How Concert Tours Work

Hiring a Concert Tour Crew
Tour managers ensure tours run smoothly. Here Tour manager Brian Pimmon, left, chats with musician Blake Shelton, center, and Brian O'Connell, right.
Tour managers ensure tours run smoothly. Here Tour manager Brian Pimmon, left, chats with musician Blake Shelton, center, and Brian O'Connell, right.
© Frazer Harrison/ Getty Images for ACMA

Even though a concert tour contract probably provides for some local crew at every stop on the tour, you'll want to have your own crew that travels with the band from venue to venue. This tour crew is invaluable because, unlike the local crew, they know the band, its show and its equipment, and they're there every step of the way to make sure the concerts go smoothly.

Here are some crew members and their responsibilities you'll want to have with you on your tour:

  • Tour manager or road manager: Manages travel arrangements, pays bills and handles problems as they occur while the band is touring.
  • Production manager: Supervises the technical crew and coordinates their work with that of the venue's local crew. Supervises moving equipment from one venue to the next, as well as setting it up and disassembling it.
  • Advance person: Arrives at each tour location before the band and crew to help the road manager and make sure advance arrangements have been handled correctly.
  • Stage manager: Controls performers' movements and crew on and off the stage; gives crew cues for the houselights.
  • Sound engineer: Operates the front of house console, which controls and mixes the sound the audience hears during a live performance.
  • Monitor engineer: Operates the monitor console, controlling the sound the band hears during a concert through on-stage or in-ear monitors.
  • Sound crew: Set up, disassemble and run sound equipment, as directed by the sound and monitor engineers.
  • Lighting operator: Operates the control console for the show and supervises the lighting crew.
  • Lighting crew: Sets up, runs and disassembles lighting equipment. May also handle special effects like smoke machines and hoists.
  • Backline crew: Sets up and manages performers' instruments and equipment.

[sources: Berklee College of Music and John Vasey]

As you hire crew to fill these positions, look for people who are:

  • Flexible and adaptable. Something can and undoubtedly will go wrong during a concert, and you'll need someone who can deal with the situation calmly and quickly.
  • Team players who get along with the band and other managers to reduce friction on the road.
  • Skilled at the jobs they do and very familiar with the equipment so that they can run it effectively in unfamiliar venues.
  • Committed enough to the band and the tour that they will put up with the inconveniences of being on the road and stick with the tour until the end.

Finally, if you're looking to make it on the concert scene, here's some advice from insiders:

  • Don't over-play the same clubs, or your ticket sales will start to drop off.
  • Recognize the difference between a recording session and a live performance and give the audience a show to remember.
  • Re-invent yourselves and freshen up your act over time, like Madonna and the Rolling Stones, to keep fans coming back year after year.

And a final word of advice: Be sure to explore all the potential revenue streams (such as band merchandise, fan clubs, licensing for TV shows and video games, and more) to add to tour income [source: The American].

For lots more information about concert tours and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

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