How Much Do music Opening Acts Get Paid? (A 2020 Guide)


An opening act at music concerts is an entertainment act that performs before the main “headliner.” Opening acts get paid in a few different ways, and the type of deal an act receives depends on the kind of show they are playing. 

When opening for a small music venue (up to 150 people), opening acts receive between $200 and $500. For large venues (up to 1000+ people), opening acts receive between $550 and $1500. Moreover, if a door split deal is present, the opening act gets a percentage of ticket sales.

Let now see HOW opening acts get paid.

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How Do Opening Acts Get Paid? 

There are two popular ways opening acts get paid: 

  1. With a performance guarantee or 
  2. A door-split deal

A performance guarantee means that the music act receives a predetermined amount. A door split deal means that the opening act gets a percentage of the sales. 

However, it’s not uncommon for the opening act to receive no payment at all. Often the promoter/venue is only interested in the main act. Usually, small venues don’t have the budget to also pay the supporting act. Still, the number one benefit the opening act gets is exposure to new fans.

We will now look at how the main act gets paid (headliners). This will help you to better understand how opening acts get paid.

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How Do You Become an Opening Act? 

Okay, now it’s time to talk about how to become an opening act. This is something you need to pay attention to. By opening for a popular band, you can massively increase your exposure, fans, and income. Follow my advice, and you will definitely have an edge compared to all the other bands out there.

In a nutshell: 

  • The headliner tells the booking agent to contact other booking agents asking bands to submit for the tour. If you don’t have a booking agent, don’t panic. You don’t need one. 

In a minute, I will share with you precisely what you ought to do. I will give you the exact steps, but first, I want you to think about your leverage. <- (Hint, this is important).

What Is Your Leverage as an Opening Act?

If a band wants to “make it” they must tour multiple times across the country. This means that once they hit success, the band is not that “new” anymore. That’s why most headliners want an opening act that is lit and fresh. They need to show that they ‘re still in touch with younger audiences.

Headliners often look for support bands that not only compliment them but also create a contrast. For example, a main female singer act may look for a male opening act, or a heavy metal band may look for an alternative/hard rock band.

 As a younger artist, your leverage is that you are still (relatively) new, which adds a sense of coolness to the tour. You probably also have access to younger demographics compared to the headliner. And if you’re in the game for a while, try to think about how to differentiate yourself from the competition. 

Time for the steps 

Follow These Steps to Become a Successful Opening Act

1) Establish an Outstanding Online Musical Presence

The first thing that you need to do is show that you have a good and passionate following. You must be active in social and engage with your fans. Always try to convert them into superfans https://amzn.to/3cPASoX?tag=psu0e-20

2) Get Artistic Exposure

Next, you need to draw attention (in a good way). I’m guessing you already sell merchandise, do tours, and are active on social. These strategies are great, but the problem is that everyone else is doing them, and that leaves you with no edge. 

A great way I have discovered to get added exposure is: Get coverage in music blogs and underground music websites!

I’m not talking here about Rolling Stone magazine and the likes, rather about websites such as 

Also, check out:

The list goes on and on! 

You’ll be surprised how many managers and artists browse blogs like these. Sometimes they even do so actively and purposefully in finding support band candidates. Will that be you?

You can access my massive collections of music resources I have gathered over the years by clicking here. Its gratis (for now) gives you a huge edge and will save you countless hours of searching online.

3) Contact the Headliners (If They Fit Your Musical Style)

Next, contact every band/artist that you believe you have a match with. These can be friends, acquaintances, or even bands that you have previously worked with. 

If you can’t find their contact information or don’t know them personally, you can contact the band management. 

Additionally, check online the band’s tour schedule for upcoming or recently played acts. Approach the venues and see if you can get their contact information. 

Once you establish a connection with the band or management, tell them that you are very familiar with the act. Also, highlight the reasons why your act is the perfect addition to their tour. Of course, you need to do a bit of research now he! 🙂 Get to know the band as your back-pocket. 

4) Send In-Press Material To Impress

Make sure you represent yourself well. When talking to the manager or band members. Offer to send/share press material, CDs and links to your music.

