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Upsetting the Stage: The State of Concert Openers Is in Shambles

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Concert season (and subsequently, “Oh shoot, I need to find a summer job!” season) is upon us in full swing. As we prepare to go home, many of us look for tickets to plan our summers around. Last year was Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, and this year, artists like Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Zach Bryan plan to hit the stage in cities across the United States. 

This past March, my family and I were fortunate enough to see Zach Bryan on his newest tour, The Quittin’ Time Tour. Following the release of his self-titled album, Zach Bryan, the show features new hits and other popular items from his discography. The show also boasts a multitude of other great artists as opening acts, all rotating as he travels. For my show in Newark, New Jersey, I saw Levi Turner and The Middle East for the first time. 

However, it took about five minutes into the opening act to realize just how poor the quality of these performances was. It wasn’t just me who realized it, either. Other concertgoers exchanged uncomfortable, sympathetic glances. At the same time, I received texts from both of my parents: “Everyone is playing a different song” from Dad, and “Really bad lounge music” from Mom. Critics of the year, everybody. 

Like many others, I get excited when I see interesting openers. When I saw Red Hot Chili Peppers last year, I had a chance to see King Princess and The Strokes, both artists who are featured on my Spotify playlists. Again, I was underwhelmed by the terrible sound quality that ruined what could’ve been an incredible performance. The audio was muddy, and it was impossible to hear what the singers were actually saying. 

I did some digging to find out why these accomplished artists suddenly sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. My observations were right. Most opening acts purposefully have lower sound quality because they travel with different crews and have less time to set up and rehearse. Most importantly, they’re mainly set up so as not to blow the main act out of the water.  

It’s poor logic to lower the standard for the openers to highlight the touring artist. If you went to an expensive steakhouse and had a mediocre appetizer, the overall experience wouldn’t be as great as it could’ve been.  

With concerts being as pricey as they are now, I often wonder why artists don’t focus more on refining the quality of their opening acts. Would doing so add to the show’s atmosphere overall or detract from the artist? I posed the question to Her Campus at FSU’s staff, and the consensus was mainly the same: A better opening act makes a show better as a whole. 

Another benefit of a good opening act is that it allows a smaller artist more discovery opportunities. Often, opening acts are strategically paired to fit with the vibe of the artist they’re playing with, and they have one or two well-known songs. Since fans devote time and money to seeing their favorite artists, odds are they will enjoy being able to find new music, too.  

5SOS is a great example of this. This pop-rock boy band found their footing by opening for One Direction’s Where We Are tour. Now, 5SOS has made a name of its own, but it shares a large percentage of its fanbase with One Direction.  

For fans of these smaller artists, this may be the only opportunity to see them in person in a nearby city. When an expensive ticket fails to deliver, everyone — fans or not — is disappointed. 

As tour prices continue to skyrocket, what will the future of opening acts be? Will they improve? Will another form of entertainment replace them? As platforms like TikTok grow and allow smaller artists to be discovered, will opening be as important for gaining success and notoriety? As technology and the music industry as a whole change, the concept and quality of the opening artist must change with it.  

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Jules Johannemann is a staff writer for Her Campus at the Florida State chapter, where she covers lifestyle, culture, and campus life. Her favorite topics to write about are mental health and time management, travel and road trips, food, and campus life as an out-of-state student. Beyond Her Campus, Jules was the editor-in-chief of her high school's literary magazine, which included student artwork, poetry, and prose. She also owns her own small business selling custom sneakers and apparel. Jules is currently a freshman at Florida State University pursuing a degree in Commercial Entrepreneurship. In her free time, Jules enjoys exploring Tallahassee and taking road trips, petting people's dogs, doing anything related to art, and listening to copious amounts of country and 2010s club music. You can probably find her at Lucky Goat or at her sorority house watching Jeopardy.