August 16, 2013

Starving musician? Too bad. That’ll be $31,000 for your first big break.

A few days ago I treated you to a bit of intel from the boy-band universe—specifically, how much 5 Seconds of Summer likely will make as the opening act for One Direction’s current world tour. 

Short version: The fledgling Aussie band will likely pocket zero dollars and just as many cents, not counting per diems and free rides to morning radio jammity jam shows.

I’ve since learned even more about the opening-act business. As it turns out, by simply working for free, 5 Seconds of Summer may actually be pretty lucky. Because get this: Other acts—big acts, major acts—actually charge other bands for the privilege of opening for them on tour.

Example? Sure. Here’s a blind item that comes courtesy of a loyal listener. This spy recently worked with a rising singer who wanted to open for a major British pop act.

“The opener had to pay a five-figure sum to get the opening slot," my insider says. "She didn't get any money. She brought her own crew.”

As for how big this headline act is, put it this way: If you’re under 30 and know your reality TV and your manufactured tween-hero groups, then you’ve heard of these headliners.

So. How much did the opener have to shell out?

“There was a bidding war as to who would open, basically whoever could pay more to the main act’s label,” my source says. 

“It was £20K”—the equivalent of more than $31,000—”to get on board with the tour.” 

And the opener had to pay for all of her own expenses: travel, sound, makeup, backup band, the works.

But... but... the opener got to sell plenty of merch, right? Enough to make up the costs? And surely the opening act made plenty of nice contacts and other friends in the biz, right?


“We were barely in contact with the other band, different eating times.... But they were sort of nice,” I am told.

“We worked our butts off. When our girl was on stage—not the whole stage, mind you, just the front part, because the whole stage was just for the main band—we handed out merch bags, which we got in trouble for, as we weren't promoting the 'main' band. But we argued our way out of it. 

“Our sound guy often battled with the other sound crew because they didn't want to give us enough channels. On more than two occasions I think our act had to lip sync because of that attitude.”

So, yeah. A win-win for... somebody.

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