In the previous article about becoming a road dog, we talked about knowing the positions, what they’re referred to, and what exactly it is that they do. Here’s a breakdown of a bunch of jobs (on and off the road) that are vital to a successful tour. We’re gonna use a mid-sized tour (3-5k venue capacities) that’s carrying production as our template for this.
Not on Tour
To start, let’s touch base on a couple positions that aren’t typically on the road.
- Artist Manager – a Manager handles all things business-related regarding the artist’s career in the music industry.
- Agent – an Agent sells shows to promoters and completes live show bookings. The agent sends all offers (no matter the size or relevance) from promoters to the band’s management for review.
- Publicist – a Publicist creates PR opportunities for the artist (interviews, TV performances, etc). Depending on their involvement, they can be in charge of damage control in the event of scandal and handling brand endorsements.
- Business Manager – A Business Manager generally takes care of accounting, bill payments, and overseeing additional contracts on behalf of the artist’s business. From a corporation standpoint, they need to make sure there is no opportunity for the artist to get sued. Whether it’s insurance, bus leases, payroll, etc. they have the best interest of the business as a whole in mind. Much like a business manager for a non-music related company, they are responsible for managing cash flow and making sure bills are paid on time (this is the person that sends you money and clears the credit card bill when you can’t check into a hotel).
- Travel Agent – our Travel Agents work much like a travel agent that books your dad’s cruise in Italy. Although their main specialty will be dealing with large groups and VIPs.
Meet the Road Dogs
Although the positions above are important and have a lot of power on how you live your life, let’s focus our time and energy on the road crew. There are 2 ways to be employed on a tour. You’re either hired by the Artist (manager/record label, whoever on behalf of the artist) or hired by the Touring Production (Production Manager, Audio/Video supplier). Who hires you is very important as it defines your role, your travel, and whose responsibility you are.
1) Hired by the Artist
- Tour Manager (TM) – a TM holds it all together. They’re responsible for overseeing the entire tour operation as well as all touring parties including artists and crew. Responsible for overseeing and working with the promoter/rep on the show budget and ultimately, settling the show financially. A TM will often work with the travel agent on all travel-related bookings.
- Production Manager (PM) – a PM is responsible for all things related to getting the show up and running. They are the boss of the crew and are responsible for advancing and executing labor calls, trucking, timing, etc. This person often doubles up as a FOH or LD on this sized template.
- Production Assistant (PA) – Generally the go-to person for all tour related things that need a quick answer. Their general daily duties include taking care of catering and hospitality, dealing with the runners, sending out laundry. The PA role is usually thankless. It’s a shame because they’re usually the hardest working and take on tasks that make everyone’s life easier. Take care of your PA for once.
- Front of House (FOH) Engineer – Responsible for mixing the audio coming out of the PA System for the crowd to hear. (PA, not to be confused with Production Assistant… obviously)
- Monitor Engineer – Responsible for mixing wedges and in-ear monitors (IEMs) for the artist to hear. This generally consists of at least 1 mix/person on stage.
- Lighting Director (LD) – Responsible for controlling the lights during the show. Generally calls all cues with spotlight operators through a headset. Often times the LD designs the look of the show.
- Video Director – Responsible for controlling content on the video wall. If there is no VD, the video controls/managing the servers are controlled by the LD.
- Backline – Backline is broken up into subcategories. Guitar tech, drum tech, bass tech, keys tech, percussion tech… These positions cover all things related to the department. Guitar tech, for example. They are responsible for loading in, setting up, and maintaining all things related to the guitars, amps, pedalboards, cases, etc. They change the strings, mastermind the pedalboard and signal flow and do guitar changes throughout the show. It is each tech’s responsibility of mastering their craft. When gear inevitably breaks, the appropriate backline tech needs to be prepared with the correct tools and know-how to fix it. They are often responsible for dealing with the endorsements that pertain to the artist that they take care of.
- Merchandise – Responsible for managing inventory, loading merch, working with the venue sellers to move as much product as possible. The merch manager on the road is expected to be in constant communication with the merch company to ensure the appropriate quantities are being updated and sent to the correct city on the road.
2) Hired by Touring Production
- Stage Manager – (Depending on the camp, they can be hired by the artist as well). Generally responsible for dealing with the day to day logistics. They run the stage, the load in, the truck pack and, the on-site labor. They are responsible for keeping everything safe, in good working order, and on time.
- Audio System Techs – In this scenario, there is usually 1 system tech at Front of House. They are responsible for flying and tuning the PA. They stay at FOH for any time someone is using the PA. If the sound goes out, they fix it. Again, in this situation, there are generally at least 2x audio techs on stage. They are responsible for patch, monitors, stage power, RF, etc. You find these 2 close by on side stage.
- Lighting System Techs – This is dependant on how elaborate the design is. The lighting techs are responsible for getting the lighting rig up in the air and/or set up on deck, as well as general maintenance on the lighting fixtures and cases. They are responsible for dealing with power for lighting and you usually find these guys in “Dimmer Beach” during the show.
- Video System Techs – Again, it depends on the complexity of the design. But they are responsible for all things video related, i.e. getting the video wall setup, fixing dead pixels, and performing general maintenance. Sometimes it will be the same techs that handles lighting and video.
- Touring Promoter Rep – Often times you don’t deal with the buyer or the promoter directly. For example, with Live Nation or AEG, a rep will be assigned to advance and execute the show. The rep is paid by the promoter as a show cost but normally travels on the same bus as touring production or the “vendor bus”. They are responsible for dealing with the local promoter rep to ensure the needs of both the tour and the promoter are being met. In addition to ticketing, a promoter rep is also responsible for settling the show with the Tour Manager.
- Depending on the tour, there can be a lot more people doing the jobs above. For example, if there are multiple artists with lots of wireless (wireless instruments, wireless mics, lots of IEMs) a dedicated “RF tech” will likely be on the tour. To name a few, Personal Security, Wardrobe, Riggers, Cameras/IMAG, SFX (Pyro, cryo, stunts), Catering are also very valuable people and often seen on tour.
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