by Tef Poe
Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis City. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His newest project War Machine 2 was released on June 5th and will be followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For The Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get War Machine 2 here. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get War Machine 2 here.
When a promoter brings a large act to town or throws a large concert, naturally everyone wants to cast their bid to become the opening act. This gives indie artists the chance to showcase their talent in front of a potentially larger audience. The problem is, from the lens of the promoter very few openers offer any incentive to book them. I do 90% of my own booking, meaning I call the venue, pay for the venue out of my own pocket, along with paying for the sound man and DJ out of my own expenses. I handle the promotion and marketing of the show from my own personal budget as well. If I push the show with maximum strength and coordination it will most likely do solid numbers. When it comes to throwing concerts, consistency is the key. Fans want to spend their hard-earned money appropriately.
No one wants to gamble with their social life and spend their valued free time at a horrible event. As an opening act, if you don't add incentive to the show then I honestly don't need you on the bill. With or without your presence, the show will be a success. For the most part adding an opener adds stress -- this isn't the business of giving people a shot, this is the business of entertaining the faithful listeners. I decided to blog about this because I feel as if I can help shift the paradigm connected to these situations for indie artists. Reality Check: A concert is a total waste of time and energy if you're not building your brand prior to touching the stage. This means if you're not actively working day by day to gain fans and persuade people to believe in your music, adding you to a show is pointless. You can't show up to a concert and assume the fans that came to see the headliner will be there to see you.
Consider this scenario: You get booked to open a show and you draw twenty to the audience. This isn't even enough paid admissions to cover the cost of the soundman for the evening. Your performance isn't the greatest because you're a new artist and you haven't rehearsed or performed enough to master your routine. Let's be honest, you're still in your growing stages and compared to the headlining act, you suck.
This doesn't mean your music is bad; it just means your concert attendance draw from your fanbase is pretty nonexistent and your actual performance isn't money in the bank yet either. We've all been there, and it takes time to work the kinks out. The least you can do in this scenario is promote the show to everyone possible -- tell your friends, family, Uncles, Cousins, etc. The more bodies in the building during your set, the more memorable your act will be. Especially if the show is out of town, this is common sense -- we all have to crawl before we walk. You're not going to hit a totally brand new city like a lighting bolt, you just need to make sure your performance is as proper as it can be. This will be your calling card to come back and rock future shows in this city. The truth is, too many opening acts add absolutely nothing to the bill.
As a promoter, if I can't feel the impact you'll add to the bill, I seriously don't need you on the show. So many artists approach me and say "Hey you gotta put me on one of these shows." Well heres a secret -- you don't need me, you can hop on Google and find the venue's booking phone number, call the owner, email the owner, book the venue, call a graphic designer, pay for the flyer graphics, log onto Facebook, hit the streets and start promoting the show. I have always booked myself. If I accept a booking from someone else they need to pay me for my efforts, because without them I can book my own shows and score the money I think I'm worth for my time onstage.
For the love of God, I don't understand why more local artists don't do this. I don't own the Gramophone -- you can call them with ease and arrange a show. This is a business, so have your goals outlined in advance if you hope to be taken seriously. What are you bringing to the overall value of the show? Why does Jay-Z need Tef Poe as an opening act when his concerts will sell out regardless? If I am added to a show of this magnitude, the least I can do is promote it with class and attempt to draw more than 20-30 people. If I can't get on this bill as an opener that's fine because I'll book my own shows and continually expand my fanbase until my time to shine comes. If I am somehow selected to be an opener on a show of this magnitude then I need to bring everything I have to the table and leave the highest impression possible on the promoter and the audience.
Long story short, no one wants to book a part-time rapper as the opening act for an important concert. If you're committed to the craft it will show, and the right people will begin to take heed. If they don't notice then you need to be proactive and do it yourself.