Live Music Business - What Does A Tour Manager Do?

What does a Concert Tour Manager do?

The idea of using a concert tour manager is to make sure the tour is running smoothly, all band and crew are happy, performance revenue is being collected and tour-related bills are being paid.

The following is a (very) brief guide to the work you should expect from any concert tour manager you work with.

What you should expect from your concert tour manager.

A band tour manager is basically the person who takes care of booking all the accommodation, transport, equipment and crew involved with the tour. They travel with the band on the road, dealing with all the day-to day problems as they arise. They also act as accountant; producing budgets, picking up cash for performances and paying suppliers and other expenses as the tour progresses.

On very large tours the role of concert tour manager may be split between 3 or 4 different people; for instance tour manager, production manager, production assistant and tour accountant (s).

Tour managers are usually freelance and are paid by the artiste or artiste’s management company from the tour funds. They work on a daily or weekly rate. The tour usually pays for the tour manager’s accommodation, travel, communication costs and other expenses.

Caution:

Concert/band tour managers are not regulated; there is no Association of Concert Tour Managers. Tour managers do not need to sit exams or hold related qualifications. Anybody can call themselves a concert/band tour manager.

There are related academic and vocational courses such as theatre stage management and event management courses but I is not aware of specific courses dealing with concert/band tour management.

I mention this as a tour manager is supposed to relieve you of the stress of organising and administrating your concert tour. It is therefore important to know that the tour manager you are retaining has some experience in the role or can offer you a good, non-conditional guarantee. Or both.

As a general rule, concert tour managers do not book or arrange the shows. This is the job of the booking agent working in conjunction with promoters.

The band tour manager will be contacted by the management, usually during or after the booking of the show (s). (In certain cases the management may consult the tour manager about the suitability of certain venues or whether it is possible to reach certain cities in the time allocated etc.)

The tour manager’s job really begins once the dates have been booked. For instance, for the tours I work on, I will take the date sheet supplied by the booking agent and then look at what needs to be done in  the following areas: budget, advancing and on-the-road.

Budget

You may have a list of dates and the fees (income) that you can expect from each show. Great, but how much is it going to cost you to do those shows? Touring is expensive and at the very least you are going to need transport to and from the gig and maybe somewhere to stay if the show is a great distance away.

So, before agreeing to under-taking the tour, the artiste’s management should have a look at the costs involved. The tour manager is usually involved in this cost-setting, as they usually have more experience in anticipating the types of expenses a touring band will incur.

Ideally, the booking agent should have given the manager a list of the fees the band will receive on the tour. The person responsible for the budget should then subtract figures for likely expenses from the total performance fees. This deduction will show the profit for the band from playing the shows – if any.

Creating the budget

When I’m compiling a budget (or list of possible expenses) I use the following main categories:

  • WAGES
  • PER DIEMS*
  • ACCOMMODATION
  • TRANSPORT
  • SOUND
  • LIGHTING
  • BACK LINE
  • PRODUCTION
  • REHEARSALS
  • OTHER EXPENSES**

* Per Diems is a daily amount paid to touring crew to cover living expenses, food etc. From the Latin ‘for the day’. Apparently.

** Other expenses would include any foreign artist taxation, management commission and agents commission.

The responsibility of the tour manager is to present the costs as he or she perceives them and to offer solutions if the costs are too great.

The income minus the expenses will give either the profit or loss (shortfall) for the tour.

Advancing

Once a budget/ list of predicted expenses has been agreed, the band tour manager will then start to ‘advance’ the shows.

There is a saying, ‘the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.’

Or, ‘hope for the best, plan for the worst.’

Advancing is the way tour managers’ ‘sweat in peace’. It is the process of contacting each promoter and venue to ensure the entire artiste’s technical and hospitality demands will be met and to resolve any problems the promoter or venue can foresee.

The tour manager will also ask each promoter about the relevant venue contact names and addresses, arrival times, equipment load in times, sound check and performance times, any supporting/opening acts and finally what time all live music has to be finished by.

The aim of the advancing is to make sure that all information about each venue is known, thus avoiding problems on the the day with  incorrect venue addresses, limited physical access to venues (i.e. lots of stairs to hump gear up!), clashing sporting or other musical events, sound level limits and insufficient or inappropriate technical equipment.

Good tour managers will have an encyclopedic knowledge of these potential problems and be able to anticipate them and/or advise the touring party well ahead of time.

By anticipating these problems the tour manager will save the tour both time AND money.

On The Road

Once the advancing has been done and the tour manager has all the appropriate venue information, contact details and times, he or she will usually produce the tour itinerary (AKA ‘tour book’ or ‘book of lies’!)

The itinerary details all the information for the tour, in a day-by -day format, and is issued to all touring personnel as well as to related offices, friends and family.

The tour manager will then travel with the act on the tour and the work they actually do on-the-road varies enormously depending on the type and success level of the act.

