POSITION: Tour Manager
JOB DESCRIPTION AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The tour manager is responsible for keeping a tour on track. The tour manager coordinates every aspect of the artists tour from transportation (flights, buses, trains), lodging and meals, to accounting, bookings, hiring and firing, and show cancellations (Cordier 9). The manager is like the boss of any other job. On even a small size professional tour there are a handful of crew members needing to be directed in their work. On top of that, all band and crew members must live together in which case the tour manager becomes the mother and father of the touring family. Conflicts arise between crew members and band members that the manager must iron out in order to keep things running smoothly. As much power as the tour manager has, the artist is still in charge and has the ability to fire the manager (Galper 53).
Job opportunities for tour managers are all over the place. The following web sites are great sources to check for employment in the live production field, including tour managing:
Tour managers (also known as TM’s) come from all over the world and no specific region is known to have a plethora of jobs in this area. There are some companies who work as “farms” for record companies to help them find TM’s for up-and-coming bands getting ready to go on tour. Other TM’s come from production companies, theaters, or other production jobs such as sound and lighting (Stark 223).
Tour managers can earn anywhere between $30,000 to $95,000 + for their work on the road (Field 298). However, tours do not last year round much of the time so the artists are not getting paid during this time. TM’s usually get paid on a weekly basis (Braum).
One of the best reasons to become a TM are for the advancement opportunities. Being a tour manager you will make many, many contacts. Tour managers have been known to go to fields such as sound engineering or record producing, venue management, promoters, production management, or even A&R representation for record companies (Stark 225). Many of those who are tour managers don’t do it for very long. Life on the road for many is hard and quickly move on to a more “stay at home” type of job (Galper 196).
RECOMMENDED EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Not very many TM jobs require a formal education. However, most sources lead to a business management degree because, ultimately, a TM is managing a business. Courses in management, accounting, psychology, computers, first aid, and business law can become extremely valuable when working as a TM (Cordier 15). Nobody starts right off as a tour manager. The best place to get experience is becoming involved in some other aspect of the live concert production industry. The person I interviewed used to be a sound engineer before becoming a TM. Others I have met were stage managers or lighting technicians or designers (Braum).
Organization is key when managing a tour. On a medium sized tour the TM has to keep 12-14 people on track on a venture that will last up to three months and span tens of thousands of miles, sometimes including foreign travel. Excellent people, listening, and problem solving skills are essential as well. Tours almost always are on a tight timeline and schedules need to be kept exact. If things run too far behind, the result can be cancelled shows and even legal disputes. As mentioned earlier, good business skills are a must as well.
Those who like to be challenged will succeed as a tour manager. The extroverted type of personality has been common to may tour mangers (Galper 96). Everyday little obstacles will arise that, if not dealt with correctly, can turn into bigger problems later on. Creativity is exercised when solving these problems and many times personal sacrifice is made in order to please others. Managers realize that they are working for the artist and if stress is brought upon the artist, the result could include a poor performance at a show.
EXPERIENCE AND QUALIFICATION
95% percent of the tour managers out there have had previous experience on the road weather it be as a stage hand or bus driver. Good tour managers will also have extensive travel knowledge and be somewhat familiar with the areas they plan on touring through. Any other previous management experience is extremely helpful as well as good technical skills (when it comes to dealing with artists equipment—-where many expensive problems can happen).
CHANGES IN THE PAST DECADE
Record companies are starting to package their tours even more in recent years. It has not become uncommon to have one tour manager for two or even sometimes three artists or acts. This has become the most popular when one major act is touring and two or three up-and-comers are traveling along as support with one tour manager for them. Artists have started to become more involved in the tour management aspect of their road trips. More and more bands are now their own tour managers in order to save money (Galper 253).
Start working as soon as you can! There are concert venues and production companies all over the country and many places will take on interns. Internships, like in many other career fields, are important to get experience in the production field. The types of problems you could run into on the road are endless and could never be taught in school. Experience is the only way to learn you way around them. Other types of experience would include managing a local band and booking shows for them or even starting a band yourself. The more experience around live music you have, the better you chances are.
There is no one area that has an abundance of TM jobs. Major metropolitan areas tend to have more artists in them, hence more tours to manage. In addition to more artists, large cities have many more concert venues and production companies, which are common stepping stones for those wanting to be TM’s.
TYPICAL CAREER PATH
As mentioned earlier, tour managers come from all types of (mostly) production fields. Whether it be lighting, sound, stage techs, or production managers from smaller venues, these TM’s get their start on the smaller scale. Many times their jobs as TM’s get acquired through meeting crew members or the artist themselves. Other times standard acquisition is common (reference, job postings, etc). About 25% of tour managers out on their first pro run make it their last. Most can’t handle life on the road or didn’t really like the job (Angelini 8). Most others work as a TM for a few years, sometimes, longer and eventually end their careers as company managers or cushy corporate music slots.
PROS AND CONS
“Well, you truly do live the rock and roll lifestyle when you do something like this. If you like being on the road, partying, seeing new places, and meeting all kinds of people, you will love doing this, as I do. But for the same reasons, some hate it. You live out of a suitcase for months on end and you can get burnt out real quick living like that. You will SERIOUSLY wake up some days and have no idea what town you are in, what day of the week it is, or even what month it is. Being the tour manager, you have to keep you and your crew in check at all times. I am a good people person so this job works out for me. I have been lucky to have a good crew and fortunate enough to never have any serious problems with any crew yet. The money is good, so I can’t really complain about that. The best part about the job is that I am doing what I love