Versatility Is Key
Today we are going to talk about the importance of being versatile as a tour manager.
Tour management is already a tough job. You have to handle every single thing outside of playing the show and interacting with fans. It is a serious amount of work and you need to remain sober, focused, and composed all the while being able to multitask a hundred different things, while also ensuring your drummer doesn’t do something stupid (it’s always the drummer… or bassist).
However, unless you are working for an A or B list musician, chances are bands are going to need you to handle more than just the tour management duties (even Five Finger Death Punch, who is certainly an A list band, has a tour manager that is also a lighting technician). They will want a tour manager who runs sound, or works lighting, or can be a drum/guitar technician, or more. This makes perfect sense simply because they can have more done by one person.
Now, while I have hundreds of hours of combative and security training, no one is really going to need a head of security at the level I am at. Regardless, I consider myself the head of security for any show or tour I work on, simply because no one else seems to think about their security (go back to the first or second blog post – YOUR SECURITY IS IMPORTANT). Upon this, reality is that I am handicap (currently wheelchair bound) and even when I do get to the point of working with A and B list musicians, I will still only be able to accomplish so much on that front. I can scan a room and find the exits and plan a method of escape. I can point out legitimate threats in a room and navigate my way around them. My every day carry (EDC) not only includes a firearm, but also a tactile flashlight, tourniquet, and edged weapon. Regardless, my security services are rarely used. Still, I do cover that end of concerts and tours to the best of my ability.
While security is important, bands at a lower level are going to need more practical services for their performance. Everyone and their brother seems to think they can run a sound board properly; truth is few have the slightest clue what they are doing. This is simply because to do this you need to have what we call “an ear”. Having an ear means that you can tell when the bass is coming through the monitors too high and you need to take the EQ down. (I have no idea if that statement makes sense, but I think I have heard that complaint before. I do not have an ear for sound.) Having a talented sound technician is the second most important job to being in the band. If your band sounds like shit live, no one is going to leave with the right experience in their memory.
Another job is a lighting technician. Now while the venue sound technician is typically the lighting technician as well, you, as a tour manager can bring in your own lights and set them up for the band you are working for. I have seen tour managers run lights for a band and it makes their set so much more amazing. It can add an amazing effect to your performance that will keep you fresh in the memory of your fans. If you need an ear to run sound, you simply need to understand music theory to run lights.
Last, and again this is VERY rare to find for lower level acts, is the drum and guitar technician. Personally, I couldn’t imagine a worse job. I play the drums and have for about 14 years. I loathe tuning a drum set but it is all worth it because once you put on new heads, and you spent hours tuning it, perfecting that sound, you get to play. Well, as a drum tech you get to spend the time tuning the drum set, but not play it. Like being a sound technician you need an ear to be a drum (or guitar) tech. Basically, the technicians job is to make sure the equipment is always show ready, meaning tuned, polished, and ready to move onstage.
Hope this was useful for you. I myself am I going to start exploring what I can do as a lighting technician. I’ll keep you all posted.