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Tour Management
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I was the main contact for all on-the-road affairs, so I worked with a great number of people spanning the entire music industry.  The following is a list of the types of contacts you may encounter, a concise overview of their roles with the artist (and a StarPolish.com link if available), and my duties associated with each person/entity: Management: You'll surely know who your managers are.  In my case, management was divided among three gentlemen: a general manager who oversaw all affairs; a manager in charge of industry-related affairs; and a manager in charge of road-related affairs.  Such a structure was organizationally beneficial for delegating duties and responsibilities. All my responsibilities -- and all details for the tour -- came from management.  I was lucky that one of my managers was a tour manager himself (he worked for perhaps the largest touring act of the '90s) and worked from the ground up, so I knew I was in good hands.  An early lesson I learned -- and I'll speak more of this later -- was that everything that comes from management comes for a reason and should be taken as "The Word."  Check out StarPolish's advice on Management. Record Label:  I dealt with record-label executives and team members on a minor scale on the road, as management was their primary contact.  We were always sure to give the band ample time with industry people whenever possible, whether backstage, at a private performance, or during a dinner.  Some cities have a "Branch" -- a direct arm of the label -- with which we would meet.  Most major cities would have a local representative who would help us while we were in town with radio station visits and other events. For more information about the responsibilities within a record label, see Functions of a Record Label. Booking Agency:  The booking agency, obviously, books the tour.  From the booking agency I got detailed reports for each date that I used to advance shows (more on advancing in a minute).  These sheets had contact information for venues and promoters, along with other information such as capacity, ticket prices, and all the financial details for the show.  Visit our section on Booking Agents in our Advice Library for more information. Merchandise Companies: During a tour, I worked with several merchandise companies and was responsible for ordering merch for the road.  I kept track of how much merchandise was sold per night in order to project sales for the run of shows.  In addition, I worked closely with management and the artist to develop the products we wanted to have available at shows.  We enjoyed making merch a fun part of the operation and trying to think of innovative designs and products.  I also worked with a graphic designer and, later, an online retailer. There are many other individuals and organizations with whom I worked, including publicity, A&R, legal, etc.  Again, the Advice section at StarPolish.com has more information on these and other areas.
Daily Responsibilities
Advancing the Show "Advancing" refers to calling the venue to set up the show. In this phone call, I typically spoke to a promoter, stage manager, production manager or another venue representative. The purpose was so that I could give the venue all the specifics on my artist and find out any new details regarding the show. Due to the fact that venues vary in size, location and operation -- and artists vary equally, in terms of needs and style -- advancing is one of the most important aspects of managing the tour. To keep things as organized as possible, I typically advanced shows at least one week in advance and kept all my information in a template that could hold the following information:
  • Date
  • City
  • Venue
  • Load-in time (the time gear and equipment should be loaded into the venue. I typically set my load-in at 45 minutes before the start of soundcheck)
  • Soundcheck (the time the band should begin soundcheck. All artists vary, but it's always better to block off too much time rather than have to cut the check short. For a headlining acoustic show, I usually began soundcheck at 3 hours before doors. For a headlining full band, at least 4 hours before doors)
  • Doors (the time doors open for the crowd)
  • Set times (times for openers, set changes, headliners, and curfews)
  • Guest list (the number of guests to whom we could give tickets)
  • Merchandise (the location of the merch area, the venue's cut of sales, and who was to sell)
  • Directions to the venue
Another important part of advancing is to confirm your rider. The rider is a supplement to the artist's contract and includes the band's requirements for the show. These typically include Technical and Production Requirements, and Hospitality/Catering. Before my Front Of House (FOH) engineer, a.k.a. the "soundman," joined the crew, I advanced the production information - which included the size of the band, number of inputs, and other technical needs - for each show. I would confirm that we needed the venue to supply an FOH, a Monitors Engineer, and an LD (Lighting Director). Other staff, depending on the size of the show, would include loaders (at least two to help with load-in and load-out), backstage security, and a merchandise seller. I kept copies of our current stage plot (a picture of our stage setup with amps, vocals, and drums) and an input list to fax or to give to venues that may have misplaced the copy from the booking agency. Often, I needed to rent equipment for a show. This most commonly occurred when we were playing a show with a guest musician, holding auditions, doing a set of shows we flew to, or playing a festival. This type of rental is referred to as a Backline Rental. The venue representative will usually contact the rental company for you, and you can settle (pay for) the rental the night of the show. Backline requirements were also in our rider, and