How to Become an Opening Act for a Major Artist

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Becoming the opening act for a major artist is an exciting step for your singing career. It can open up many musical pathways for you as an artist, extend your fanbase and bring you one step closer to achieving that all-important headline gig.

If you want to become an opening act for a major artist, it helps to know your target headliner. Also, network with other singers, managers and agents whilst building a strong portfolio. 

Have you thought about become an opening act for a well-known artist? It’s a great way to boost your music career, but how do you get in contact with the headliner or their management? What’s the process and overall opening band etiquette? Here are some helpful tips on how to become an opening act for a major artist.

How to be an opening act for a major artist?

Before you lay out your plans for lining up an opening act gig, make sure that you are ready for this big step. Having covered all the vital basics and honed your skills as a performer, it’s still a process that involves patience, dedication, hard work and a willingness to get yourself stage-ready. A successful opening act slot could lead to that aspired-for headline gig. Every step is one step closer to reaching those musical goals.  

Firstly start with singers/bands with a good local following who are of a similar style to your music. Getting support gigs is a great opportunity to expand your fan base.

  • Check for upcoming shows in your local area. Figure out which shows you can make and find out if they have already announced their support acts. If not, get in touch and offer your services.
  • Go to their gigs and local events.
  • Open Mic nights can be one way to network for contacts and other acts.
  • For smaller, more local shows it is often the promoter who puts acts forward for support slots.
  • Usually, the good promoters who put on bigger shows in your area are the ones who deal with bigger acts, so try and get on the bills of some of their smaller shows and get known by them.
  • If you haven’t had any shows with the promoters, get in touch for them and give them your details. Always be prepared for an act to drop out at the last minute so you get the call to step in. It could be the show that moves you up the ladder!
  • Try to find an act’s booking agents contact email. Contacting them directly, without getting pushy or forceful, can help build up a rapport on a personal level!

Opening acts who became major headliners

opening band etiquette

There are many well-known performers who started their careers as opening acts on tour for other artists and then went on to have massive careers of their own.

  • The Beatles warmed up for Roy Orbison in 1963.
  • Rihanna opened for the Pussycat Dolls on their 2006 tour.
  • Lady Gaga also supported the Pussycat Dolls in 2009.
  • Destiny’s Child opened for SWV in 1996 and also for R&B artist Jon B.
  • In 2009, Katy Perry was the opening act for No Doubt.
  • Dua Lipa opened for the Bruno Mars 24K Magic world tour in 2017.
  • Taylor Swift performed as the opening act for Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Brad Paisley.
  • Taylor then paid it forward for her opening acts Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes and Ed Sheeran.
  • Shawn Mendes opened for Austen Mahone in 2014.

How much do opening acts get paid? 

You can get paid as an opening act for a major artist, but it may not much. As Music Biz Academy discusses, ‘the money for openers and support acts may not be great depending on the main act’s budget’.  

How long is the opening act for a concert? 

The opening act for a major artist usually has a set time of between 30 minutes and 45 minutes.  

If you are the opening act, it’s good etiquette to stick to this performance time frame and not run over. To start preparing yourself, you can go to a gig by your favourite singer and time how long their opening act was.  

Can opening acts go on tour?  

how to go on tour with a major artist

Yes, and it’s a future career-changing chance. Being the opening act on a major artists tour means that your music is hitting several different locations and audiences consecutively.

Whilst radiating your songs through different venues along the road, your fan base can grow and develop a demographic with variety from location to age. This is a truly positive step towards bigger things.  

How to go on tour with a major artist?

If you are not a singer or band but are instead looking to go on tour with a major artist as a roadie or member of the support crew, then you can read a great guide on the Careers in Music website.

It explains what experience and skills you need, the types of personality traits that will suit touring, what the lifestyle is like, and much more!

Should I pay-to-play?  

pay to play gigs

The term pay-to-play when it comes to being an opening act for a major artist is one to be wary of. It shouldn’t be necessary for you to pay out money unless you’ve been asked to contribute towards transportation of yourself and the headliner. 