The following activities are definitely part of a band tour manager’s day-to-day workload:

  1. Overseeing hotel departures on time
  2. Settling accommodation bills
  3. Overseeing travel arrangements i.e. band and crew onto the bus or to the airport in good time
  4. Paying per diems to band & crew
  5. Overseeing venue arrival – double checking hospitality and technical arrangements
  6. Arranging up to date running order with venue and promoter
  7. Overseeing promotional activities i.e. TV, radio and press interviews at the venue or at other locations
  8. Supervising any support or opening acts
  9. Ensuring venue is ready to open on time by supervising sound check times
  10. Liaising with transport department regarding the next days’ travel
  11. Ensuring all acts perform on time and for the allotted time
  12. Settling performance fee with promoter and collecting any due cash
  13. Ensuring all touring equipment is re-packed and loaded back onto tour transport
  14. Preparing band and crew schedule sheets for the next day
  15. Overseeing band and crew on to appropriate over night transport or to next hotel
  16. Reporting this show’s attendance figures to management and booking agent

After the tour

Finally, the tour manager is responsible for totaling up all the tour expenses, creating an itemised breakdown (with the relevant receipts), and producing a statement that shows how much was actually spent, compared with how much was budgeted for each tour expense. This statement (or tour accounting) will usually be given to the artist management and record label (if there is one) and agreed, before the tour manager is be paid their salary for the tour.

Get the tools

You can get copies of blank tour budgets, example show contracts, tour book pages, as well as other tools useful for concert tour managers, here.

24 thoughts on “What does a Concert Tour Manager do?

  1. Hi Andy,
    I’ve worked as a general manager for a touring stunt show for 8 years and most of my roles to run the show would translate perfectly to the music industry. I have never worked in the music industry, do you think this could be a major downfall to becoming a tour manager in a new industry?
    Thanks for all of the helpfull advice by the way!
    Gareth.

  2. Hi Andy, great site!!
    Can you tell me.. (Ive heard different versions) Is the tout manager responsible for booking accomodation + transport?
    Ta

    Kelly

  3. Great article!!!
    The webpage is fantastic. After 10 years of staying home this is a great source of information, on how things are being done today!

    Cheers Andy,

    Chris

  4. Yeap!
    That’s what I mean – first link from the top (called ‘Free Information and Tools Suite (46KB) ‘ ) doesn’t work. Fixable?

  5. Hi Andy!
    I bumped here because during reading of your Tour Book, there was(p.342) web site address http://www.the-tour-book.com where you can download copy of budget sheet. Found more links but one especially interesting is not working: Free Information and Tools Suite (46KB) (with TourConceptsFreeInfoProducts.zip). Any chance to make it work?

    Needless to say, this website offers much more that I was expecting. Really helpful info.
    Keep this work up. It seems like you are sharing the knowledge from the top making it accessible to the people on their unsure journey ;).

    Regards and greetings from Poland.

  6. I am wondering if taking any high school music classes would affect a career as a tour manager. I have taken guitar lessons in the past but have not taken any classes in school for music. Also any other any recommendations for classes to take in preparation for a career in this field? thanks for your time.

  7. Hi Andy!
    Thanks for the website. Very helpful information! I’d like to know three things (if you have the time to answer):

    Tour guys say that tours are an all-boys club. Now, I know that most tech people are male, but they also mentioned that the odds are almost stacked against you as a woman when you’re trying to break into tour management. Is this true and do you know any female tour managers?

    Also, to get started in the business of T.M., is it better to start with small bands and work your way up, or to start with a touring/ production company that works within and outside of the music business? Which avenue gives one more credibility, experience, and marketability?

    Can you be based outside of the US and UK and still break into the touring business, or do all first-timers need to rush down to Nashville and find a christian rock band to T.M.?

    Wow, well that was a mouthful! Thanks for taking the time to read this. Any help you could pass along would be great! Well wishes in all of your endeavors and hopefully, I’ll meet you on the road one day!

    • Erica,

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      It’s not true, I know dozens of female tour managers. There is increasing equality in touring and the business is better for it.

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      Start with the small bands and work your way up. The more bands you know, the more likely you are to build a solid network – that network will give you the referrals you need.

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      I think you can be based outside of the UK/USA – certainly mainland Europe is a great place to work from, especially if you have language skills.

  8. Hi Douglas. I was trying to reach you based on your comment. I’m not sure if your number is listed incorrect however I tried calling and only got a series of beeps. Give a call 904.534.0816

  9. This was extreamly helpful! Any tips on how to start out as a tour manager in Nashville, TN or any city? How do I make contacts and get jobs in the music industry as I work my way up to tour manager?

  10. Dear mr. Reynold,

    I’m currently following Hospitality & Eventmanagement education. I like this, but I don’t like the events really. I’m looking for a internship, outside the ‘eventworld’. Do you know if there’s such thing as a internship as tourmanager? To go with a tourmanager and learn it real life? I can’t really find education relating to ‘become a tourmanager’ or something. I’m not sure if you really read this, or respond, but I hope so 😉

    sincerely,
    Manon Plug

    • Going on tour with a tour manager is difficult as it costs the band money to transport, feed and house that person – even if you are just observing. Courses on concert tour management are beginning to appear; I lecture at Bucks New Uni in England and they now do tour management as part of the Music Management and Live Events BA (Hons).

  11. i have to research this area for a college assignement and your site has given me a better understanding so thankyou and good site =)

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