How to Become an Opening Act for a Major Artist

Posted by Mike Schumacher

An opening act could range anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, but it also largely depends on the kind of band that you are opening for. However, it is not the length of the act that the audience is focused on; it’s the performance that matters.

Performing as an opening act for a major artist is every novice musician’s dream, but being on a live show is not an easy task.

We have assembled some tips and tricks to help you deliver a flawless performance on stage.

Tips for being an amazing opening act

Here are some tips to consider the next time you will go live as an opening act.

Master your skill

It goes without saying that the more you practice, the higher the chances of you delivering a stellar performance as an opening act.

Practice your songs as much as possible so that playing becomes automatic. If you have a recording of your songs or you are doing cover songs, be sure to listen to this often and try to get all the elements exactly how you want them (tempo, inflection on the voice, etc.)

There’s also no harm in taking a few lessons to learn a few tricks that you can add to your performance.

Don’t ‘stuff’ too many songs

Don’t start to think that the duration of the act is actually for stuffing as many songs in your performance as possible. Your first song is your introduction to the audience so begin with something that you can ‘wow’ the audience with.

The next few songs will take the listener on a voyage, so be mindful about how you create the arc of your setlist. 

Similarly, your last song is what the audience will remember you for, so end it on good notes.

Strike the right balance

Gather some information about the audience you are going to perform to and select your songs accordingly. Depending on the act your opening up for you’ll want to complement them. You want to fit in with the style of the opening act but also have moments that set you apart. Don’t try to drift too far away from the act though, as they might not call you back for another show.

Take tours seriously

Tours can prove to be a career-changing moment for many artists. It means that your music is reaching out to different audiences at different locations. This allows you to gain an enormous amount of exposure from your fans.

Take any opportunity of going on a tour seriously and use it to not just polish your skills, but also to get feedback from the fan-base.

Many bands are booking tours for themselves these days. This is as easy as sending loads of emails to venues all across the country and arranging the logistics yourself.

There are forums online (Facebook and Reddit) where you can communicate with bands that are also trying to book tours and you can help each other.

Document yourself

If you are on a tour as an opening artist, remember to document each and every stage performance of yours. Photos and videos of your performances go a long way to establishing credibility. We all know about the 10,000-hour rule, well the same can be said about time spent performing live.

By the time the tour reaches its conclusion, you will have a comprehensive video series demonstrating your skills as a musician/band

Follow your instincts

This essentially means that you should adapt to on-stage situations. A couple of moments are all you may require to rearrange your songs. You can also shorten or prolong your songs to fit in the given timeframe.

Invent your style

While it is good to be savvy about what other opening acts perform, you should never be afraid to take risks. Invent your own style if you think it will work better than a conventional performance.

Your energy and your moves on stage could have the power to mesmerize the audience. These days people will take photos of you and tag you on social media, which means free advertising for your band!

Finding the headliner

Now let’s have a brief look at some of the tips to find a main act or a major artist.

  1. Find a Booking Agent: You can do some networking to get noticed by a booking agent as they are on the lookout for opening acts on behalf of the headliners. You can also register on music websites and post links to your portfolio.
  2. Build a Fan Base: it is also a good idea to live stream your performance to reach out to maximum number of people in order to get noticed.
  3. Pay to Play: Some opening acts offer their services to sell the tickets of the show. If the sale turns out to be good, the opening act can earn a better percentage on the fees.

Major artists who were opening acts

Before we conclude this article, let’s have a brief look at some of the major artists who performed as opening acts.

Some of the most profit-making celebrities were once an opening act. Let’s take Taylor Swift. Camilla Cabello, Ed Sheeran, and Shawn Mendes all performed as opening acts for Swift.

Mendes reportedly performed for Austen Mahone in 2014.

English band The Beatles once performed as an opening act for Roy Orbison in 1963. Similarly, in 2009, Katy Perry performed for American rock band No Doubt.

During her 2006 tour, Rihanna performed for Pussycat Dolls. Dua Lipa opened for Bruno Mars during their world tour in 2017. Destiny’s Child performed as an opening act for the American singer, songwriter and record producer Jon B in 1996.

Lady Gaga also warmed up the show for Pussycat Dolls in 2009.


Opening for a major artist requires an advanced skill-set and a lot of rehearsal. The task can indeed be achieved by following the aforementioned steps. Finding the right artist is also possible by efficient networking and developing a good fan-base.

So if you have been planning to become an opening act, act now!

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