Pay-to-play is a tactic that follows along the lines of the opening act buying tickets to sell and the support slot itself. Once the tickets have been sold over a certain quantity, then the opening act can begin to receive a percentage of the fees.  

Sadly, this ticket quota isn’t always achievable and as an opening act, you can be left owing money (Help for Bands). As a whole, it is best to stay away from this when it comes to your opening act time to shine.  

How could you open for a major artists? 

Wanting to be the opening act for a major artist is often close to the top of a singer’s ambitions. It’s a great focus to drive all your practices. The process of getting the opening act slot is often kept under the radar. 

But the process, when explained fully, is actually fairly simple; given you have the right utensils to start with.  

#1 Know what the headliner is looking for  

The major artist that you’re hoping to be the opening act for will be looking for specific criteria within a potential contender for the slot. The opening act has an important duty to begin the night with dazzling excitement so you’ve got to be able to set the appropriate vibe for the night.  

This is where the major artist will be looking for an act that will grasp the audience with their catchy vocal riffs and impressive stage presence. These are all techniques you can learn and perfect in the comfort of your own practice space.  

It’s important that the headliner highlights their support for emerging singers through their opening act choice to show how involved they are with helping new artists develop and grow.  

#2 Have a fanbase ready 

creating a fanbase as a singer

The major artist in question will be looking for a talented singer who can fill seats and sell tickets (Ari’s Take). The artist and their management will be on the lookout for singers with a fan base that is loyal and encouraging.  

If you can begin gathering a following that shows they’ll turn up to your gigs when you start or now that you have, this is a great start.  

#3 Create a press release 

If you do have some online releases, it may also be helpful to send out a press release for a new EP or album release.

A press release is a document with information on your new song, any radio play it’s received, snazzy snaps you’ve had taken, background information and any upcoming gigs you might have. The press release can be sent out as a signal to major artists as to why you are best for them.  

#4 Look for smaller artists first 

Before making your headliner target list, it’ll be handy to consider reaching out to artists that are simply a couple of leaps ahead of you within the industry. It’s an amazing opportunity to spread your vocal wings and network for further slots.  

So, make sure that you extend contact to artists that are realistic. Not too major for where you’re at, but ahead of the game enough to help you move forward.

#5 Reach out to headliners when you’re ready 

touring bands looking for opening acts

As BBC Introducing advises, it’s helpful to know what sort of headline act you’d like to target and how to reach out to them.  

You can make this list from as early as you like. Knowing who you want to impress in the future will help drive your singing lesson or rehearsal progress. You can start off by exploring which major artists are great for you, as a singer.  

Not only are you looking for compatibility for yourself as a singer, but you also want to ensure that your choice of headliners are artists you know you can successfully support.   

#6 Reach out to their manager 

Opening for a major artist, as a singer, begins with the headline act deciding they need a new and fresh support artist. The headline artist will discuss what they are hoping for with their agent or manager. This is where the domino effect of the music industry takes hold.  

The major artist’s management will reach out to other booking agents and music managers to inquire if any of their artist rosters have the singer that they’re looking for. One by one, each manager will get back to the headliner’s management with potential opening act candidates.  

With a variety of contacts collected, the headline act and their team will group together and discuss which singer is the winning opening act. Once decided, the successful artist will be contacted via their management and the rest will unfold from there.  

#7 Put yourself out there 

From open mics to making yourself heard on different online music platforms, there are a whole host of opportunities that can steer the spotlight to you as the chosen opening act.  

If you get a chance to speak with an agent or music manager, try and get some advice on how you can become and opening act for a major artist is the next step for you. With professional guidance, these industry figures have a strong network of contacts that will be able to provide exciting prospects.  

But of course, you have to work at your own pace. You can still consider being an opening act as an exciting goal, even if you are in the early days of your singing journey, and do not require a music manager just yet.  

Opening band etiquette 

bands looking for opening acts 2019

This is a phrase you’ll see often as you work hard to get closer to being ready for an opening act slot. Being an opening act for a major artist is a wonderful experience and there are a few rules to stick to.  

It’s important to make sure that you are pulling your socks up to co-promote the event. This could involve making an event on your Facebook music page or inviting friends and family.  

