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Why Are Opening Acts for Superstars Losing Money?

While headliners can walk away with $400,000 a night, the opening act may lose money.

The costs of touring have skyrocketed during the last 20 years, cutting into profit margins. Although Eric Mayers, tour manager for My Morning Jacket and other artists, says costs eat up less of an act’s gross as venue size increases, many arena headliners walk away with just $30 pre-tax from every $100 they earn. Jamie Cheek, an entertainment business manager with Nashville-based accounting firm Flood, Bumstead, McCready & McCarthy, says that roughly 40 percent of tour revenue goes to costs, 30 percent to commissions and 30 percent, pretax, to the act. “Pricing tickets is a delicate balance of art and science, says RZO Productions partner Bill Zysblat. “Accurate sales and cost projections are key.” So how does hitting the road break down for different levels of artists? Let’s take a look…

This article first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of Billboard.

Note: All costs listed are typical examples and do not apply specifically to the artists cited.