Two large caravan batteries and 150 meters of cable are among the things you might find if you get into a vehicle Cork man Jonathan Pearson is driving this summer. That’s because as tour/concert director with Crash Ensemble, Pearson is responsible for the logistics of getting the dozen members and their instruments where they need to go.
This summer, their ambitious show Crashlands takes place in rural outdoor locations, hence the batteries and cables.
“You have to be the first and the last to go to bed,” Pearson says of his role as tour manager. “You have to be the problem solver, the dying aunt, the person they laugh with, the person who says ‘you have to be in the lobby at 11,’ but you also have to be the person who says ‘you looking a little stressed, let’s do something fun.
I learned all the backline stuff, how to sell a show, who to get for the posters and all the basics of those underage gigs
Pearson always wanted to be involved in music, so he taught piano and organized concerts for minors in Cork from the age of 16. concerts,” recalls Pearson.
His first major tour as tour manager with Crash Ensemble was in the United States. It’s no small feat to bring a large group of musicians there. In addition to personnel management, transport logistics, accommodation and flight booking, visas are a priority for any musician who works there. It’s a huge expense.
“You have to go through quite a hullabaloo in that you have to hire a lawyer there which might cost around €1500 and then each visa around €1000 as well. So if you’re 10 in the group then a manager , a sound engineer and a lighting engineer, it can be exceptionally expensive.
Pearson has accumulated experience on the road, driving or managing touring groups across the country or continent since 2007.
If the tour goes monotonously, it’s a sign of a good tour
Organizing a good tour starts with the “progress” sheet, which can be sent to a venue a few months in advance and asks logistical questions regarding set-up, parking, accommodation, food, facilities, wifi, etc.
“The pitfall is almost always financial at the advancement stage. If the tour goes monotonously, that’s a sign of a good tour.
If a group is going to Europe without a booking agent (who will usually take care of logistics and reservations for 10% of the fee), then there are itinerary decisions to be made in order to spend less on fuel, which , according to Pearson, is the biggest cost of any visit.
“It’s very important to get the first gig near a major ferry port if you’re bringing a van. So if you’re in Ireland, do a gig in the north of France first. Or if you’re leaving from the UK, do a gig in Belgium or Holland as it’s two or three hours from Calais. Otherwise, the gasoline will sap everyone’s money and the trip will sap everyone’s morale.
So the old adage that groups are treated better on the continent still holds true.
Pearson also runs This is How We Fly, a contemporary music group that has two members in Ireland, one member in Sweden and one member in the United States, which brings its own logistical challenges for gigs.
“So it’s basically a €1,500 bounty even before a note is played or a gas tank is filled,” says Pearson.
It also operates as a booking agent, so flights from Stockholm and Detroit to bring the group to the same location are factored into the costs. Fees for European tour dates often far exceed what you’ll get from Irish tours. Pearson says This Is How We Fly recently played nine Irish dates and two French dates, and the French dates fetched a higher price than the nine Irish dates combined. So the old adage that groups are treated better on the continent still holds true. Pearson thinks that’s largely because promoters often get funding for their venues and people are happier paying more for concert tickets in mainland Europe.
The tour is where all this money is made
Because touring is where the money is now made in music, it’s more important than ever to have the touring machine well oiled. The markup on goods on the road is also a valuable source of revenue, with a 35-65% markup possible.
“You put out records now just so people know you’re active, so you can tour. The tour is where all that money is made.
It’s a tough life but Pearson relishes the role. “I absolutely love music and I love the people I meet through it. I see a lot more of the world than I would in an office job. There’s a lack of security but you get it back smoothly . “
Crash Ensemble will perform Crashlands at the Kilkenny Arts Festival (August 16) and Sounds from a Safe Harbor Festival, Cork (September 16). This Is How We Fly will launch their album at the same Cork Festival on September 15.