included amp, DI, stands, and drum-kit specifics. Last, but definitely not least, is Catering and Hospitality. I was always sure that the venue had a copy of our catering rider -- and for that reason, I always kept copies with me in case it was misplaced before the day of the show. The catering rider includes the food and beverages the band requests in the dressing room. It also specifies dinner accommodations - we were always provided with a hot meal or dinner buyout (cash money paid to each member of the band and crew for dinner). I always had the dressing room fully prepared by load-in time, and collected buyout during soundcheck. Some riders can be quite creative -- ours included lip-gloss, and we asked for healthy food that we could take with us after the show. I've heard other stories of artists requesting lottery tickets, vintage shirts, and dancing monkeys. I read over my contract and rider when I first took the job to familiarize myself with the terms promoters had agreed to, and to understand what we should expect when we arrived at venues. Ultimately, I became in charge of our rider and relayed technical and hospitality changes to the booking agency. I should mention one last bit of advice regarding the catering rider: my good friend, uberdrummer Matt Johnson, suggested the stellar idea of having two catering riders that varied in actual type of food, but which were similar in composition. Using this idea, I could alternately fax the riders to the venues to ensure no one getting tired of the same hummus, Powerbars, and chips and salsa every night. I also advanced radio visits and in-store performances. I would receive information regarding these performances from management and would contact the station or store to set the details. For the radio station performances, I found out how long we were to be on air, and how many songs the station expected to be performed. I also relayed production details. When we got to the station, I made sure everyone knew the names of the Programming Director (PD) and Musical Director (MD) of the station, as they are the most important individuals at the station and will likely determine our future with the station. Finally, I gave management's business card to the sound engineer or disc jockey, explaining that we liked to archive all performances and asked if they could send a copy. As the tour picked up and I became busier, I often asked local record label representatives to take the artist to radio station performances. I was always sure to advance in-store performances thoroughly, because stores - unlike clubs, venues, and radio stations - are typically not accustomed to performances. The most important aspect is ensuring the proper equipment. Setting the length of the performance and an orderly autograph/signing session were also very important. We would also frequently receive requests for phone interviews, or as they are commonly known, phoners. I would try to schedule them at times when we were near landlines and made sure the artist knew the individual's name and organization. I remember scheduling a phoner during a drive through western Arizona - the cellular phone would lose reception every 2-3 minutes before returning to full reception. We spent more than an hour trying to finish a 15-minute interview. Finally, since I have outlined almost all venues for performance, I should share a very important lesson I learned early in my career: every appointment, every performance, and every person is important. Management expects the greatest effort possible at all times - the artist cannot bypass any event. In my first month of tour managing, I was told of a radio station visit while we were in Nantucket, Massachusetts. In Nantucket, the only transportation is by ferry and airplane. After we missed the early morning ferry, I assumed we had no choice but to cancel the visit. I was drastically wrong, and hustled to get a plane ticket as soon as possible. I learned that I had to be as resourceful as possible at all times, and that the impact we make on everyone everywhere ultimately determines the success of the artist. Daily Sheets/Tour Books My priority at the start of each day was to inform everyone on the road of the day's schedule. I began by making a sheet that included driving times, all times pertinent to the show (load-in, soundcheck, doors, set, etc), and other information they needed to know. Sometimes I included items of lagniappe, such as words of the day and interesting facts, just to keep things fun. As our tour grew and I developed more of a routine, I began to create tour books. My tour books would include a complete day-by-day itinerary of the entire run. I would include addresses of venues and hotels, driving distances, times of non-show engagements (radio, interviews, in-stores, etc.), all show times, and other necessary (and not so necessary!) information. I basically would map out and schedule the entire tour before we ever got on the road. The book saved a great deal of time and was helpful to everyone. I made my books small enough to carry around, used thick stock paper, and chose spiral-bound books with sturdier, spill-resistant laminated or vinyl covers. Copy centers became my best friends. Regardless of whether I used daily sheets or the tour book, I still roughly routed the tour - it was just a matter of doing it by weeks or months. I tried to run as efficient a tour as possible without making things uncomfortable for anyone on the road, and used online resources to find distances and hotels. We joined a hotel group's frequent user group to benefit from consistently staying with that family of hotels. I should mention that I quickly discovered hotel-to-venue distances matter just as much as city-to-city distances. I remember booking a Hampton Inn that was eight miles from the club, thinking, "right on - that's less than 10 minutes away!" Well, not only was it a 25-minute drive, but we passed three other Hampton Inns on the way to the club.
