Getting on tour is one thing – getting on tour and getting paid is a whole different thing. I mean, of course, we all want to get paid for what we love to do. But touring requires that you get on the road and start learning by doing. If I could teach you everything from the comfort of my own home, I would – but I can’t.
Your First Tour As A Crew Member
Start local. I will say it now and say it again and again. You have to start with what you have in your area. You can’t just go up to a touring band and ask to go on tour; it won’t work. I mean, you could do it, you will at least learn how to take the answer “no” – and that is an excellent skill to have.
So let’s paint a picture of what your life might look like/ will look like by the time you are ready to make the leap from local to touring.
You’ve become part of the local network. This means you go to local shows, work at them, are friends with the staff, security, stage crew. You have embedded yourself fin the local scene and become part of it. Hopefully, you have a pretty good reputation, and you work hard every minute of every hour of every day you are at the venue. Outside of work, you might spend your free time shadowing a local tech or practicing your craft at home. Whatever you can do to better your luck of getting on the road, you are doing.
Now you might be asking… But how do I get on the road?
Someone From Your Network Suggests You
This is the most common way. Like I said earlier – you can’t just ask to tour with someone. You need to do everything in your power to make them ask you. So maybe a band is going on tour, and your friend from the venue that does audio gets hired as FOH – they mention it to your friend. “Hey, we are also looking for a Monitor Tech if you know anyone.” Now this friend works with you at the venue, trusts you, and sees how hard you work every day. They recommend you to the band, you interview for the gig – and get it. That is how it works. It’ll be different for everyone – but that is how it works.
Friends Going On Tour
Another way to get on the road is to know someone in a band going on the road. Heck, it might not be a massive band – but touring is touring. You will learn so much from other crew on tour. Maybe the headlining band will have a crew member that you befriend, and now they become part of your network. It is all about putting yourself in situations that present themselves with more and more opportunities.
You Make This Happen
No one else can do this for you. It can take months, years, and maybe even longer. But if you keep at it, keep working, and keep being the right person – it will happen. There is a reason this profession is sought after. It is challenging to get in – but once you are in, it becomes an entertaining space to work daily.
The Hiring Process
Alright, so you get suggested by a friend, or hired by a local band – or whatever your route is, you are now Going. On. Tour. Hell yes. So who hires you?
Well, more often than not, it’ll be the band’s manager. Now, if they are a small band – they won’t have a manager. But anything over a local-sized band will have one.
What Does A Band Manager Do?
A manager is a person that works very closely with the artists and represents them in all business agreements. They usually work from an office and occasionally pop up in LA, NY, or Nashville. Or maybe if your band goes somewhere exotic – they will probably somehow show up at those too.
Keep in mind the Manager is very different from a tour manager. They are often confused because they both use the word manager – but one just helps the band on the road. The other is pretty much an extension of the band.
What Do I Need To Know Before The Tour Starts?
Okay, so you’ve got the tour, they have expressed interest – I know it’s tempting just to say *yes* take me on the road – I don’t care what you pay me or if I have to sleep standing up – just take me. But there are a few things you want to ask.
What Is Expected Of Me?
I mean – what do they want you to do every day? We know you are doing whatever job it is they are hiring you to do. But make sure you get them to tell you what it all entails. A lot of the time, with smaller bands, you will be wearing a lot of hats. Meaning you won’t just be doing one job; you will also be helping out a bit in other areas. It is not uncommon and takes it as a way to learn something new.
How Will I Be Taken Care Of?
You want to know what to pack for, what to prepare for mentally, and what to expect. So make sure you ask.
- How will I be traveling?
- Where will I be sleeping?
- What are the accommodations for days off?
How Much Will I Be Paid?
I mean, this is obvious. But it’s not just a day rate/ or a week rate. You also need to ask them.
- How much are PD’s?
- How much are buyouts?
After you get all that information, you should decide if this tour is something you are interested in doing.
What Affects How Much You Are Paid?
There are so many different factors that play into how much money you are paid to tour. To keep it simple, I would break it down like this.
- How much experience do you have?
- What is required of you?
- How important is your job?
- How big is this artist?
- How long have they been touring?
- What size venues are they playing?
Average Payment For Touring Crew
Emphasis on average. Also, as a disclaimer – you can’t take these numbers to anyone and say, *but this is how much they said I get paid* just use it to help ballpark where you are currently sitting. As a guide. This isn’t how much I get paid; this is not how much Neil pays his crew. These are just ballpark figures we have collected from a bunch of friends and averaged out.
Touring For Free
A lot of people start working for free. Don’t be ashamed of it; you aren’t doing anything wrong. I started for free; Neils’ band didn’t get paid the first few years they toured. It is prevalent.
(less than 500 cap headliner, or opening a larger tour)
Starts at Just PD ($10-$20) / Free
Middle: $150/week to $350/week starting
Higher-end: Up to $500-$1000 as you become pro
As a note, the Merch person makes tips.
Varies even more than van (depend on the size of artist, number of buses, etc)
This is where you start to become more of a professional
Backline tech (guitar, drums etc) $1,000-$2,000/week
LD $1000 – $2000/week
Photo/ Video – $1000-$3500/ week
I hope this information helps give you some ideas of where you are headed/ what you are aiming for with rates. I know money can be confusing and stressful. But just focus on getting your foot in the door, getting tours – and before you know it, you will be well on your way to becoming a professional.