Touring with musicians is a tremendous challenge and a true test of endurance, but also one of the most rewarding experiences. Since you’re constantly traveling, the job requires long hours and daily duties to be performed in and adapted to new environments every day. It can get tricky and complicated fast, so it’s essential to learn some of the basics right away so that you can build your endurance and foster the resilience necessary to be high-performing in such a fast-paced environment.
What Is Touring?
Touring: A period of time in which you travel with one or more artists to provide vital support services to ensure the performers can actualize their best performance in service of their fans.
Okay, we made that up, but someone has to!
There are many different “worlds” within the touring profession, and they all depend on what type of artist you are joining on tour. The kind of artist determines the crew required to execute a successful show. In addition to the type of artist, the popularity of the artist is significant as well. For example, DJs travel in groups as small as five people and sometimes fewer. However, bands can start at around ten people and go up to the thirties or forties.
The Jobs That Exist On Tour
In no particular order, the following are some of the most common jobs on tour:
- Tour manager
- Production Manager
- Personal Assistant
- Guitar tech
- Drum Tech
- Front of House
- Lighting Designer
- Photographer/ Videographer
Depending on the size of the production, this list will continue to grow. With small artists touring with little production, one person may take on more than one of the roles above, or the division between the roles specific duties may begin to blur. As the artist gains popularity and the production grows, the crew grows with it. As a result, roles become highly specialized and individualized.
Qualifications For Being On Tour
If you want to tour, you need to be knowledgeable, efficient, timely, and resourceful. To say it more simply, you have to have your shit together. You need to know your specific craft, be adept at finding solutions when shit hits the fan, and adapt quickly to rapidly changing situations and environments. Most importantly, you need to be a good person. If you’re a good person, there’s more latitude in some of the other requirements since it’s essential for each crew member to be easy to be around and a valuable contributor to the community as a whole.
Every performance matters because the people watching may never get another chance to see the artist. As a result, the environment moves at breakneck speed, and the standards for all involved are very high. There are no rehearsals or practices. If you can’t cut it, you won’t get a performance review; you will just lose your job. However, as long as you are respectful and continue to improve, there will be many more opportunities.
How To Get On Tour
The best path for getting on tour tends to be through organic progression. This includes becoming active in your local music scene and making connections, which leads to opportunities outside of your local scene. This path can be slow going, but it’s the easiest way to begin your training in the world of touring so that you have the connections, tools, and skillsets necessary to support a performer when you’re offered a job.
Some people take a route through formal education and schooling, but these individuals can rarely jump straight into a tour after completing their education. The time spent attending school is often better redirected to gathering real experience in your local scene and creating connections (aka networking) with people already doing the kind of work you want to do.
Networking is a skill that you will hear mentioned over and over again in this podcast. We will go more in-depth into what networking is and how to be better at it in a future episode, but to summarize, it is the glue that binds your skills and opportunities together and is an absolute must if you want to succeed.
Here are a few ideas for getting started in your local scene:
- Get a job at a local venue. Any job to get your foot in the door, then find the person with the skills you want to add to your toolkit and ask if you can learn from them.
- Offer to assist local bands with some of their crew needs free of charge.
- Find a local technician for one of the local venues and ask if you can spend some time shadowing them.
You may end up doing a lot of this initial work for free, and often the big opportunities are associated with luck and being in the right place at the right time. However, immersing yourself in the music world will actively work towards creating your own luck and increasing the likelihood of opportunities. Then when those opportunities come knocking, you’ll be prepared, and you won’t shit on the bus on your first tour.