"They're the first to come and the last to leave, workin' for that minimum wage," is how pop star Jackson Browne described the life of a roadie in his 1977 classic, "The Load Out." The song was a tribute to many laborers, technicians and go-fors who work behind the scenes for touring show business acts. They are the ones who "pack it up and tear it down," Browne sings.
Traveling bands and other shows can't function without the constant efforts of the roadie. While the labor and the travel are part of the job, the life of a roadie has also evolved with the times and technology.
Roadies hold many different positions in a touring act's organization. Some roadies take care of and operate equipment, for example, while others drive or provide security. Still others act as personal assistants to members of the show or music producers. To be a roadie, you'll need good communication skills and the ability to work as a member of a team. In some cases, the main qualification will be a strong back. In others, technical training or even a degree might be required.
Becoming a roadie might be a good choice for you if you have the desire to work hard and be part of the behind the scenes of show business. If you want to pursue this career, you'll want to take certain steps to prepare yourself for opportunity.
What does it take to become a roadie? What's the job like? What skills are needed? Read on to find out.
Types of Roadies
Stop and consider how many things have to go right for a typical rock concert to be successful. Aside from the music on stage, there are a myriad of factors that can decide whether fans enjoy the show and the band makes money. In most cases, the audience isn't even aware of these issues -- unless, of course, something goes wrong.
In each case, roadies have a hand in making sure everything goes right.
Like any good team, roadies play different roles, coordinating each job to ensure a smooth production. That means each roadie must be proficient in his job, whether it involves simple labor or technical prowess.
There are many different types of roadies. Some, for example, specialize in lighting and light shows. Touring bands and other shows often use an array of spotlights, colored lights and lasers to dazzle their audiences and accent their work. Lighting technician roadies must be well versed in electrical apparatus, as well as be in tune with the artists and producers using the lights for effects. In many cases, lighting roadies should be comfortable working high in the air, as many lighting booms must be installed and later disassembled high above the stage at each show.
Down below, set designer roadies set up the look and feel of the stage. Set designers might set up pyrotechnics, such as smoke pods, flash pots and the like. They may assemble risers, cables and harnesses or hydraulic-powered lifts. They also will work with sound technician roadies to place amplifiers, cables, microphones and other items in the correct places. The set designer often works with potentially dangerous items, and therefore must be well trained and alert.
Other roadies might focus on caring for musical instruments. Guitar, piano and drum technicians ensure the artists' tools are ready for action night after night and in city after city. Other roadies assist artists and music producers, making sure they're ready to take the stage a curtain time while others specialize in security or working with the bands' managers.
Now that you have an idea what roadies do, how do you become one? Read on go get some tips on how to become a roadie.
Tips for Becoming a Roadie
Once you've decided you'd like to become a roadie, you've got to find a way to enter the show biz world. Becoming a roadie, and finding work as a roadie really isn't hard if you know how to proceed, and you have the skills touring shows are seeking.
As with many jobs, a great place to start looking is the Internet. Sites such as roadiejobs.com feature dozens of job listings, categorized by position and skills. It also features a chat room, where current and aspiring roadies can trade information and tips.
You can also search out specific shows and acts -- if your heart is set on working for a particular band, for example -- to see if they're planning an upcoming tour. Some also advertise for roadie positions on their sites.
If you find an interesting opening, however, you're going to need something in your background to prove you can do the job. Sometimes, it's wise to volunteer to help on shows -- sort of like an unpaid intern -- to build your experience level and resume. At the very least, you might look around your hometown for opportunities to roadie for a group. Running sound for a local church choir or helping design the set for the local theater arts group might not be as exciting as tuning guitars for Ozzy Osborne, but it will help you build experience in supporting live performances.
A more straightforward approach to becoming a roadie could involve formal training. Many schools around the country provide training and certificates for live sound technicians, for example. Also, earning an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in a performing arts field such as theater, music, stage craft, radio/television, et cetera -- will show you are dedicated and serious, as well as provide you the technical training you'll need to help a touring act.
Roadies do more than set up stages and move equipment. What are some of other duties of a roadie? Read on to find out.
Duties of a Roadie
So you've made it in becoming a roadie -- you're on the road with a touring band or show. You have your job and specialty -- be it lights, sound, security, et cetera -- but you may be surprised to learn there's more to the job than that.
Roadies typically have many other duties aside from the one in which they focus. One of the prime roadie duties is being a member of a team and doing whatever it takes to make the show successful. This can mean pitching in for other areas that might be struggling. It also means keeping a sense of humor in the face of crisis. You'll also need to polish those communication and people skills, as the hard work and long road can fray nerves and exhaust your reserves.
As a member of the crew, you'll be representing the artists and production company for whom you work. This means you'll be an ambassador, with your attitude and professionalism scrutinized by both the public and the other business interests with whom you interact.
Often times, roadies are the mediators between the artists and others, such as the venue owners and operators. It's the roadie's job to balance the needs and artistic vision of his employer with that of the public and venue. While the artists, for example, might want a 30-foot column of flame to launch during a certain song, the roadie must work with the venue to ensure the safety and feasibility of such an effect. It may fall to the roadie to explain why some things cannot be done.
Learning how to become a roadie, in short, can't always be taught in a classroom. Becoming a roadie and executing the duties of a roadie come with experience and maturity. Roadies have to keep their wits about them so others can have a good time.
For lots more information about roadies and related topics, check out the links on the next page.