mona" by Indigo Velvet

The second I heard the song “Mona” by Indigo Velvet it made me want to jump out of my chair and dance my ass off. The band is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Their style of music is often described by writers as tropical pop, but there is much more to it. The song “Mona” incorporates some really fun uplifting African rhythms with a pop sound. When I listen to this song it makes me think of the type of music I would hear during the Summer Olympic Games. Definitely a great tune for cruising down along the beach on A1A in South Florida. Beginning 2017, Indigo Velvet was tipped as ones to watch by BBC Introducing and The Sun, the list of tastemakers championing the young quartet continues; Record of the Day, The Metro, Clash, Scotland On Sunday, The Skinny Magazine and more. Airplay includes BBC Introducing, Radio X, a spot-play on Radio 1 and live sessions on Amazing Radio and the Janice Forsyth Show on BBC Radio Scotland.

I sent the band a few questions that are part of the “Tunes I Found” series, and here is what they had to say:

1. What’s the story or inspiration behind this song?

We wrote the song with the idea of growing up as a teenager surrounded by young love and naivety. However, we wrote it in such a way, that hopefully, anyone listening will have their own personal thoughts and feelings about it. People connect with songs in different ways, and that’s one of the best things about making music.

2. For those that are new to your music, what is something you want them to know about you?

We write songs with the aim to make people smile, and hopefully even dance and jump around, reminding them of the summer months. We were recently compared to the tropical juice ‘um bungo’ (not sure if you had that in the USA?)! All the radio and media attention we’ve had to date has described us as ‘Tropical-pop’ and it has kind of stuck, we think it suits us.

3. Any tools or resources you can share with artists who are trying to “Make It”?

This is more advice, but just don't be a d*ck. Appreciate the people who are there to give you advice and help you along the way. We have been lucky enough to play with bands that we looked up to and have been fans of. We’re now friends with them and several have invited us to support them in their hometowns, which has allowed us to grow our fanbase around the UK rather than just focussing on Edinburgh or even Scotland, where we are from. So make friends with other bands, try and swap gigs with them and take on advice from people around you. Ultimately though, enjoy making music and playing, there is no definite right or wrong way of doing things just now.  

4. If someone wanted to reach out to help and support you, and spread your music. What is the biggest thing you need and what could someone do to help you with that?

Our aim is just to be heard by as many people as possible and enjoy our music. We hope to get the chance to tour outside of the UK soon too which would be amazing. We appreciate anyone that helps us in any way, from doing interviews like this, to radio play, promoters booking us for gigs, tour managers, fellow musicians and so on. It is all necessary to take your music to the next level and have the chance to do more with it. If you want to give us all your money, thats cool too, that'd help!

5. What’s your definition of making it?

We would love to be able to drop our 9-5 jobs and be able to tour constantly, showing off our music to as many people as possible. To play shows around the world is obviously the dream, but I think having a loyal fan base and people around you who actually care about you and your music is overwhelming enough, simply having a career in music, being a professional band is making it to us!

Share the Love and Follow them:
http://weareindigovelvet.co.uk/
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

About this series:

This is a series of cool tunes I found on Soundcloud to help us remember why we started the careers and journey that we’re on. For me it’s music, so I’m sharing cool tunes I found. When I found these artists they had less than 5,000 followers on Soundcloud. I have no connection to these artist or any idea of who they have on their team. If you’re an aspiring student of the business trying to build a career in the music industry this could be an opportunity. Reach out, promote their music, book them an awesome show, help them with their socials, help them sell merch, or whatever else they may need help with. To find more cool tunes such as these and more, they’re all on a spotify playlist and some are reposted on our soundcloud page. The spotify playlist or soundcloud reposts will include some artists that have over 2,000 followers, but not the blog series. Hope y’all enjoy!
- Chris Goyzueta

Tunes I Found on Soundcloud (A New Series)

In this adventurous life journey full of twists and turns, ups and downs, it’s important to try your best everyday to stay grounded and remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing. I started my pursuit of a career in the music business in 2006, because I love music. My first concert was in 1992, Guns N’ Roses in the Frankfurt Soccer Stadium with Brian May of Queen opening with a tribute to Freddie Mercury (who had died the previous year) and his old band, Queen. Ever since that first concert, I tried to go to as many concerts as I could, and in my freshman year in College I went to over 100 shows.

One of my mentors, Gary Vaynerchuck (no I never met him, but learn from him everyday) taught me that if you want your community to love what you’re doing, you have to love your community first. For months I’ve been trying to brainstorm of a regular blog to add to the “Making It with Chris G.” website that would really fit the brand, and the mission of what we’re trying to do with the show. The goal is to teach artists, creatives, entertainers, and aspiring people on the business side of the entertainment business the lessons and insights of people who are “Making It.” With that being said, the next logical step is to pour love into my music community and share artists with you that I think are making really badass music! Because the MUSIC always comes first.

I have no connection to any of the artists I’m sharing. My only goal is to share artists that have less than 5,000 followers on Soundcloud (but hopefully less). I want to introduce people to new music that I think is really cool from all different styles and genres. I will in writing commit to post a new track at least once a week (but hopefully more). Unfortunately I can’t share every track, so I’m going to start a Spotify playlist with some of the cool artists I find, and you can also stop by our Soundcloud page to check out some cool tunes I reposted. THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY...if you’re someone that wants to be on the business side of the entertainment industry, these are artists that might not have ANY representation or very little. If you love what you hear, reach out, become a fan, become a promoter, spread their music, book them shows, and who knows what doors that might open for you.

So let’s kick this series off. This first tune is called “Battlecry” by an artist named Jordan Mackampa from London. He calls himself an Alt Soul Folk artist and has some jazz influenced which he incorporates into his music. This track has some really cool lyrics, and a very fun hook. As we are pursuing our dreams in this wonderful journey called life, we have to make our voices heard, march together because it takes a village to build something truly amazing, and let people hear our BATTLECRY. Spread positivity, be good to people, support the arts, create content, and “live the life you love.”