Tour managers take care of nearly every aspect of the lives of musicians and crew while on the road, providing organizational, administrative, and boots-on-the-ground support for the duration of a concert tour. They make transportation and lodging arrangements; communicate in advance with concert producers and venue management to coordinate load-in, sound check, and set times; convey the band's hospitality needs (backstage catering and dressing room setup); see to it that musicians and crew get to their next stop safely and on time; and ensure that the artist's rider requests are met.
The best tour managers are well-prepared for the issues and crises that sometimes arise on tour, and deal with them resourcefully and efficiently.
Tour managers create day sheets that detail each day's schedule and distribute them to the band and crew. If there are media engagements planned—such as a record store appearance, a radio station visit, or an interview—the tour manager is responsible for making sure everyone is where they need to be. Perhaps most importantly, the tour manager manages the tour's finances, keeping a close eye on the money that comes in and out to ensure everything stays within the tour accountant's budget. When a problem arises, whether it's due to a dispute with a promoter, a passport emergency, guest list gaffes, or the artist's own bad behavior, it's the tour manager's job to resolve the issue and restore peace. In some cases, tour managers work closely with a tour publicist to ensure attendance of the shows, and those who work on smaller tours might take on additional duties, such as overseeing production elements like lighting and sound or working the merch table.
Tour Manager at a Glance
Some tour managers start out as musicians or concert techs; others have experience as festival staff, booking agents, promoters, or live sound engineers, or in similar live-music roles. With experience, connections, and a reputation for good work, tour managers can advance to better-paying jobs with more prominent bands and artists, or join the ranks of a record label or concert promotion company. They can also go into other aspects of management, becoming an artist manager, venue manager, artist relations manager, or company manager to an orchestra.
Tour management is typically freelance work, although the most experienced tour managers may be able to snag in-house positions at record labels. It's vital that aspiring tour managers have proven experience living on the road and managing a creative undertaking. As with many live music gigs, getting hired as a tour manager is often a matter of word-of-mouth referrals. To get started, some tour managers do the work for little or no pay with a friend's band.
- Schedule management
- Personnel management
- Experience touring
- Proactive communication skills
- Multitasking and organization
Tour managers must be excellent multitaskers with terrific time management and organizational skills. Being proactive and making the most of downtime (e.g., while traveling between tour stops) is extremely important to staying on top of work. The best tour managers are well-prepared for the issues and crises that sometimes arise on tour, and deal with them resourcefully and efficiently. They should also be capable of handling interpersonal conflicts—which occur frequently on tour—with grace.
It's easy to forget that managing a tour means going on tour oneself. Just like the musicians and crew members they manage, tour managers spend hours riding in cars, buses, and/or planes, work long days that continue well into the night, and sleep in hotels and motels in unfamiliar cities. They also enjoy all the benefits of going on tour: paid travel, free concerts, and new experiences and opportunities around every corner. It's vitally important for a tour manager's long-term success and well-being that he or she enjoys life on the road, highs and lows alike.