Why Do Concerts Have Opening Acts?

audience at live concert

If you’ve recently attended a concert, you might be wondering what the purpose of the opening acts were. Whilst you might not realize it, there are actually a whole host of reasons why concerts have opening acts. 

 

So, why do concerts have opening acts? Opening acts are used to provide value for money, cross-promote different artists and ‘warm up’ the audience for the featured artist. 

 

Keep reading for a complete guide on the purpose of opening acts, as well as a full FAQ. 

 

To Provide Value For Money

The reason ticket prices are often so expensive is because concerts have massive overheads. Venue hire rates are sky-high, whilst the musicians themselves will have to be provided with catering, travel, accommodation and a salary. 

 

Despite the substantial costs involved, a featured artist will only be able to perform for between 90 and 120 minutes. This is for two main reasons:

  • Lack of material: On average, bands & artists will release an album every 1-2 years. As touring generates significantly more revenue than album sales in today’s industry, it’s often prioritized over recording. A band or artist that’s only one or two albums in simply won’t have enough material to last longer than a couple of hours.
  • Fatigue: Live performance is a physically-demanding activity. Musicians may have to perform energetic choreography whilst coping with the stress of playing in front of a packed audience. Similarly, a singer’s voice will start experiencing fatigue after approximately two hours of performing.

 

Adding additional acts to the bill is an effective way of making the event look more reasonably-priced.

 

To Cross-Promote Different Acts

Here’s something you might not know about concerts:

 

They’re basically a giant ad for a record label, promoter or management company. 

 

One of the quickest, cheapest and most-effective ways for an up-and-coming act to build their following is to play in front of large crowds of people on a regular basis. Therefore, when a business invests money into a concert for an established artist they manage, they’ll use the opportunity to cross-promote smaller acts on their roster with the intention of growing their audience. 

 

On occasion, the featured artist will be able to choose the opening acts themselves. If this is the case, they’ll usually choose an act who they’re fans of (or, more-cynically, friends with) and feel deserve more exposure.

 

To ‘Warm Up’ The Audience

Opening acts are extremely effective at warming up the audience up for the featured artist. If the audience has already been singing and dancing prior to the featured artist playing, they’re much-more-likely to continue throughout the entirety of the featured artist’s set. 

 

Similarly, the opening act will usually ‘hype’ the audience up for the featured artist at various points throughout their set. This will often be done by asking the audience how excited they are for the headliner or getting the crowd to chant the featured artist’s name. 

 

The reason opening acts are so effective at building hype is because they’re trying to win the audience over. As it’s unlikely the audience will know any of their material, opening acts emphasize audience participation, strong songs and energetic performances. By the end of their set, the audience will have eased into the concert atmosphere (and likely had time for a couple of drinks) before the featured artist. 

 

FAQ

Do All Concerts Have Opening Acts?

Whilst most concerts will feature opening acts, not all of them will. Here are a few types of events that usually won’t feature opening acts: 

  • Secret shows: Secret shows are live performance events that are either announced last-minute or restricted to the general public (tickets are usually won via some form of competition). They’re usually done to promote something (such as a brand, recorded album or an upcoming tour). Secret shows almost-never feature an opening act, instead opting for a brief set from the featured artist. 
  • Album launches: Whilst some album launch shows will feature opening acts, many will opt for a meet & greet or signing with the featured artist. Opening acts usually won’t be used in favor of a signing or meet & greet session.
  • Co-headline concerts: Occasionally, two established bands or artists will tour with each other as co-headliners, taking it in turns to play first. Whilst one band or artist will play before the other, they’re both considered headline acts. This means their set times will usually be of a similar length and the audience will likely know their material. 

 

Do Opening Acts Get Paid?

When supporting an established artist, the opening act will almost-certainly be paid a fee. The fee can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of the artist they’re supporting. 

 

However, there’s also a controversial practice in the industry called pay-to-play. This is where a smaller act pays a more-established one to be their opening act. Whilst this can be an effective way of building a following, it’s very controversial and is generally avoided by established acts. 

 

How Are Opening Acts Chosen?

There are several criteria for choosing an opening act:

  • Relationship to the featured artist: As previously mentioned, opening acts are usually part of the same label/promotions/management roster as the featured artist. If the featured artist is able to choose their own opening acts for a concert, they’ll generally choose an act their fans of or friends with. 
  • Size: Opening acts are almost-always less-established than the featured artist. Therefore, they get the benefit of building their following (which subsequently increases their income). 
  • Genre: Opening acts will usually be required to play a similar style of music to the featured artist (otherwise the crowd won’t like them!)

 

How Long Do Opening Acts Last? 

On average, each opening act will play for between 30 and 45 minutes.

 

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I founded Indie Panda in mid-2018 to help independent musicians organically grow and develop their projects. I specialize in branding, identity, audience/industry engagement and project logistics.

I have a wealth of experience in both classical and popular music. After taking piano and violin lessons as a child, I went on to play first violin in philharmonic, symphonic and chamber orchestras throughout my adolescence. I began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of 13 and have played in a wide range of bands ever since. At the age of 18, my music received airplay for 30 consecutive days on BBC Radio, which led to an 'in-session' event where I performed live on the radio. I went on to earn a Music/Popular Music BA from the University of Liverpool, where I specialized in popular music performance.

I'm passionate about helping other artists realize the full potential of their talents and abilities through a strong work ethic, coherent project identity and a strong logistical foundation.

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