Focus both on the short and long-term benefits since they may not immediately choose you as their support act. Instead, you must develop a relationship, be persistent, and provide updates as you evolve in your career. Give value, be polite, master your craft, and you’ll get your chance. I promise.

5) Focus on Acts That Are Close to Your Current Level and Size

A big-name headliner is unlikely to perform with an act that is just starting out and has very little followers. Don’t focus on acts that fill stadiums when you can barely fit your neighborhood’s bar. 

Even if you can perform next to a much larger act, you won’t be able to take full advantage of the situation. I am talking here marketing-wise and career-wise.

I know that the best strategy is to always focus on bands that are a couple of steps ahead of you. And as you progress with your career, you’ll see that playing for larger acts becomes much more manageable.

6) Contact The Venue

As you’re figuring out where you want to play you noticed that specific venues become important. The problem is that it may be challenging to find a slot if you haven’t previously performed there. A strategy that works is first to find out which acts will play there and identify the ones you’re compatible with. 

Next, contact the booking person and ask them to be considered as the opening act. Have your press material ready to send them in. You can also ask for the act’s management contact information for the case that you need to establish a relationship with them. 

Even if you don’t immediately get booked, don’t get discouraged because if the venue likes your act they might contact you for upcoming performances if the appropriate situation arises. 

7) Try to Get an Introduction from the Main Act

If it’s possible have one of the main acts band members to introduce your opening act. A warm but straightforward introduction will suffice. This is important because the audience is usually more enthusiastic about the support act when they made aware of the respect the main act has for them.

8) The Sound Engineer Is Your Friend

Unless you’re traveling with your own sound engineer the house or the main acts sound engineer is probably the one that will mix your sound. It’s important (if you can) to befriend yourself with the sound engineer to ensure that they will do a good job mixing a sound. Sometimes you have to pay them a little extra what that is money well spent. I

What Do Opening Acts in a Concert Do While the Headliner Performs?

While the headliner performs the opening act does one of the following:

  1. They Stay for the Rest of the Show
  2. They Connect with Fans and Give Interviews
  3. They Sell Merchandise
  4. They Prepare for Their Next Show
  5. Perform with the Headliner
  6. Chill in the Green Room
  7. They Leave

Opening acts are great, but what do they do while the main act is on stage performing? Here is a list of things what opening acts usually do after their performance:

1) During The Show Opening Acts: Stay for the Rest of the Show

Sometimes supporting acts stay and watch the rest of the show. This happens if the opening act has a good relationship with the headliner if they find the main act entertaining or get free drinks from the venue. I personally always recommend that opening acts stay, watch, and learn from the performance of the headliner. 

2) During The Show Opening Acts: Connect with Fans and Give Interviews

Smaller acts are often in need to promote themselves more than the big-name acts. Therefore, after they’re done opening the concert, they might mingle with fans or give interviews to writers. Furthermore, they may give invitations to photographers and videographers to cover the show during and after their performance.

3) During The Show Opening Acts: Sell Merchandise

For many bands selling merchandise is a significant stream of income. One of the reasons being is that CD sales have dropped significantly since the rise of streaming platforms. Often small bands operated without the support staff to help them sell merchandise, meaning that they DIY almost everything. This is not the case with big-name bands who have a whole crew readily available. 

4) During The Show Opening Acts: Prepare for Their Next Show

Sometimes the opening act gets asked to follow the main act on tour. If that’s the case, after the supporting act has done performing, it will almost always load and safely store away their gear and instruments. 

At large scale concerts, the venue staff will often handle the loading/unloading, but even then, the presence of the band may be sometimes required.

5) During The Show Opening Acts: Perform with the Headliner

This is rare, but sometimes the headliner invites the opening act on stage to perform a few songs together. This usually happens towards the end of the concert.

6) During The Show Opening Acts: Chill in the Green Room

In show business, the green room functions as a backstage waiting room. In there, the music act can chill before or after the performance. Usually, the venue supplies the green room with food and drinks free of charge. The greenroom is also a great place to hang out with the promoters, management, and build connections.