As far as setting times for the day, I always, always, ALWAYS worked in extra time. I was responsible for waking up everyone and motivating them for departure. I quickly found out how much time each person needed in the morning, and learned what everyone needed to feel comfortable and not rushed. One of my biggest goals was to instill a sense of urgency in everyone, because it was ultimately my responsibility for the band to be on time. No matter if one member caused everyone to be late; it was my fault. So remember - it's the tour manager's responsibility to ensure punctuality, no matter what accommodations must be made.
Night of the Show
On the night of a show, we would typically arrive at the venue for load-in approximately four hours before the doors were scheduled to open. If the venue provided loaders, they would handle the bulk of lifting and carrying the equipment. We labeled (and later, numbered, for improved tracking), each piece of equipment with its stage position (Stage Right, Stage Center, Stage Left) to streamline the set-up. I headed load-in until our FOH joined us. While the band set up for soundcheck, I would introduce myself to the venue's crew and the promoter. As I was also responsible for merchandise, I had to set up the merchandise booth/table/area while the band sound-checked. We had a local rep program that helped promote our music and the show in the area, so 90% of the time I had a volunteer to work merch for me during the show. Typically I would contact them three to five days in advance of the show and have them arrive 15-30 minutes before doors opened. I set up the display and counted in all the merchandise, usually with a venue representative if the venue took a cut of merchandise sales. I used this Excel file to keep track of nightly sales. I made labels for all of our items, and had a pricelist, a mailing list, and a money pouch with change for the start of the night. I would also turn in the guest list during soundcheck and inform the venue of our recording policy. I would set up any after-show details if needed, and make sure the band was following the schedule, keeping everyone as informed as possible as to the amount of time before the doors opened. It was important to respect the opening act and give them a sufficient soundcheck as well. It is a good idea to post sheets around the backstage and dressing room areas that have door and set times. If we left the venue after soundcheck, I would always confirm times and be sure to return with more than ample time for the band to prepare to play. I would set up the instruments on stage (I had each band member instruct me on their setup) and place bottles of water, towels, and set lists on the stage. During the show, I would spend 80% of my time watch the stage to make sure the band was okay. I was the only mobile member of our crew, so I made sure to tackle any potential problems before they happened. I would also frequently visit the merchandise area to make sure all was in order. Perhaps the most important - and somewhat challenging - part of the night is settlement, or getting paid for the show. I always made sure to know the terms of the show's deal before settlement. I typically settled the show before the band left the stage, shortly after the box office closed. I would meet the promoter or stage manger in his (or her) office and go over the night's paperwork. The most important figures were attendance, gross box office receipts (GBOR), split point, and overage. Other addenda may include expense reports, audits (ticket sales reports), and proof of advertising. I encountered three basic types of deals: 1) Flat Guarantee: a specified sum of money is guaranteed and paid. 2) GBOR Percentage: the band received a pre-specified percentage of the GBOR. 3) And Guarantee + Points: the most common deal, it consists of a guarantee and an option for overage (additional money) depending on show attendance. A split point is determined by a formula including expenses and promoter profit. If GBOR exceeds the split point, the band receives a percentage of that excess. This receipt of additional payment, or overage, is called "going into points." I always brought a copy of my contract with me to settle or confirm the merch split, guarantee, settlement splits, ticket prices, and projected expenses matched. I usually filled out a tax form and would need an EIN (Federal Tax ID Number) or Social Security Number. If settlement was paid in cash, I always counted it out right there to verify the amount. Finally, I discussed any problems or concerns I might have encountered over the course of the night - or thanked the venue for taking good care of us. After the show, I had the band break down the stage while I settled merchandise. If the venue took a percentage of sales, I counted it out and settled with the venue representative. I also had a Soundscan sheet signed --Soundscan is the label's way of tracking CD sales, and the venue verifies the number of CDs we sold that night.