Make sure you’ve rehearsed your setlist inside and out, timing it to suit requirements. If you have a singing teacher or friend that can help you, you could get them to time it for you. This shows you’ve listened and are dedicated to giving an out-of-this-world performance.  

Remember the nature of the venue you are performing in. If it has certain requirements such as unloading equipment from the back door, then it’s good to follow these instructions to show that you’ve got brilliant opening act etiquette.  

What are tour buy-on prices?  

As you take steps closer towards thinking about being an opening act for a major artist, a phrase that may pop up is ‘tour buy-on prices’.  

It is where the headliner and their management explains that you have to pay to open up the gig. This should be avoided at all costs as it is not correct practice. However, sadly it still happens often.

In some cases, if the headliner is asking for payment prior to the performance, it may just be for travel or accommodation expense. This is totally fine to work with. It’s the same as you charge a train ticket expense within a gig fee.   

Just be careful when having future discussions with headliners management. Make sure all your questions are answered before saying “yes” to anything.

Music portfolio  

A portfolio always sounds much more serious than it has to be.  

It does take time and practice to put together, but try to remember that you don’t have to rush this process. Great achievements take time within the singing industry and that’s ok.  

It can simply be an EP or a few tracks on either Spotify, Soundcloud, Deezer or other music streaming sites, where the recording, production, mixing and mastering is sharp and effective. Having releases keeps your new fan base active and therefore sounding your opening act siren.  


When major artists and their management are scouting for the right opening acts, it’s helpful if they have some recognition of reviews of your musical work.  

Some really cool ways to secure coverage is by weaving one of your tracks onto a Spotify playlist.

These playlists may also be great for you to start to listen to. If you are just starting out, you can keep up-to-date with what’s rocking the music scene.  

Another fab way to gain some exposure is to contact music bloggers for those all-important reviews. Having some discussion of how smooth your vocals were on your latest original release will be a great reference for the major artist to read through.   

Like the playlists, if it’s early doors for you and your blossoming vocals, pop onto some music bloggers sites and have a read through.  


As Music Think Tank suggests, growing a loyal and ‘consistent reputation with promoters’ and other industry figures such as managers, agents, artists, venue owners and fans, will help your music network flourish.  

Networking could involve attending live music events local to your area. You could regularly attend an open mic near you with a friend or another music lover, where other like-minded singers and more well-known acts also attend.  

It’s also great to develop the habit of carrying some cool looking business cards with you wherever you go to easily promote yourself when you need to. 

Have you seen any amazing opening acts recently? Or do you have any more tips on how to become an opening act for a major artist? Let us know in the comments below.

Getting the slot

Now you have your slot on the bill, you have to put on the best show you can to win over new fans and leave a good impression on the headliners.

  • Fulfil any promotional commitments you make. Plug the show to your existing fan base and in the local area to generate interest and hopefully boost sales. This will leave a good impression on the headliner and the promoter if you are actively driving ticket sales!
  • Use the opportunity to write a press release and get more exposure for the event and yourself.
  • Where possible, try and leave time free after the gig in case it goes well and they ask you back for more shows. If you already have shows lined up, be honest. Honesty is the best policy, don’t try and wing it until right up to the show and end up messing up both commitments.
  • Sort out technical aspects of the gig in advance. Find out if the headlining act doesn’t mind you bringing your own gear or if they would rather share to save change over time and stage space. Always have spares, such as batteries or guitar strings!
  • Always treat the sound engineer with respect. He is responsible for your sound, always stay polite!
  • Inform them of any visuals or unusual technical requirements you have, such as a banjo in one song.  Writing a small tech spec to hand to the engineer on arrival is a good idea, make it clear and concise. Always ask in a polite manner.
  • Find out if you can sell some of your own merchandise. It’s better to ask than just assume you can!
  • Make sure you know what time you are in for load-in and soundcheck! If you work full-time to make sure you make appropriate arrangements well in advance if you need to take an afternoon off.
  • Always get there early! Being fashionably late will do you no favours.
  • Always thank the promoter and sound engineer after the gig, you never know when you may need to call upon them again.