Dan BG is a musician and songwriter from Ukraine. Dan is currently working on a solo project and has been part of a 4-piece psychedelic-pop band INDT since 2015. The band has played many shows, both as a headlining act and as a support band.
We talked to Dan about his experience opening shows and playing supporting gigs as this interview is designed to help our readers who are emerging musicians and looking to gain experience, exposure and make a living playing supporting or opening gigs. Let us know if you found the interview helpful in the comments!
Hi, Dan, thanks for sitting down with us. How many supporting gigs have you played both as part of your INDT gig or as a solo musician?
Hi Mary! Thanks for having me as well.
Together with INDT we played 5 shows as a support act. We played with world-famous artists Kodaline and JMSN, also Ukrainian local it-artist Pianoboy and our friends from Poland – Young Stadium Club, and with a local band from Kyiv Roll Models. Being a solo musician is currently my next step and it is very early to tell anything about it. Definitely will perform as much as I can, do everything to make it happen.
That's a bold move! We wish you the best of luck. Please tell our readers what’s the most challenging part of being a support act?
Being a support act is always a good idea. You don’t have to take part in the show organization or negotiate with people or managers – you just come and play.
Another thing that usually support artists are not getting paid at all. Moreover, in about 80% of cases promoters cases are trying to save as much money as they can on support acts, just offering them water and a couple of extra tickets. But when you are playing with a cool band in front of a lot of people (which doesn’t happen too often for young artists), you are not thinking about other things in the moment.
The hardest challenge for me as a musician when playing support gigs is the stage set-up. Headliners just leave their instruments on stage and you are not allowed to move them, so you just have to play within the space left, evading obstacles like James Bond.
Hahaha! Let’s go back to the beginning though – how does an emerging musician or band go about booking opening or support gigs?
To be honest, there is no recipe for this. From my experience, there are two ways you can get involved into being a support act:
1. Local promoter knows you personally from music events and parties you’ve been together before.
2. Your band is "it" at the moment and your music perfectly fits the headliner's music, which means the promoter will know you'll attract more people.
Scattered equipment aside, have you ever had any actual conflicts with the headliners or the organizers? Do you have any advice on avoiding that?
We’ve never had any conflicts with the headliners or organizers. It’s easy to avoid conflicts – just be good at your time management and follow the set show timeline you get from the organizers. You’d be surprised how much respect and attention following the timeline religiously brings you from all sides.
Being punctual makes your chances to play again much higher, and can even bring you some surprises. For example, one of the organizers we worked with was so sorry for the headliner band being late and keeping us waiting for our soundcheck that gave us a huge table for all our friends in the VIP area.
Wow, that’s a nice perk! Let’s talk about money. How is the show revenue split when it comes to compensating the support acts? If there is more than one support act, who gets paid more?
Usually, everything is kept secret.
Okay, let’s circle back to the challenges of being a support act. One of the obvious ones is feeling like a secondary act. How does it feel to be playing a crowd that’s only waiting you out before the main act hits the stage? How to cope with the feeling of disappointment if the crowd doesn’t appear very interested in your music?
Support artists sometimes make the mistake of thinking that this is their own show and audience. This is completely wrong.
If you are a support act, show respect. Don’t show the audience you are upset by the lack of attention to you as this is absolutely OK. If the crowd reacts this way, that’s because the vast majority of them haven’t even heard that the show included the support act. Just be yourself. Do your thing and show the audience you really love the music you play and they will feel the same vibe.
How do you think is best to go about selecting the tracks you play as a supporting act? Is it better to contrast the main act or play something in a similar vein?
For sure choosing tracks of the same vibe as the headliner is very important. When we played with Roll Models, who are a pop-punk band, we filled the setlist with our most energetic and loud tracks.
And when playing with JMSN our setlist was more chill and relaxing. I’ve even changed all the synths to the piano and reverbed plucks to make the atmosphere even more beautiful. We had to become actors and show even ourselves we can be calm at our sets.
How would you advise artists to choose the artists to approach for an opening gig? Should they be in the same genre or should artists try to explore different audiences by working with musicians and bands who play in a different style/genre?
When you are an up and coming artist you actually have no CHOICE at all. If a promoter invites you to play with a band that is more popular you can just agree or disagree. But if you are leaning toward disagreeing, think twice – maybe this is your chance to be discovered. Being invited as a support act for a cool artist is almost about luck and being in the right place at the right time. Everything else is up to you.
Sometimes support acts are booked by agents or promoters and the main act don’t even know you personally. Can that be a beneficial situation and result in a smaller act getting a collab opportunity with the bigger band?
Life is an unexpectedly precious thing, anything can happen anytime. You can be Kanye West’s best friend and never get a chance to collab. On the other hand, you can play in a subway pass and be discovered by a top producer. And this is amazing.
Has it ever happened that a bigger band was an opener for a less popular act, during a music festival, for example?
I’d guess it happened a million times. A more interesting situation is when a band who is less popular and plays before a popular band one year, but the next it’s reversed. This year’s Coachella featured Tame Impala as the headliner and Billie Eilish as a less popular artist. But some six months after the line-up announcement Billie Eilish became a worldwide sensation and the closer it got to the festival the weirded it looked.
Do you have any advice to bands and musicians playing their supporting gigs on how to stand out and be memorable to the audience that might be discovering them for the first time?
To play a support gig you have to prepare like it’s for your own solo show. Usually, the quantity of people in the venue is higher than at your own shows, so make sure your setlist is full of cool atmospheric songs, your bandmates look awesome, everything works and everybody knows what to play.
Say your band/artist name clearly from the stage and take some time between the songs to talk about your band and where fans can approach you after the concert. If the hall contains a video board, don’t miss this chance and get your logo out onto the big screen.
Remember – there is no reason to think that such shows are just ‘eh’, these shows are very important to your career and to building your fanbase.
Do supporting acts get a chance to sell their merch on such shows?
Usually, support bands don’t sell their merch during such shows, but it really depends. For example, support artists on tours sell their merch at every show.
When would you say it’s best to decline a supporting gig?
Earlier this year, a local promoter invited us to play with Blue October. We were ready to play, but he told us to provide everything on our rider fully on our own, with all the equipment and not offering any help with this. Moreover, we’ve already played in the same club with a bigger band, so we’ve decided to decline this invitation. Just use your best judgment and weigh all the pros and cons!
Check out Dan's music on Show4me