One of the most diverse and multifaceted jobs in the music industry is that of the tour manager. As the person responsible for making sure everything on tour runs smoothly, this position may seem daunting, and it is not for the timid. But, for the right candidate, this can be a very rewarding, unforgettable job. The tasks performed by a tour manager are extremely diverse, and vary from band to band. One tour manager I spoke to described her duties as: “Basically, my job was to manage the band on the road. Anything from babysitting them, making sure they got to their press on time, dealing with managers of clubs, collecting money, handling promotion, driving, finding hotels, and making sure the rooms were ready for us; you do a bit of everything. Also, with smaller bands, I would set up the merchandise, so doing inventory before and after – just taking care of selling their stuff.”
Before we get too far into what the job entails, we should actually discuss getting the gig in the first place. Again, this varies from person to person, but everyone agrees that amazing networking skills are the single greatest asset an aspiring tour manager can have. Speaking from experience: “It all started just with local bands. I went to a show, in my hometown, for a local band that I was friends with. They ended up doing a show with My Chemical Romance, before they were signed, and I had kept in contact with them, so they hooked me up when they were going on tour. Networking is key, though; if you don’t know people in the industry, you can’t be a tour manager.”
Once you’ve landed the job, get ready for the real fun and excitement to begin. Travel is going to be your new middle name, for the next few months. While seeing new cities, meeting new people, and watching amazing shows every night are definitely some of the perks of the job, don’t forget you’re there to work. The band may go out partying after a show, but keep in mind you’re the one who has to be responsible and get them all up and moving, come morning. I asked one tour manager what the most challenging aspect of the job is: “Being on the road for that long of a time, especially, with smaller bands. Being in a cramped van with no privacy, and being away for long periods of time. It’s survivalism, bare necessities, you shower when you can. But on the flip side, that’s my favorite part: seeing different cities and being able to go see good live music every night.”
As far as the economy goes, tour managers need not worry. As long as bands keep on making and performing music, and people keep on listening, then this is one industry that won’t suffer. As one tour manager puts it: “A friend of mine just got into tour managing, and she picked something up pretty fast. Bands are still touring so there’s still a need for it, the same if not more.”
What’s the best advice for all the up and coming tour managers out there?
“Have a passion for it, you can’t do this job without complete passion and hard work. You can always learn along the way. Start as an assistant or merchandise person. With small bands, you’re learning with them, so it’s a nice learning curve you have together. So networking skills are key. Get to know your local bands, go to shows and start talking to people.”