During The Show Opening Acts: Leave

Often the supporting act will simply leave after their performance since there is no reason for them hanging around. This often happens at small venues or on tours since they need to reach their next location as soon as possible and usually leave before the shows over. In other cases, the supporting act may simply go into town, have some dinner, or simply crash the after-party early.

BONUS SECTION:

How Do Main Music Acts (Artists and Bands) Get Paid?

The six popular ways music opening acts get paid are:

  1. A Performance Guarantee
  2. A Guarantee plus bonuses
  3. A Door Deal
  4. A zero guarantee versus a gross deal percentage
  5. A Guarantee Versus Gross Deal Percentage
  6. A Promoter Profit Deal

What Is a Performance Guarantee in Music?

With a performance guarantee, the music act receives a set amount agreed upon between the act and the venue. These types of deals are usually accepted at larger shows. 

This Is How a Performance Guarantee Works

When agreeing to perform with a performance guarantee, you receive a specific amount you have previously agreed upon with the venue/promoter. You will receive this fee even if no one shows up. That is what a guarantee is.

NOTE: Often, new acts that are less known don’t receive a guarantee. These acts are called high-risk cases.

What Is a Guarantee Plus Bonuses in Music??

With a guarantee plus bonuses, the music act receives a set amount agreed upon between the act and the venue plus bonuses. For example, the act may receive a $3000 guarantee plus $500 bonuses at 600, 700, and 800 tickets sold.

A guarantee plus bonuses mean that the artist receives their money guarantee no matter what. Even if zero people show up, the act will get their guarantee.

Then there is the possibility of the added bonus(es).

Guarantee Plus Bonuses Example:

In this example, the guarantee is set at $3000. Furthermore, there are three bonuses set. Each bonus is fixed at $500 for every additional 100 tickets sold.

  • Gurantee: 0-599 tickets = $3000
  • Bonus 1: 600 – 699 tickets = $500
  • Bonus 2: 700 – 799 tickets = $500
  • Bonus 3: 800 (sold-out) tickets = $500

Note: The last bonus (bonus 3) is a sold-out bonus. This means that if more than 800 people show up, the artist will not receive any additional money.

Next, we have door deals. 🙂

What Is a Door Deal in Music?

Door-split deals are typical in small venues. Here, the music act’s payment is directly tied to the audience’s size. The act gets a percentage (between 50% – 95%) of the sales after-expenses and state sales tax. These expenses typically are for the security, audio engineer, and door person.

This Is How Door Split Deals Work

As we just saw with door-split deals, the band’s payment is directly connected to the size of the audience. 

These types of deals are popular amongst new acts because they are at low risk for the venue owner. Meaning that if you book to play as an opening (or primary) act and not a lot of people show up, the venue owner is less likely to be annoyed since they don’t have to pay you a hefty sum for performing there.

Door Deal Example

These are the steps:

  1. First, I’m going to figure out the percentage the artist gets and the total GBOR (Gross Box Office Receipts). The Gross Box Office Receipts is the total dollar amount made before sales taxes and is calculated by the combined income of the pre-sale and day of show (DOS) tickets. 
  2. Next, I will deduct the sales tax from the GBOR. That gives me the NBOR (Nett Box Office Receipts).
  3. Finally, I’ll deduct the expenses from the NBOR and calculate the percentage the artist gets.

Here Goes the Example:

In this example, the rate of the act is set at 80%. The expenses are set at $300. The pre-sale and “day of show” ticket prices are set at $8 and $10, respectively. The sales tax is set at 6.5%.

In a nutshell: Our act will receive 80% of the NBOR. After the $300 for expenses and the sales tax are deducted.

  1. The venue’s ticket prices are $8 pre-sale and $10 DOS (Day Of Show).
  2. We know that the venue sold 100 pre-sale tickets (100 x $8=$800) and 100 DOS tickets (100 x $10=$1000), bringing a total of $1800 GBOR (Gross Box Office Receipts).
  3. Now I’ll deduct the sales tax. 

