Jobs You Could Have on the Road Touring
Being on the road touring with a music act or production is a dream for many, more now than ever. With schools offering music business programs (Belmont University, Middle Tennessee State University), technical degrees in lighting, video and sound (Blackbird Academy, The School of Audio Engineering, Full Sail University) there is also much more competition for these gigs then ever. Having an open mind to possible different kinds of gigs will help you get on the road quicker and work your way through the ranks to your dream job.
Varying on size, tours may have multiple positions soaked up into one, but for this I will be breaking them down as individual positions. With that said, here are a few positions, some you may or may not know to consider.
Tour Manager (TM)
Just like any workplace, you have a boss. The tour manager is that guy. Most of this gig consists of sitting behind a computer and on the phone squaring away all the nitty gritty details like travel, accommodations, catering, bus stock and, ultimately, keeping the artist happy…(also known as babysitting).
Production Manager (PM)
This guy is in charge of all things production related. Pretty hard to figure out, huh? Often this guy does all the technical role hiring (FOH, MON, LD, backline techs, etc). He will also be in charge of working out production budgets and securing gear with vendors that the tour will carry. Advancing shows with venues to make sure production needs are met is also this person’s responsibility. The PM should be pretty hands-on with all levels of production on a daily basis, and—if done well—makes for easier show days. “FOH/MON engineers frequently wear dual hats and play the PM role as well since they usually have more time during the day than other roles.
This person manages the stage during the day and pre- and post-show. Often times managing the local stage labor and the flow of load in and load out will fall under this role, if not under the PM. Depending on the size, not every tour will have a stage manager.
Long hours sums this department up. But there are a few positions here—the LD, or lighting designer, runs the show each night, the Crew Chief, and lighting techs, who tech the rig, setup/teardown, as well as fix lights that may need to be looked at each day. If you’re lucky, you might get a lighting tech. If you aren’t, you have to soak up this role as an LD. If you’re an LD and you get a tech/s, be thankful and do your best to take care of your crew. They are the ones busting ass to make your rig pretty. And vice versa, if you’re on the lighting crew, do your best to take care of your LD…it will go a long way when stuff goes downhill. AND as an LD, always make a MON focus position…it’s a requirement and they really appreciate it (SARCASM). Just remember—first ones in, last ones out.
Audio is full of the coolest guys on the road—or so they think (Fair warning here, one of the authors is biased). Most tours run with at least two audio engineers: one front of house (FOH) and one monitor engineer (MON). The FOH mixes the band for the audience to hear, and monitor engineers attend to the bands hearing needs. If you want to be an audio guy, shoot for FOH—you’ll be around longer then the MON. Depending on the size of the tour and amount of gear you carry, you could be a MON, FOH tech, or a PA tech on a bigger tour.
Video is a growing role in today’s touring world. Projection, LED, cameras and this department of workers are responsible for video images on screens. There are a multitude of jobs you can have in this department including video director, projectionist, LED tech or camera operator.
Unlike lighting, these guys are last in, first out. They tune and tech guitars, and make guitar changes during the show. They setup the band gear on the stage as well. That’s all there really is to say about backline guys.
Whether its pyro, cryo, or confetti, these guys tend to make a mess and have wires everywhere, but they do make a show really awesome. This is a serious gig though, because people can get hurt if you don’t have a good, reliable, and trusted person operating this gear.
On really large tours you can have truss automation, where lights and video are moving to different positions throughout the bands set. Like with special effects, it is also very important to have a reliable and responsible automation operator
A merch guys job is kind of like a backline guy in terms of hours, but this duty helps your boss make money. Merch mans the tables before, during, and after the show every night. They also make sure all of the tour merchandise counts and money match each other at the end of each session.
These guys are the night owls that get you to the next gig safely. Keep these guys happy, and your tour will run on time—literally.
Production Assistant (PA)
If you’re really lucky, your tour has a PA. This person can make all your requests happen, and oftentimes are the most beloved person on the tour. If you want to have a great experience on the tour, make friends with this person. No questions.
Remember that being on the road is fun, but also a lot of work. It’s not like the movies! Anything you do is a direct representation of the artist you work for, so remember, take your job as it is—a job.
Written By David Venus and Jason “Cannonball” Jenkins