Jhe hardest part of running a tour is getting suddenly thrown off, like being woken up at 4 a.m. to take a singer to the hospital, or the loss of a 3,000 guitar unit. £. The problem ends with me. I’ve had missed flights due to snow, managers yelling at me, gear not being provided when needed, entire tour buses seized at the border, crew members forced to lay off – all sorts of things.
Every artist and every tour is different. I’m involved in everything from booking hotels, flights or a masseur to giving people the food they want. I’m basically the intermediary, between the artist/team and the promoter, and sometimes the band and the fans, especially when signing. Sometimes I’m the guy who gives a case of water in the front row.
Doing arenas is like Groundhog Day. You arrive with five trucks and that’s it, your day. You do not see the city you are in: you do not leave the arena. At really big gigs, my job is to get the band involved and make sure all of their food is there. In general, everything is well organized. You’re still running into problems but ideally the show should be exactly the same every day as things run like clockwork. Everything is on a grand scale: even the rehearsals involve so much material, it’s like putting on a full concert.
The larger the group, the more crew members. Right now I’m working with You Me at Six, so I don’t need to order chopsticks or tape, but I do need to make sure the people responsible for those things get what they need.
I started music in a band called Bossk, and we toured Europe. We reformed recently, but when we first broke up, I really missed meeting 50 people I had never met before every time we played a concert. Eventually, some friends in a group called Architects said I could go on tour with them, sell t-shirts, etc. That’s how I started touring, and then you get jobs through word of mouth and referrals. It’s not much different from being an electrician. I had no experience so I would do it for what little money I could make, but I was learning. I was a manager at Pizza Hut, which helped, but there is no job center or manual for being a tour manager. I am not qualified, because there is no qualification.
One of the most important things is being able to fit in and mingle with others. You basically drive to work with the same people every day. There are all sorts of things on the road that don’t exist in normal life, as stupid as someone freaking out because someone ate their cereal. You can start working with a band in a country when they’ve already been touring for months, so you fit in with someone else’s extended family and you’re the new one. You are responsible for the group. If someone is having a bad day, you need to be considerate.
I’ve done all kinds of tours, from five guys in a van to five buses touring stadiums. You can have fun doing it, but it’s not always fun. The job involves a lot of small decisions: what time does it happen? What time do you want to do this?
Most bands are awesome. The problems are usually external, like flying to a festival in Latvia and the airline losing every piece of equipment. We arrived at the festival and I had to make the call: “We have lost all our equipment and we will have to borrow everything. In Latvia, where I didn’t know anyone. We ended up with a bass borrowed from a French ska band etc., but the show was great.
It’s hard to keep in touch with people. My parents are only just getting used to the crazy schedule I live in. There are times when you’re stuck on a bus in Pittsburgh and it’s raining, your friends send you emails about how glamorous your life is and you think, “Really? I wish I was home with Yorkshire Tea and Nando’s. Once I was stuck alone in an airport for 17 hours. You can be in a five star hotel every night, but you still miss our own bed. But even if it drives me crazy sometimes, I love what I do.
These days, there’s probably more fan interaction than ever. They try to enter the hotels of the group. Fans from South America and Asia are particularly catchy and screaming, very passionate. It’s like Beatlemania. Someone can sit in their dressing room every night for six weeks if they want, but most bands want to meet the fans. It’s a juggling act between allowing certain access and autographs and providing privacy when they want it. When you play at Wembley Arena, the bus is parked inside the venue, so you don’t have any fans outside the bus, but fans can be very creative in approaching the band.
Sometimes I just say, “What’s your name? Listen, I’ll make sure you meet the group tomorrow. But for now, go home. I remember what it was like at 14 trying to meet the Deftones, so I understand that feeling. On the other hand, you should clarify that buying a concert ticket does not give you a divine right to meet the singer. I carried a crate at 2 a.m. and relatives came to tell me: “I waited five hours with my daughter. Where is the group? This side of the music industry has gotten a little weird, with social media and everything. Meeting 500 screaming fans is definitely not for everyone. Musicians said, “I don’t want to take 700 selfies with the fans. I just put on my pajamas. On the other hand, all that needs to be done is the job of the tour manager. If the singer wants to stand in the cold for an hour and a half signing autographs, I’ll stand there with them.