CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19 UPDATE JUNE 2020: The live music business is going through changes at the moment. I’m leaving this site up as a legacy resource and the content does not reflect the current situation.
The idea of using a concert tour manager (TM) 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 concert tour manager takes care of booking all the accommodation, transport, equipment, and crew involved with the tour. The tour manager also travels with the artist on the road, dealing with day-to-day problems as they arise. The TM also acts as an accountant; producing budgets, picking up cash for performances, and paying suppliers as the tour progresses.
On 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 artist or artist’s management company from the tour funds. TMs work on a daily or weekly rate. The tour pays for the tour manager’s accommodation, travel, communication costs, and other expenses.
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.
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:
- PER DIEMS*
- BACK LINE
- 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.
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:
- Overseeing hotel departures on time
- Settling accommodation bills
- Overseeing travel arrangements i.e. band and crew onto the bus or to the airport in good time
- Paying per diems to band & crew
- Overseeing venue arrival – double checking hospitality and technical arrangements
- Arranging up to date running order with venue and promoter
- Overseeing promotional activities i.e. TV, radio and press interviews at the venue or at other locations
- Supervising any support or opening acts
- Ensuring venue is ready to open on time by supervising sound check times
- Liaising with transport department regarding the next days’ travel
- Ensuring all acts perform on time and for the allotted time
- Settling performance fee with promoter and collecting any due cash
- Ensuring all touring equipment is re-packed and loaded back onto tour transport
- Preparing band and crew schedule sheets for the next day
- Overseeing band and crew on to appropriate over night transport or to next hotel
- 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.