Buying on to a tour
September 9, 2008 11:03 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have advice/experience on how to go about "buying" on to another bands tour as a support act?

I understand that sometimes a band that is on tour will (for a sum of money) make available support slots in particular regions. Would the proposition go to the band, the booking agency or the promoter? It seems like if it's being booked as a package deal (in my example for more than one show, covering multi-cities) it would go to either the band or the booking agency. But I'm not sure...thoughts?
posted by lowlight to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, I've toured and opened for some pretty big acts back in the day (10 years ago) and have never, ever heard of having to pay. We had to haul our own gear and drive around in a crappy van while the headliner flew or drove in big fancy tour buses, but we never had to pay them. If that's how you kids do it now, then I'm glad I got out of the touring rock band thing when I did.
posted by Echidna882003 at 11:47 PM on September 9, 2008

I just realized that I commented but had nothing to add as far as an answer was concerned, so I apologize for that! I really hope you don't have to end up paying for the shot at an opening slot...
posted by Echidna882003 at 11:53 PM on September 9, 2008

In the first instance, I'd approach the band's management, or the Tour Manager, if they're not the same person. It's unusual to pay for a support slot - in general bands are invited - so don't be surprised if you're (summarily) rebuffed when you make an approach.
posted by benzo8 at 11:58 PM on September 9, 2008

My advice would be not to "buy" a support slot at all. I agree with Tremspeed, really - I've never, ever heard of such a thing, and it smells like a scam to me. Where did you hear about this? Even if it's not a scam, and you were to successfully "buy" a supporting slot on a tour, how do you imagine that would be better than touring with a lesser known act, or setting up a tour yourselves? I know you want the exposure, but I can assure you you would get very little respect or support from an act if you purchased your spot on the bill.

Instead, you, or your manager or booking agent should make an effort to build up a good relationship with venues in your area that book the sort of band you would like to play with. If you see that a band you would like to open for is coming, approach the booking agent at the venue and ask if that band is using any local support. Let the band's management know that you are available to tour as a support act. It helps a great deal if your act has some experience touring independently, and even more if you happen to be labelmates with the band.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:14 AM on September 10, 2008

This actually does happen, but generally it's on a massive sort of scale, where a band's label will put up the money to "defray" expenses for the headliner - think Hannah Montana or Tina Turner comeback level stuff. Like the others above, I've never heard of it happening on a lower scale.

These days, I suppose one could approach the band and say, we'll pay you "x" for each show we play and we will not ask for any money at shows; if it were a cool small band who'd lose money on tour and you were a decent enough band, they might welcome it. But it's kind of a pathetic thing to do, and I would think word of it would travel fast. Frankly, if you need to resort to this, it doesn't say much for your band.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:37 AM on September 10, 2008

As Dee Xtrovert says, "buy ons" are typically only associated with big shows i.e. stadiums, etc. I don't think they really exist on the indie level.
posted by gfrobe at 2:47 AM on September 10, 2008

First, the answer you're looking for:

Usually you talk to the touring manager/band manager/lead singer/whoever looks like they're in charge, as this is an under the table deal, and the point is to get straight cash that doesn't have to be cut up between booking agents, etc.

Now, the advice:

DO NOT DO THIS. This kind of thing does happen on the indie level, but it is by far the clearest indication that this band or this promoter is someone who fucks over people on a regular basis and thus is someone YOU SHOULD AVOID.

Paying someone for an opening slot doesn't guarantee a damn thing. Once they have your money they can do whatever they want, and half the time that means ignoring you and promising someone else the slot for a little money... What are you going to do if that happens? Insist that they follow through with your bribe? A promoter or a venue doing this is even worse, as they can exert even more influence over the show, take your money, and shut you out of more than just that one gig.

I realize that it's a dream come true for your band to be able to open for Awesome Band You Idolize, but paying for an opening slot isn't going to get you any of the respect or audience that you're actually looking for. I've seen a lot of people get screwed by this, or by other people doing this. (Turns out the opening slot you paid for bumps out the opening slot of the person Headliner is actually on tour with. Looks like you've made some enemies!) This is a bad situation that breeds more bad situations. Avoid it.

Better yet, work on your own music. Work on your own promotion. If you can consistently bring audiences out (and you don't suck) then these doors will open up for you anyhow.
posted by greenland at 10:37 AM on September 10, 2008

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