(Note: use the propper sales tax of your country/state.) For this example, I use a 6.5% sales tax.

  1. Beware that the sales tax is already included in the ticket price. Therefore we have to divide the GBOR with the sales tax percentage. Thus, $1800 divided by 1.065 gives us $1.690 NBOR. ($1800/1.065= $1.690 NBOR). Always include a “1” when dividing the GBOR and sales tax.
  2. Deducting the expenses from the $1.690, which, in this case, is $300, leaves us with $1.390.
  3. To calculate the 80%, the artist gets I multiplied the $1.390 NBOR with the 80% ($1.390 x 0.80=$1.112). Thus the artist will get $1.112 net.

Door Split Deals: The (Huge) Benefits

By agreeing to perform by a split deal, you’re likely to get more gigs, get more exposure, and earn new fans. It’s critical to think long term and not focus only on short-term benefits. 

Imagine what it would do to your career if, within 12 months, you could perform next to four or five popular acts. If you play your cards right, do some (good) self-promotion, social media teasing, and connect with the right people. The exposure benefits can be massive.

Door Split Deals: The Downsides

The downside of a door split deal? – Money. 

If you don’t have a guaranteed payout, it can be hard to decide if it’s worth playing at a show. At times bands will run a loss when agreeing on a door split deal. The cost of operations (transportation, etc.) can run higher than their final payment. This happened when the venue did not correctly promote the concert. It also happens if the band is not that big yet.

Furthermore, when agreeing on a door-split deal, the band must watch the door sales. Don’t rely only on the venue’s honesty. 

Next, we have Zero Guarantees versus Gross Deal Percentage.

What Is a Zero Guarantee Versus Gross Deal Percentage?

A zero guarantee versus a gross deal percentage means that: the music act receives a percentage of the GBOR (Gross Box Office Receipts) after sales tax and ticket facility fees are deducted.

These types of deals are a risk for both the promoter and the music act. Both parties have their own expenses, which they cover out of their end of the agreement.

Zero Guarantee Versus Gross Deal Example

These are the steps:

  1. First, I’m going to figure out the percentage the artist gets and the total GBOR (Gross Box Office Receipts). The Gross Box Office Receipts is the total dollar amount that is made before sales taxes and is calculated by the combined income of the pre-sale and day of show (DOS) tickets. 
  2. Then I will adjust the facility fee (FF) per ticket.
  3. After that, I deduct the sales tax from the GBOR. That gives me the NBOR (Nett Box Office Receipts).
  4. Lastly, I’ll deduct the expenses from the NBOR and calculate the percentage the artist gets.

Here goes the example:

In this example, the rate of the act is set at 80%. The facility fee is set at $1 per ticket. The pre-sale and “day of show” ticket prices are set at $8 and $10, respectively. The sales tax is set at 6.5%.

  1. The venue’s ticket prices are $8 pre-sale and $10 DOS (Day Of Show).
  2. We know that the venue sold 100 pre-sale tickets (100 x $8=$800) and 100 DOS tickets (100x$10=$1000). These two hundred tickets bring in a total of $1800 GBOR (Gross Box Office Receipts).
  3. I will now adjust the gross with the facility fee. In this example, the facility fee is set at $1 per ticket totaling $200. (200 tickets sold x $1 = $200 facility fee.) Thus $1800 – $200 = $1600.
  4. Time for the NBOR. In our case the sales tax is 6.5%. Beware that the sales tax is already included in the ticket price. Therefore we have to divide the GBOR with the sales tax percentage. 

Thus, $1600 divided by 1.065 gives us $1.502 NBOR. ($1600/1.065= $1.502). 

(Always include a “1” when dividing GBOR and sales tax.)

The $1502 is the net amount, but we still need to calculate the percentage (80%) the act will get.

  1. Now, to calculate the 80%, the artist gets I multiplied the $1.502 NBOR with the 80% ($1.502 x 0.80=$1.202). Therefore the artist gets $1.202 net.

What Is A Guarantee Versus Gross Deal Percentage?

