Support gigs are a great opportunity for upcoming artists to get in touch with new audiences, attract new fans and try out new songs and show-elements.
Depending on the size of the headliner, venue and overall audience turnout, there’s a potential of reaching a huge crowd – and basically collecting a bunch of new supporters. IF you have a good plan, that is. You see, probably 90% of the audience is delighted by a solid support, but many of them are just waiting for the headliner, and their patience is running low.
I’ve collected some creative ideas that should help you make the most out of your support gig – even if the crowd is tough, being prepared can be a real life-saver. So here we go:
1. Humble Intro
I’ve seen many support-acts with huge amounts of attitude, storming the stage and basically trying to outplay the headliner in every possible way. If your set is anything between 20-30 minutes, you will get your chance to burn the house down, believe me.
Try going for a humble intro – nobody knows you. You’re excited and you should be. Vocalize that. Go out, let them know who you are, let them know that you’re humbled to play in such an exhilarating context and that you have massive amounts of respect for them, the headliner and everyone involved.
If you win the hearts, the music will do the rest.
2. Do your field-work
I can’t over-stress how important a great narrative, meaning dynamic flow, is for your support set. Think carefully about how each song and in further consequence the whole tapestry of songs forms an image that represents the bandwidth of your musical output.
If you’re playing a support tour – go ahead and switch things up in the course of several dates. This is your chance to try out how different songs work especially in relation to eachother. Sometimes the loudest song opens up for the most authentic, intimate moment in the whole concert. Read your audience and be super aware of how they react to your music – you won’t get a better field study than that!
3. Name = Brand = Name = Brand
Sometimes I can’t believe how sloppy artists treat the usage of their name and therefore brand. Even if you’re running on a low bugdet – go the extra mile and make sure your name is visible on stage AT ALL TIMES. Be it a standard base-drum typo logo or something fancy like neon-letters, you name it.
Also – drop that name in the course of the set, and don’t feel bad if you think you might have overdone it. Worst scenario: Somebody in the audience goes home and smirks at how often ENTER YOUR NAME HERE dropped his/her name in the course of the set. Bingo – they remembered your name, done deal. Even if they half-heartedly dug your set, you’re comfortably located in their long term memory. (Probably) See you next time!
4. Pump up your social media game and follow up
Support shows have the huge potential of generating some serious social media action, if you play it right.
Be aware that these people, when they go home, are digitally drenched in new stuff, and they are prone to forget about you the second they hit the front door.
So – do your homework: Get together with a targeting expert prior to your gig. Set up a strategy including social media campaign and content creation. Be aware that you will have the chance to produce some high-class imagery and video material. Get into current hype-topics like Facebook live and work out a plan of how you might use those channels.
Important – encourage your fans to produce content around your gigs. Give something back like track snippets etc. Monitor the activity on your channels and try to keep up.
5. Prep-time is key
Aside from getting ready music-wise, there are a bunch of other things like marketing periphery that need planning and especially TIME to get set up.
Try not to underestimate the amount of work that is needed to set up ideal conditions for a successful support tour.
You don’t want to get everything in line just a week before the gigs begin – start early, get the visual stuff ready meaning social media designs and banners, and derive your print-material – if you have any – from that aesthetic.
If you’ve launched a proper album or EP release, you probably know how many miniature gears have to be set in place to set off some waves.