Everyone hates being the opener. Which I can understand to some degree. You’re the first band. That means you are setting the stage for the entire night. It is a lot of pressure. Less people are going to be in the audience to hear you. You are the sound that gets people in the mood for the show to come. Openers are damn important, but not everyone wants to be the opener.
You’re the second band. The opener got on stage and set the tone for the night. They did well and now more people are here. More people are catching your band than the opener but the audience still isn’t full. You’re not upset, or at least that upset. You get through half of your set and more people are coming in. Everyone is going straight to the bar. Why aren’t they playing attention to you? Oh well, you have some in the crowd. They are enjoying you. Focus on them. Engage them.
Third band. Right in the middle. You get the fans of the first two bands, your fans, and the early fans of the fourth and fifth band. Seems lucky doesn’t it? But there is the most traffic during your set. People are moving all around. You have your crowd and all, but people are coming and going. Is this really the best slot?
Fourth. Opener for the headliner. This is the best spot, right? You would think. You got a couple fans from the first and second band but most of them have left. Third bands fans are still mostly here though. Plus your fans. Plus the headliners fans. They look bored though, don’t they? They are just biding their time for the headliner. You’re doing well, the crowd seems to enjoy you but you’re still not happy with what it could have entailed. You saw all of the fans that were there. Much less now.
Headliner. You’ve been here before. You know how this goes. Almost no fans from the first and second band. Check. Maybe half of the third bands fans. Check. Majority of the fourth bands fans. Check. Your fans. Check. You’re ok with it though. All good. No worries. Let’s kill this set.
See the pattern here? Bands one through four are worried about their slots, their crowds, who’s paying attention to them. Headliner knows how this all works. They put in the work and recognize what their fan base will be. Because of this, they headline. They know the way this all works.
Want to headline? Bust your ass. Be realistic.