A major concert tour is a huge undertaking. Moving a small army of performers, crew, support staff and gear across the country and the world requires great attention to detail, organization, and planning. The tour manager is responsible for keeping the show on the road and running smoothly. Logistical concerns like finance, accommodations, transportation, promotions, and merchandise all fall in the tour manager’s domain. The tour manager holds the paychecks, the room keys, and the phone number for late-night Chinese take-out in Kansas City—and always remembers where the bus is parked.
A tour manager’s day begins with advancing the show. This means calling ahead (usually a week out) to upcoming venues on the tour to schedule load-in, sound check, walkthrough, and set times. Also, the tour manager will work with a representative from the venue to confirm details like the guest list, merchandise sales (and venue’s cut), and the rider. The rider is a supplement to the band and crew’s contract and outlines their requirements for the show: Everything from the number of towels in the dressing room to the proverbial bowl of brown M&M’s is hashed out here.
The tour manager also handles promotional performances and appearances. Cooperating with the artist’s management and label, the tour manager will communicate with local radio stations and promoters to publicize the tour ahead of the show date. All travel and transportation logistics, finances (like getting everyone paid), and personnel matters are the concern of the tour manager
Skills & Education
As a tour manager you will be responsible for budgeting, tracking payroll, and merchandise sales, so robust mathematical skills are a plus. Courses in technical production and promotions, marketing, advertising, and music business will give you a strong foundation for each facet of the tour that you will supervise. Specifically, you must have a strong aptitude for organization, logistics, and strategic planning to succeed on the road. Though many tour managers get their start by helping out a friend’s band and learn by doing, prior experience on tours—even just working the merch table—or in other areas of the music and live event industry is extremely helpful.
What to Expect
Life on the road is not for everyone. Tours can last months at a time at breakneck pace. The hours are long, and stress can build up as you work to keep every detail of the production running according to plan. Expect to encounter a daily crisis and be prepared to think on your feet to maneuver around it. Problem-solving and resourcefulness will make the difference between success and failure when your bus breaks down or a truck hauling the band’s instruments is held up in Newark. Your first responsibility is to the artist (your employer) and to the management that represents them. They have entrusted you with a huge financial investment. You must be detail-oriented, a great communicator, and flexible enough to accommodate changing needs and environments.
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