Post-Show
After every show, I would send a report with the following information to management, the booking agency, and the label:
  • Date
  • City
  • Venue
  • Capacity
  • Attendance
  • Gross Box Office Receipts
  • Guest List Notables
  • Merch Sold
  • Total Merchandise Profits
  • Settlement (Guarantee/Deposit,  %/Overage, Total picked up)
  • What marketing materials did the club have?
  • General feel of the crowd
  • How we were treated
This was an extremely effective tool for relaying how each show went and keeping tracking the band's growth. I tried to be as thorough as possible so that the recipients could get a feel of how the night was.

Finances
As tour manager, I was in charge of all finances on the road. Here are examples of Excel forms that I used. I set a weekly schedule for filling out these forms and reconciling my cash collection. I would keep all the money and make deposits as needed (at least weekly); if a branch of our bank wasn't close by, I would purchase counter checks so as to keep as little cash as possible. However, I would put aside a small amount of emergency money. It was also my responsibility to distribute "per-diems," or the amounts of cash that each band- and crewmember receives on the road each day. I typically distributed a week's worth of per diems each Sunday. Finally, I would keep all receipts in order to keep track of expenses, and I would fill out the attached forms and send a package to management with all checks and receipts on a weekly basis. Financial management, I would imagine, varies greatly from band to band - the attached forms can hopefully help you organize your finances.
The Other Stuff
To attempt to fully encompass everything I encountered on the road would be impossible - the job really involves everything outside of performing on stage. For example, vehicle maintenance, cleanliness and repair were my responsibility. I kept a constant watch on equipment and supplies. I sometimes had to play crowd control and act as a security guard. In essence, I was the representative of our entire operation and tried to take care of every aspect. In the same way it's difficult for a mother to write a job description of raising a child, it's difficult to fully outline the duties as a tour manager.

Here's a joke that accurately represents the job, and the kind of person it takes to get it done: An FOH, LD, and Tour Manager are walking down the beach one day and see an old bottle in the sand. The FOH picks it up, wipes it off, and a beautiful genie suddenly appears. The genie says, "I will grant each of you one wish. Anything in the world is yours." The FOH speaks first: "I wish to be the wealthiest man in all of Europe. I want to have the largest mansion in Paris and be surrounded by beautiful women wishing to marry me." The genie snapped her fingers and the FOH disappeared. The LD spoke next: "I wish to be a captain on a yacht in the Caribbean, flocked by a crew of beautiful women." The genie snapped her fingers and it was done. She turned to the tour manager. "I want those two guys back on the bus RIGHT NOW!"
Conclusion
Tour management all comes down to logistics, organization, communication, and ethic. I quickly developed an intense concern for the well being of everyone in my band and crew, so I constantly tried to make things as comfortable as possible. Similarly, I took the reputation of the band very seriously and did everything I could to make a favorable impression with every venue, every store, every radio station, every label representative, every band we shared the stage with, every interviewer - in other words, everyone. I tried my best to make everyone I worked with as happy as possible with the tour - that was my first and foremost concern every hour of the day. I was in charge of everything and had to fill in all the gaps. I made sure everyone was in the right place at the right time (or ideally, 15 minutes before "the right time"). Successful tour management leads to a successful tour - yes, it's a lot of hard work, but it's also a whole lot of fun. Good luck!
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