With a guarantee versus a gross deal percentage (AKA greater than deal), the music act gets either the guarantee or a percentage of the gross Net Box Office. Only sales tax and adjustment to the gross deductions are applied. Adjustments include facility, charity fee, meet & greet, album downloads.

A guarantee versus gross deal percentage deal is one of the best options for music acts; because no expenses are deducted (see the “door deal” example above).

This type of deal is also referred to as “greater than” deal because the artist gets either the guarantee or the percentage. It depends on which one is greater. Sometimes there is even a bonus added if the act sells a lot of tickets.

Guarantee Versus Gross Deal Percentage Example

These are the steps:

  1. First, I’m going to figure out the percentage the artist gets and the total GBOR (Gross Box Office Receipts). The Gross Box Office Receipts is the total dollar amount that is made before sales taxes and is calculated by the combined income of the pre-sale and day of show (DOS) tickets. 
  2. After that, I deduct the sales tax from the GBOR. That gives me the NBOR (Net Box Office Receipts).
  3. Finally, I’ll deduct the expenses from the NBOR and calculate the percentage the artist receives.

Here is the example:

In this example, the rate of the act is set at 70%. The pre-sale and “day of show” ticket prices are set at $8 and $10, respectively. The sales tax is set at 6.5%.

  1. The venue’s ticket prices are $8 pre-sale and $10 DOS (Day Of Show).
  2. We know that the venue sold 100 pre-sale tickets (100 x $8=$800) and 100 DOS tickets (100x$10=$1000). These two hundred tickets bring in a total of $1800 GBOR (Gross Box Office Receipts).
  3. The sales tax is 6.5% (every country or state may have a different sales tax). Beware that the sales tax is already included in the ticket price. Therefore we have to divide the GBOR with the sales tax percentage. Thus, $1800 divided by 1.065 gives us $1.690 NBOR. ($1800/1.065= $1.690). 

(Always include a “1” when dividing GBOR and sales tax.)

The $1.690 is the net amount, but we still need to calculate the percentage (80%) the act will get.

  1. To calculate the 70%, the artist receives, I multiplied the $1690 NBOR with the 70% ($1.690 x 0.80=$1.352). Thus the artist will get a $1.352 net.

What Is A Promoter Profit Deal?

In a Promoter Profit Deal (AKA split/point deal), the promoter’s profit is added as an expense to the act. These types of expenses are referred to as “C.” A term promoters use to describe all the costs, the act has to pay, including:

  1. Security
  2. Marketing
  3. Production
  4. Support (opening act)
  5. Box office
  6. Parking
  7. Hospitality

Promoter Profit Deal Example

These are the steps:

  1. First, add up all the ticket sales to calculate the Gross Box Office Receipts (GBOR).
  2. Figure out the facility fee (FF). Do that by multiplying the total amount of tickets sold with the facility fee.
  3. Next, adjust the gross with the facility fee. You want to subtract the Gross Facility Fee from the GBOR. This gives us the adjusted gross.
  4. After that, deduct the sales tax from the GBOR. That gives us the NBOR (Net Box Office Receipts).
  5. Your next step is to calculate the total number of expenses.
  6. Calculate the promoter profit amount.
  7. Now it’s time to figure out our “split point.” In other words, at what point of the deal will the act will receive their bonus (if any).
  8. Next, calculate how much money is left to share between the promoter and the act.
  9. Time to determine the artist bonus.
  10. In this step, you will figure out the final payment the artist receives (total artist pay). And you’re done! 🙂

Here is the example:

In this example, the act’s guarantee is set at $4.000 + 80% of net after expenses. The pre-sale and “day of show” ticket prices are set at $30 and $35, respectively. The facility fee is $1 per ticket. The sales tax is set at 6.5%. The promoter’s profit is %15. And the promoter’s expenses are set at $3.500. 

