As a live music geek, I am always interested in the opening act.
Who has the headliner (and their manager) agreed to share the stage with? Why was the act chosen? Is it simply because they are on the same label and somebody owes somebody else a favor? Or do the headliners love the opener’s music?
I always arrive early at the music venue to check out the opener.
Back in April 2009 I caught The Faint at my favorite music venue in the world The Fillmore in San Francisco (apple anyone?). The opening act was Ladytron.
I hadn't heard Ladytron before, but was instantly transfixed by the New Wave style Electropop combined with a high-end dance-club light show. Their sound sort of reminded me of some of my favorite bands from my college days like the B52s but updated.
The next morning I went to iTunes and downloaded several Ladytron albums (yes I support artists by paying for music). I also put Ladytron into my Ticketmaster alert profile so I'd know when they next hit the Boston area.
On Friday night, I finally got to see Ladytron again, this time at The Paradise in Boston, a perfect small club for live music.
The idea of opening acts intrigues me as a marketer. If Ladytron hadn't opened for The Faint, I never would have heard the music and spent money on their art.
Opening acts are smart marketing
There are many other ways that opening acts can be used by marketers. An obvious parallel is in the conference business where an organizer chooses a headliner who will draw a crowd and sell some tickets but they also offer an opportunity for lesser-known speakers to share the stage. When done well, the opening speakers are up and coming presenters who are just as skilled as the headliner with an important message to deliver, but aren’t as well known (yet). When done poorly, the opening speakers are poor presenters but given stage time because they paid a sponsor fee or they’re buddies with the organizer.
Looking at it more broadly, offering someone an opening act slot is an endorsement.
There are many examples of endorsements as a marketing tool. A few that come to mind are product endorsements used in advertising, book jacket endorsements, quotes offered in press releases, references for job applications, the setting up of blind dates, and well-known people serving on high-profile advisory boards. LinkedIn built an entire company on endorsements of business peers.
As with the music world, all of these forms of endorsements work well when the person doing the endorsing truly believe in the product, company, or person they are plugging.
When it is strictly a financial exchange, the entire endorsement system falls apart. If someone simply takes money to endorse a product they do not actually believe in, they diminish their credibility. Do that too many times, and there is no credibility left.
If you are in a position to offer your endorsement, do it carefully. Don't be afraid to say "no." Be extra cautious about taking money for an endorsement.
If you are looking for an endorsement, find someone who people trust. Aim high.
PS. Ladytron's opening act on Friday night was VHS or Beta. Never heard of them before. Now I have. And since Ladytron introduced me, I take the introduction seriously.
DMScott Photo: Ladytron at the Paradise on October 7, 2011.