When you are getting to hit the road, you need to find a good tour manager to help organize everything. To ensure that everything goes smoothly before, during, and after the show, you need to dedicate yourself to the role or expand your team to cover any gaps.
What makes a good tour manager? A tour manager plays a vital role in ensuring every aspect of the tour stays under control from financial dealings, handling communications, hiring personnel, and dealing with external stakeholders.
They need to have experience within the music industry and use this knowledge to help solve problems, ensure everything runs smoothly on a daily basis and ensure that everything is done with the band’s priority always put first.
Traveling around the world with bands is a great perk but hard work quite literally part of the job description. Scott Waldman, founder of Waldman Management summed up the pros and cons of tour management:
“If you want to be a tour manager you have to have patience and thick skin. The cost: sanity. The benefit: travel.”
It is a job that is not for the faint-hearted with long days on the road and the difference between a good and bad manager can have a huge impact on things to come for the duration of the tour. But what exactly makes a good tour manager?
What exactly does a tour manager do?
Essentially, a tour manager is someone who runs everything that revolves around a tour from the start to the very end of the series. There is no aspect of a tour that does not go untouched by the tour manager whether it is organizing venues, catering, finances, logistics to any supporting personnel that a band might need.
The job is not your typical 9-5 job that confines you to an office. Instead, tour managers will find themselves on the road throughout the entire process being at each venue ensuring that everything on the ground goes smoothly from start to finish. It often means being there hours before the start of a show and staying long after the final curtain drops.
This is something that you will notice when you speak to veterans of the industry. According to Nicholas Mishko, President of 10 and 8 Management, a good tour manager is “the captain of the ship on the road – it all falls on them.” Nicholas adds:
“You want someone that can do accounting, help with load in and load out, communicate with the team and make sure everyone is doing their job.”
Communication is vital
Communication is a crucial aspect for a good tour manager as they need to speak to a wide range of different people every day to ensure that everything remains on track. On a daily basis, tour managers will find themselves talking with the band, the road crew, promoters and venue staff to ensure that everything throughout the day is on track and working on how to deal with any issues that arise.
- The friend/coworker divide Of course, there is a fine line to tread when dealing with different audiences. It helps to be on good terms with the band and any supporting crew as the group will spend a lot of time together on the road and a bad atmosphere can really impact the atmosphere both on and off the stage. At the same time, you need a manager that can give out the orders and separate personal and professional relationships so that everyone stays on task and not slack off when time is valuable.
- Speaking to vendors Away from the tour personnel, different promoters and venue managers will all have different needs and wants that will need to be catered for. Whilst some people can be accommodating, others may not be so easy to deal with meaning that it will be up to the tour manager to deal with any disputes and find a compromise that works for all parties.
This feeling is noted by Sight Set North booking agent and artist manager Matthew Mirels who believes that
“building bridges and not burning them is one of the most important parts of longevity in this business.”
The benefit of industry knowledge
For many people, the music industry will seem very much like an alien world, so it is important to find a tour manager that has some experience of it rather than being a complete rookie. Having some sort of insider knowledge can be beneficial for many reasons both personally and professionally.
- Personal knowledge Insider knowledge can allow you to use personal experiences to relate to what a band is going through and help find solutions that outsiders may not be able to understand. It could be something simple as knowing the best travel routes between destinations or something more complicated such as the cost between different venues.
- The end result By drawing on the manager’s own experiences, it can help make a vital difference to whether the tour is successful and ultimately the longevity on the working relationship between a manager and their clients.
- Problem solvingHaving experience in these aspects can help a manager flourish where others may be overwhelmed and feel out of their depth. Being on tour can often be a high-pressure environment to be in as lots of jobs are very much time-dependent and there will always be characters who are hard to deal with. By knowing what is ahead, it will allow you to find alternative ways around a situation that others without the necessary expertise may not realize.
The Dreamer Agency’s Cameron Norris underlines these facts by stating
“it’s important to understand the struggle of a musician. Once you can develop enough industry knowledge to understand the challenges they face, then you’ll develop the right mindset to help and be great at what you do.”
Standing your ground
It is not always going to be a smooth life and rock star lifestyle for the manager on tour. For every friend someone makes, there will be another trying to make life difficult. It is here where you will need to stand your ground and make sure that whoever is causing the issues backs down and does what is best for the band.
- Workplace motivator Being on tour can be tiring for everyone traveling in the group so it is only natural that some people may get complacent over time and not be willing to pull their weight. It will be up to the manager to ensure that anyone who is not helping the team or being uncooperative steps up and returns to the level expected of them. This may cause some friction within the group however it is important to keep everyone motivated and on task to ensure that the show is a successful day in and day out.
- Dealing with the difficult The same can be said for promoters or local vendors who may have excessive demands or be difficult to negotiate with. It is here where the manager really needs to stand their ground and ensure that the band’s welfare is taken care of. A good manager will be able to sidestep any issues with a promoter and try to find a middle ground for both parties in a reasonable time.
- The band comes first Always be on the lookout to ensure that the band is not taken advantage of during their time at the venue and that the local promoter delivers on everything that they were promised. If anything seems amiss on arrival, the manager needs to ensure that the venue management can sort it out without altering the arrangements set. Not only will this ensure that the show runs smoothly but it can also be beneficial for future shows should a band return to the area.
These feelings are highlighted by David Forster from Pinup Productions of who commented that
“they do not take any BS from the promoter or locals while still respecting the community their band are stepping into.”
Finding the total package
Upon reflection, there are several aspects that can help you find the perfect tour manager for your needs. It helps to find someone who is a strong all-rounder who can handle an array of tasks on a day to day basis and deal with a range of different personalities and attitudes. They can use these skills and mix it with knowledge of the industry to ensure that the tour runs successfully on a daily basis and that everyone pulls their weight. With the knowledge and the skillset nailed down, they can look for strategies to help settle any disputes and ensure that their clients can showcase their material and overcome any hurdles that do arise.
By taking all these aspects into consideration, it will help you find a good tour manager that makes the touring experience worthwhile for all involved.
Special thanks to Matthew Mirels, Scott Waldman, David Forster, Nicholas Mishko & Cameron Norris for their insights
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