This is the 10th installment of Rolling stone ‘s The Music in Crisis series, which examines how people in the music industry are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
At 64, Marty Hom is a rock star among tour directors – the people who handle the day-to-day logistics of a tour, from planning hotels and transportation to, in some cases, waking the performers up in their rooms. hotel for interviews. From his first job, in charge of the late Bill Withers’ last road shows in the mid-1980s, Hom has continued to tour tour for Beyoncé (the Formation tour), Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Barbra Streisand, Shakira, Backstreet Boys. , Alicia Keys and many more.
This year was shaping up to be another busy one for Hom. It started with Shakira’s Super Bowl halftime show. From April to July, Hom was scheduled to work on the Rolling Stones US tour, and he would also work on a few festival shows with Stevie Nicks (she was scheduled to perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Governors Ball and the BottleRock festival in Napa, California). “I had an amazing year ahead of me,” says Hom – then COVID-19 hit. Ho spoke with Rolling stone on what happened next.
I was so excited about the Stones tour. It was going to be the first tour I did with them. We had talked about it for a long time, but for some reason I never got the job; my schedule was not available or they hired someone else. This time everything went well and I had to fly to London to interview Mick Jagger to get the job.
I don’t normally interview artists; in general, I work with management. But Mick is the type of guy who wants to look someone in the eye and make sure they’re the right person for him. I don’t remember the specific questions, but it was, “Oh, man, I’m sitting across from Mick Jagger. I’m usually not that excited or emotional. That same day, I was hired to do the American tour, from May to July. They call him “logistics coordinator”, but the job is basically that of tour director.
They were going to do the same show as last year in North America, so we weren’t building any new sets, and they were using the same touring platform. So we were going to jump right into the group’s rehearsals, starting April 16 in Los Angeles. It was my first time working with them, and I heard they do a different set list every night. Copies are distributed each evening. Which I thought was pretty cool. I started working on hotels, crew buses and a charter plane for managers.
Then about a month ago I heard that they were postponing the tour. You kind of saw it coming. When South by Southwest went unplugged, you were like, ‘Oh, my God, what’s going to happen? Then Coachella canceled. With the Stones, we were hoping we could still go on tour in May, but since things were moving so quickly, we knew there was probably no chance.
With Stevie, Governors Ball canceled. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage was supposed to postpone until October, but now that won’t happen. BottleRock was also moved in October. Stevie is squatting at her home in LA. She doesn’t come out.
With the Stones, my responsibility was to let everyone know that the tour was postponed: all the backing musicians, the security guys and the team members. We had hired about 150 people full time. The salary range was $ 30,000 to probably $ 150,000 for three months’ salary. I emailed them all saying, “Sorry about the mass email, but…” And everyone got it. It’s really out of our hands. Everyone was very understanding and sympathetic to what was going on.
“When South by Southwest went unplugged, you were like, ‘Oh, my God, what’s going to happen? “”
I lost about $ 400,000 – maybe a little more depending on what happened after the Stones this year. Tour management is really the only thing I know how to do and I’m a little old to start learning a new trade so for me it’s pretty much a wasted year. I am an independent entrepreneur, like many men and women who work in the tourism industry, so I will not apply for unemployment.
But look at the scale of the people it affects: the union machinists who build the show, the ushers, the ticket takers, the security guys. And then there are the sound companies and the trucking and bus companies. With companies like this, the normal model is to have 75% of your gear on the road at some point. Now it’s all in a warehouse, where they don’t have room to park 125 buses and store all those huge enclosures.
I have been able to save money, but so many men and women who depend on that income for their livelihood are living paycheck to paycheck. It will be really difficult and challenging for the people who make a living on the tour to support themselves and make ends meet if this continues for a long time. Some will end up emptying their savings accounts. I just read an article saying that some events may have to wait until the fall of next year, 2021. I was like, “Jesus, if we have to wait that long…” You could lose a lot of good people who should go looking for other work opportunities.
I’ve spoken to some of the production directors and tour directors that I know, people who work for U2 and Def Leppard. We’re all sitting at home saying, “What are we going to do now? This is the first time this has happened, and it is more difficult than after September 11. It was devastating, needless to say. I was on tour with the Backstreet Boys at the time. People postponed a few shows or weeks, but eventually we all got back on the road. It was out of challenge: we are not going to be stopped by a terrorist act. We were all able to cry and then show strength. This time, we can’t even do that. You don’t even know when go forward.
As for knowing when things will pick up again, it is so difficult and stimulating. No one really knows. You get so many different opinions on when it will be safe. We could start doing shows in October or November, but the big question is, will anyone want to go? The reality is that no one will be buying tickets for anything anytime soon.
And when we resume, do you test the fans or take their temperature before they enter the room? Does a fan have to go there three hours before to take the test? Then there is the challenge for us on the crew. We live so close to each other on the road, like the confines of a backstage. We are together 24/7. Social distancing is difficult to respect on a 45-foot-long bus with 12 people.
Once this is resolved and people feel safe going out again, next year is going to be crazy in terms of acts wanting to hit the road. It’s going to be packed. It will be interesting to see what happens next year.