Touring Etiquette and Don’t Be A Dick

If you have made it this far, you probably understand the basics of *what* goes on, on tour. How just as importantly – and maybe even more important, is the how. WE have talked about this before, and we will talk about it again. It doesn’t just matter that you are getting a job done each day – it matters how you are getting your job done each day. We sum this up with a little simple saying you have probably also heard us say before…

Don’t Be A Dick

Seriously, there isn’t any room for it on the road. People are all here to work together to make this show happen. Everyone is on the same team and shares one goal. Provide a fantastic experience for every fan that paid good money to see this artist. Aside from the expected values of life that you should maintain while on the road, some additional ones become more critical when living and working with 10-40 people for 24 hours a day. 

Tour Is About Teamwork

Tour is full of unique, talented individuals. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, learned their skills differently – and there isn’t a rule book to everything, so we are all learning together. Because of this, you need to be very open-minded and ready to go with the flow. You will be given challenges daily and be required to overcome some of them on your own and others with your team’s help. Sometimes you will need their support, and sometimes they will need yours. 

All Time Low and Jeff Maker working together

All Time Low and Jeff Maker working together

Stay Organized On Tour

Your organization is critical on every level. There are order and reason behind everything that happens on the road. You need to make sure you have your workspace organized daily. Not only so you can navigate it quickly and promptly – but that so anyone watching you work sees how seriously you take the job. There are a lot of nonverbal communications that happen on tour, especially between artist and crew. Another extension of being organized is being on time. The tour runs on a precise schedule, and you never want to be the reason why everyone is running behind on time. It all starts with the foundation of creating an organized workspace. 

How To Live Together On Tour

In addition to working together, you are, of course – living together. Daily, you will encounter situations that challenge your judgment of *can I do this on tour*. You aren’t going to have anyone ask for permission, and most of the time, no one will ever tell you can’t do it. So you have to be your own best advisor. The rule I use in my head is

What If Everyone Did This?

For example, you are using your laptop on the bus in the front lounge, doing some work, responding to some emails. Whatever it may be. When you are done with your piece, you think to yourself. Can I leave my laptop here? Ill is back in ten minutes. Now is when you want to ask yourself.

What if everyone did it?

If everyone did it, we would no longer have a table. So please put away your laptop. Of course, this principle applies to many things that happen on tour. Remember, teamwork. 

Living On A Bus

Alright, let’s talk about living on a bus. If you start on a smaller tour, you will be on a van – and these rules apply to that as well. However, on a van, they become even more critical; smaller space means that your actions have even more impact on the people around you.

Some areas of the bus you will use daily that you want to leave better than when you found them.

  • Coffee
  • Bathroom
  • Back lounge 
  • Fridge/ Pantry
front lounge hanging

Hanging in the front lounge of a bus somewhere in the UK. Yes Alex has a scooter.

Here are some essential tips for living on a bus

  • Don’t leave your stuff out; put it in your bunk or a drawer with space. Never leave it in a community area. 
  • Shut the bus bays – THe bays are the area under the bus where you store your suitcase/ things you do not need all day, just once a day. Make sure you close them. 
  • Don’t brush your teeth using bus water.
  • Only store a few items in the fridge; it is a shared space
  • Write your name on everything that is yours in the fridge.
  • Bunks are private areas, do not violate someone’s private area.
  • The bunk area is a quiet area people are asleep; be respectful.
  • The bus will be cold; you can’t make it warmer – so just bring solutions in the form of extra clothing layers.

Be aware of the…

Noises you make – keep as quiet as you can while on the bus. Put some headphones in if you are watching TikTik/ Snapchat / Youtube etc.

Smells you create – don’t microwave salmon while everyone is sleeping. Don’t put your cologne on while on the bus. You get the idea.

Living In A Venue

Again organization is critical. Keep your personal shit in your area. This might mean a dressing room or production office – whatever your job is, you will have your own area somewhere in the venue. Keep your work and personal stuff in it. 

If you have to leave something somewhere – maybe you are a photographer and need to make a small office in the band’s dressing room. That is okay! Just be smart about where you put your stuff. Some areas of the venue change as the night progresses. Will this area be a place someone might keep their drink later? Or will someone need this table to put after-show food on? 

The Rules Of Showering On Tour 

Even showering has some unspoken rules on tour. The artist usually showers after the show. Crew showers after the artist are done and after load out is done. Respect is a big deal on tour, so make sure you aren’t going and showering until all the work is done. Sometimes showers can be those oversized changing locker-style showers. Sometimes they can be a bit sketchy if you are playing smaller venues – so bring some shower shoes if you want a barrier between yourself and the ground. 

Working Together On The Road

Working together is so crucial. Done with your job? See if someone needs help. You will spend most of your day double-checking and triple-checking everything you have to do for your job. Remember, the people you work with are how you are going to get hired in the future. Little things you do during the day to help each other out will really stick out. Coffee for a hungover friend, catering to someone who might be really busy. You can be the person who makes someone else day better. 

photographer and tour manager hanging out on stage

A Tour Manager is any Music Photographers’ best friend.

Also, it is suitable for the networking aspect of all this. Of course, this should never be your incentive, just a reward that comes with being a good teammate. If one of your teammates on tour gets another tour – it is not uncommon for that team to say, “Hey do you know anyone good at Monitors?” If they remember you from the last tour they were on – they will give a good recommendation on your behalf. 

While working, remember everywhere is a work area. Always check to make sure you aren’t in someone else’s way – and make sure to let someone know if they are in yours. 

Making Mistakes The Right Way

Mistakes happen a lot. I would say I have done almost everything wrong before I have done it right. Luckily for you, I am sharing all the information with you ahead of time.  However, when you do make a mistake, just know it is normal. Not a big deal; just handle it and move on.

To help yourself be forgiven quickly – be on your best behavior at all times. When you make a mistake – it was because you double, triple-checked everything, and it still messed up. You want to avoid having errors because you simply did something wrong or had a drink too early. 

When you do make a mistake, make sure to come forward and acknowledge it at the soonest appropriate time possible.  For example, maybe you mess up during the show – don’t find your artist right after the show and apologize. Maybe their emotions are running high. Give everyone time to cool down, find them privately, and handle them accordingly. You are going to have to learn your artist on tour by tour basis. Use your judgment. 

I’ve unplugged guitars, I’ve tripped over drums, I’ve accidentally been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and blocked someone else from doing their jobs. I always apologize and use the situation to make my relationship with that person even more substantial. 

Free Time On Tour

Free time doesn’t really exist – and if it does, make sure it truly is free time. You are never really off the clock. Always have your radio/ phone available and be ready to work. Depending on your job – your free time might be during the artists’ set. For me, as a photographer, it is usually in the morning before anyone gets up. 

Free time does exist on days off (assuming you aren’t the photographer, haha) – and when you get some time off with the people you work with all day every day, it is incredible. Nothing like getting to know the people you work with on a more personal level. Work hard and play hard – or something like that.  

Day off hangs with all of the tour family

Day off hangs with all of the tour family

How To Learn and Improve Daily On Tour

The best part about touring, in my opinion, is that you get to learn every day continuously. You make a mistake one day, you can literally do better the next day, and again the day after that. It is a constant push for perfection. From the outside looking in, it might seem like it gets boring. But once you are in it – there are many things you can improve daily. It involves taking notes on the show/ making notes about moments I missed or moments that happened that I want to photograph. 

Through teamwork and daily improvements, you will become one of the best touring crew out there. Just don’t be a dick, help your friends out, and maybe wear some shower shoes here and there.

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