What Does a Music Tour Manager Do?

From finances to band babysitting, the tour manager wears a lot of hats

Arcade Fire In Concert
Credit: Jeff Fusco / Contributor / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

What is a Tour Manager?

A tour manager is a person who runs the show when a band is on tour. Tour managers are responsible for making sure a concert tour runs smoothly. Their jobs involve looking after the tour finances, making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there and generally making sure that everyone on tour is on task. Tour manager jobs often also involve dealing with the personal issues of the other people on tour and generally making sure that everyone on tour is happy.

What Does a Music Tour Manager Do?

On a small indie tour, the tour manager may be the same person as the band manager, may double as the driver and the road crew, or may simply be the most responsible member of the band.

He or she may have started out as a friend of the band who was along for the ride. These kinds of tour managers often take one a workhorse/everyman kind of role, reacting to whatever comes up. 

On big budget tours, however, the role of band manager is a lot more formal. There may be a team of people in place running the tour, and the tour manager's job and responsibilities become more defined. For instance, if there is a full road crew in place, the tour manager simply makes sure they are doing their
job and are where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there ­ but they don't actually
have to look after the gear themselves. These tour managers act more as supervisors to the team
working for the band.

Indie Tour Managers vs. Big Budget Your Managers

Like many jobs in the music industry, there is a big divide between the work done by tour managers on smaller tours and tour managers on big budget tours. But here are a few of the basic aspects of the job, which encompass most of the behind the scenes business of a tour.

 

These can include confirming reservations, managing tour finances, getting everyone to where they need to be on time, dealing with promoters, venue managers, ticket agents, and the like, and confirming show times.

On larger tours, the job of tour manager might be split between a few people. For instance, there may be a tour accountant to manage the finances and someone else managing the road crew. But there will always be one person with the ultimate responsibility/decision-making power to whom these additional managers report.

Tour Manager As Tour Mom (or Dad)

In addition to a tour manager's specific duties, there are less easy to define but very important aspects of the job. A tour manager is the one who needs to help manage all of the emotional ups and downs and demands of life on the road. Whether one of the musicians is feeling fed up and threatening to walk out on the tour or if the band decides they want an ice cream sundae in the middle of the night, it falls to the tour manager to try to make everyone happy again.

Touring is extremely difficult work, physically and emotionally, and the tour manager needs to keep everyone on track and ready to do their jobs.

Salaries for Tour Managers Vary

The pay for a tour manager depends very much on the size of the tour. The fee structure is normally a base salary plus expenses and a daily stipend for incidental expenses. The profitability of the tour is a major factor in determining how much exactly a tour manager gets paid. When tour managers are just starting out and trying to build a reputation, they may take work on small tours for expenses only. But tour managers for large, highly profitable tours are paid a generous base salary. Pay should be negotiated in advance of the tour and factored into the tour budget.

How to Find Tour Manager Jobs

Many tour managers build a client base through word of mouth. They may start working for friends' bands on small tours and then find new jobs on the basis of recommendations. Alternatively, tour managements companies - and sometimes crew companies - have a staff of tour managers ready for hire. The musicians' manager, label or agent may hire the tour manager.

There are a lot of perks to being a tour manager. You get to travel extensively and see some great shows. However, it is also a great deal of responsibility. To be a good tour manager, you have to be able to calmly and coolly juggle the demands of a large group of people, as well as being able to fulfill requests that may sometimes seem unreasonable. The difficulty of the job always depends on the group of people you are out on the road with.

As a tour manager, you are ultimately the one responsible for seeing that the tour moves from show to show without a problem, so you can't engage in most of the partying that typically happens on the road. Although everyone is on tour to work, the tour manager is the one person who can never really take a night off.

If you are organized and think you can handle the demands of the road, however, working as a tour manager can be a fun and rewarding job.

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