In this example promoter expenses include:

  • Security = $450
  • Production = $1,200
  • Support Act = $300
  • Hospitality = $200
  • Rental Fee = $1500

A total of = $3,650

Here is the example:

  1. The venue’s ticket prices are $30 pre-sale and $35 DOS (Day Of Show). We know that the venue sold 1000 pre-sale tickets (1000 x $30=$30,000) and 500 DOS tickets (500x$35=$17,500). These one thousand five hundred tickets brought in a total of $47,500 GBOR (Gross Box Office Receipts).
  2. To find the total facility fee, we must multiply the total number of tickets sold (1500) with the facility fee ($1). Thus the facility fee is $1500
  3. I will now adjust the gross with the facility fee. In this example, the facility fee is set at $1 per ticket totaling $1,500. (1500 tickets sold x $1 = $1,500 facility fee.) Thus $47,500 – $1,500 = $46,000.

NOTE: If you have a meet & greet, you want to treat that as an adjustment and, therefore, deduct it from the GBOR. Other adjustments can include “charity fee” or “download fee”.

4) Now I’ll deduct the sales tax from the GBOR. That gives me the NBOR (Net Box Office Receipts). The sales tax is 6.5% (every country or state may have a different sales tax). 

Beware that the sales tax is already included in the ticket price. Therefore we have to divide the GBOR with the sales tax percentage. 

Thus, $46.000 divided by 1.065 gives us $43,193 NBOR. ($46.000/1.065= $43,193). 

(Always include a “1” when dividing GBOR and sales tax.)

5) Remember the promoters “house nut,” the guarantee, and the promoters profit we mentioned before? During this step, we’re going to figure out the total amount of expenses.

  • House nut = $3,650
  • Artist Gurantee = $4,000
  • Promoter’s profit = %15

Thus, 3,650 + 4,000 = $7,650 (total expenses).

6) Then we need to find out the promoter profit amount. So take the total expenses ($7,650) and multiply it with the promoter’s profit (15%).

  • Thus, $7,650 x 0.15 = $1,147.5 This is the promoter’s profit presentage.

7) Time for the “split point.” The way to figure out the split point is by taking the total expenses ($7,650) and adding it to the promoter profit ($1,147.5) = $8,797.5 (split point).

($7,650+1,147.5=8,797.5

8) Next, we will calculate how much money is left to share. We have to calculate the percentage the artist gets. We do this by taking the NBOR ($43,193) and subtracting it from the split point ($8,797.5) = $34,395.5 (money left to share between the act and the promoter).

($43,193 – 8,797.5= $34,395.5)

9) Now for the artist bonus! We take the share amount ($34,395.5) and multiply it with the acts guarantee (80%). 

$34,395.5 x .80 =$27,516.4 (artist bonus).

Next, we have the artist pay.

10) The artist pay equals to guarantee ($4.000) + bonus ($27,516.4) = $31,516.4 (total artist pay)

This means that the artist will receive a total of $31,516.4. Not bad for one day’s job, won’t you agree? 🙂

Pheww, that was A LOT of math! Re-read it if you have to, to fully understand how these deals work.

Let’s now transition to the rest of the article. Our next subject is…

BONUS 2:

How Long Do Opening Acts Play? 

Opening acts play between 40 and 90 minutes. It’s often seen that the main act comes on at least an hour after the stipulated time. Also most pop main acts will perform for about 90 minutes.

Why Do Concerts Have Opening Acts? 

Concerts have opening acts because

1) Chances are a bigger audience will show up for two acts compared to just one.

2) Both the opening and the main act benefit from the mixture of fans. Since playing an opening act is a great way to get more fans and establish connections.

3) The opening act warms up the audience. This is beneficial to the main act.

4) When more than one bands are playing, the venue itself has more time and a higher chance of selling (overpriced) food and beverages.

5) As a fan, when you go to a concert were more than one-acts perform, you feel you’ve got your money’s worth. Personally, I always expect to see at least one support act before the headliner.

6) Opening acts are a great way to discover new bands! As an example, last year I went to a Metallica concert. There I discovered the band Ghost which became a big fan of!

Thank you for reading this guide! Please scroll down to explore my latest articles. 🙂

See you around!

Mark,

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