Opening in reality offers big breaks
A new show gives unknowns a chance to share with the stars, writes
YOU’RE a struggling US musician, then one day you’re invited to be the opening act for Lady Gaga at a concert in Australia. And it’s not a joke.
Elevating an unknown artist into the realm of the rock’n’roll world is the basis of the reality television show Opening Act, which starts on E! on September 25.
Behind it is Englishman Nigel Lythgoe, who produced Pop Idol and American Idol, as well as being a creator of So You Think You Can Dance.
Unlike other reality talent quests, this one has no voting, no auditions, no soppy back story and no entries permitted.
It’s the show where the winner is announced at the start and the selected artist or artists have just five days to get it together for their big break.
Lythgoe and his development team, which includes Grammy winner Mary J. Blige, Antonina Armato, Pete Wentz and Martina McBride, sift through countless YouTube clips to find suitable acts to open concerts for some of the biggest names in the music industry. The artist is then popped the question.
‘‘There is just five days between when we knock on their door and say ‘you are very good’ in your front room but in five days time we are flying you to Australia to open for Lady Gaga,’’ Lythgoe says.
‘‘Most of those five days is taken up with the flight in the first place.’’
Among the artists Lythgoe must find opening acts for are Rod Stewart, Lady Gaga, for her recent tour in Australia, LMFAO and Jason Mraz.
Yet finding someone suitable on YouTube is a far cry from meeting them in person: Says Lythgoe: ‘‘One group, Joy Island, are what we call a real rock’n’roll party band, and they start drinking when they wake up.
‘‘When you look at someone on the internet you don’t know that’s what they’re like and we had to kick their a--e and say ‘you have to knuckle down here’.
‘‘We didn’t know the kid who opened for Gaga was a Jehovah’s Witness and his mum was dead against it. We opened up Pandora’s box and that is what makes intriguing television.’’
The experience is invaluable for the young artists who can boast about their experience and use it as a selling point down the track.
However, all of those chosen went through an emotional rollercoaster, from the high of being chosen to the low of doubting their capabilities, Lythgoe says.
‘‘You always have to remember the opening act is always the worst place to be because 50 per cent of the audience is out having a drink and the other 50 per cent never came to see you in the first place.
‘‘Every single act they play for was once an opening act for someone else when they started so it’s them (Lady Gaga, Stewart and the likes) believing they are giving back to the industry.’’
Lady Gaga and Nigel Lythgoe.