How Long Are Opening Acts at Concerts?

Posted by Ben Heckler

An opening act represents the first performance at an event which sets the stage for the main act. The range of an opening act's setlist can be from 15 minutes to 1 hour.

In this article, we will discuss how opening acts make the most of their time on stage.

How long do opening acts perform for?

people cheering for the opening act at a concert

The duration for each opening act may vary. Some acts only have 15 minutes to perform a class act, while others have 30 to 45 minutes to work their magic. Sometimes, the opening acts are asked to continue to perform even when their time is over.

This happens when the promoters feel that the feedback of the audience is extremely positive. At other times, it is due to the fact that the main act requires more time to appear on the stage.

The question that emerges is thus: how does an opening act utilize their time in the given timeframe?

Utilizing your time as an opening act

When you are performing in front of a live audience, it can get difficult to manage time. Hence it is important to prepare thoroughly and time your set properly before.

Let’s look at these smart hacks. We’ve broken down these tips as per the amount of time each opening act is assigned.

Tips for short opening acts (15 minutes)

The most important thing for a short opening act is to realize that they need to create a beginning, middle and ending in just 15 minutes. This means you need to craft your setlist accordingly.

band performing

Selection of opening song

It is mandatory for the 15-minute opening act to select a song that is short yet helps prepare the audience for what’s about to come.

Choose your best tunes that will immediately grab the attention of your audience and blow them away for the first half (roughly 7 minutes of your show).

Gaining momentum

As soon as you feel that you have gained a bit of momentum, invite the audience to engage (clap their hands, sing the lyrics if it's a cover song) so that the atmosphere becomes as lively as possible. After all, nobody wants to spend their time at a yawn-inducing concert!

The key thing to remember here is you should not lose your grasp over your songs and stage presence in an effort to live up to the audience’s expectations. Just go with what feels natural.

Concluding your performance

As you begin to conclude your performance, you need to think about what is the final taste you want to leave in the mouth of your audience. A high energy song may be the best choice for a shorter set, however depending on how formal and sober the event is, ending on a softer/beautiful note is not a terrible idea either.

Tips for moderate opening acts (30 minutes)

As an opening act that has 30 minutes to showcase its performance, you will need to follow a certain strategy. For example:

Many short songs

Playing many short songs actually will increase the perception that you have been playing for longer than you have because there is more melodic information for the audience to process.

This will keep the interest of the audience as you provide them with more variety.

Increase the rhythm

As you reach the mid of your act, start to increase the rhythm and gradually intensify your beats as you hear the crowd cheer.

If you have a good drummer in your band, now is the time for them to test their stamina and dazzle the audience.

Towards the conclusion

Notice the response of your audience and conclude accordingly. 30 minutes is surprisingly a good amount of time to make an impression on the audience. Depending on the variety of tunes and the musicality involved you can really communicate with an audience in this time frame.

Tips for long opening acts (45 mins-1 hour)

man singing on stage

A lengthy opening act may present their performance anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. Here’s how to keep your audience engaged during this time.

Create an arc to your performance

Considering that you have to perform for an entire hour, you should try to structure your show accordingly.

If the main act is a high energy act, then go ahead and come out of the gates with a high energy song. This is the audience's first impression of how the show will be structured so it's always advisable to try to win the audience in terms of energy.

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You may notice that the audience is considerably cold, and is not quite ready to move or dance yet. Don't fear, it is normal and usually takes the audience a while to warm up.

Ballads

A crucial element in creating an 'arc' to your performance is having softer songs that will balance out the high energy songs.

Especially if you are playing for an hour, the audience will begin to notice if all the songs sound the same volume. Sprinkle in a few ballads and it will make your set sound full.

Conclude on a positive ‘note’

No matter how lively your performance is, a good one hour might leave the audience less engaged. To remedy this, save one of your best songs/covers/feel-good anthems (think Hey Jude) for the outro song. This may be your most important song as it will be the last thing your audience has seen and therefore remembered.

Characteristics of a good opening act

Before we conclude this article, let’s summarize some of the smart hacks to make your act memorable.

  1. Remember that your audience won't remember you by your first song but with how you conclude your set. Therefore, remember that making a kick-ass ending to your act will make your show that much more memorable.
  2. Make sure your act has an arc. Start off the set with energy, have a ballad or a slower song towards the middle and end on a high note.
  3. Plan an extraordinary gesture to make your act outstanding. These could include, inviting a fan on stage, smashing a guitar or even just keeping it simple and telling a witty anecdote to the crowd.

Performing as an opening act is a great opportunity to grow your fan base and polish your skills. It is mandatory to pick songs for your act wisely and work on a strategy to complete it in the given timeframe.

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