Life on tour without an advance person isn’t pretty; imagine booking a luxury vacation online, only to realize when you arrive that the photos of the “five-star” resort have dramatically misrepresented its dilapidated state. The advance person on a touring theatrical production or concert is hired by the production company to scope out each city and event location before the arrival of the cast and crew to ensure that all facilities and accommodations are as promised.
Several days or even weeks before the buses and trucks pull into town, the advance person visits the host city and meets with the venue manager, show promoter, and other local representatives involved in the event to ensure that logistical matters are in order. This includes seeing that all appropriate press outlets have been alerted, publicity materials have been distributed, and a minimum amount of tickets have been sold as per the artist’s contract. At the venue, the advance person will identify and document technical specifications like loading dock access, power hookups, rigging points, and stage measurements. He or she must also see that the dressing rooms and backstage areas are adequate to accommodate the requests in the artist’s rider, and that the necessary amenities as required by union crew contracts are present. The information is compiled with photos of the venue facilities and any necessary contract signatures and sent back to the tour manager, company manager, or other production manager.
In addition to concerns about publicity and the venue location, the advance person must also gather information on the surrounding area, including hotel accommodations, local transportation, restaurants, emergency services, equipment rental services, shopping, and nearby points of interest. On tours that put down for three or more days, the cast and crew may have a day off to explore, and they rely on the advance person’s information to find places to go and things to do.
Skills & Education
There is no formal education to prepare you for work as an advance person, but this position requires an individual who is highly organized, self-motivated, and has a meticulous attention to detail. Experience in advertising or promotion is helpful, as is previous work as a company manager on a touring production, or assistant to a tour manager. A college degree in show production, entertainment business, or music business is recommended, but not required.
What to Expect
It can be lonely out on the road—especially for the advance person, who travels alone via rental car. This person is given an expense account to cover meals, gas, and hotel accommodations, and must provide receipts for all purchases. The advance person must check in regularly with the tour manager and production company footing the bill, but does not clock in at an office like other 9-to-5-ers. In fact, this gig demands highly irregular hours and long periods away from home. Because there is no standard path to this freelance career, it may be difficult to locate work. Networking is your best strategy; you can try putting the word out to bands and musicians with whom you have contacts, or you can seek to move up to this role after experience in a management capacity on other tours. If you can foster strong professional relationships with booking agents and tour managers, you will have a better chance of getting a lead on a gig.
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