Tour managers and live sound engineers – a brief Q &A

A student recently asked me answer some questions about concert tour management and live sound engineering to help her with a college project. I get a lot of these requests and am always happy to offer answers and advice (time permitting) and have even posted an FAQ to help with this type of research.

However it is hard to convey the enormity of the preparation that the tour manager and live sound engineer have to undertake to create a successful show or tour.

That’s why I was particularly pleased with my answer to this enquiry – it kinda tells. it like it is, without getting too wordy.

So I’ve copied it here for you. Remember, the questions are from a college student, via email.

1. What main roles are expected of you as a tour manager/live sound engineer?

TM – to organise the band/crew/equipment/travel/accommodation for the band prior to setting off for a show or tour.

LSE. – to work with the band, crew, venue or audio supplier to portray the bands sound in the best possible way.

2. For both of your jobs, does the preparation before a concert/gig have equal importance to the preparation on the day of a concert/gig?

Absolutely. ‘Hope for the best,  plan for the worst’ or ‘the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war’ are two of my favourite mottos. Get as much information as possible before the show/tour. It still won’t be perfect but you will know what you are. walking into.

3. What needs to be done in preparation before a concert/gig for both of your jobs?

TM- I need to figure out how much everything is going to cost first. Then I need to figure out how we are going to get to the gig – what transport we are going to use – splitter van, sleeper bus, plane etc.

Then I look at where everyone will be before the show and how long it will take to get everyone in one place – either at the show or before hand.

Then I liaise with the venue and promoter to establish a schedule for the day or tour. That schedule is then sent to everyone concerned – band, crew, suppliers, record company and management.

LSE – I find out what PA (sound system) is in each venue (if any) and what we may need to bring in. For each show. I then listen to the music. A lot.

4. Could you give an example of something that you could do wrong in both of your jobs and how it would affect the people around you and the show?

TM – being late, missing planes, lost passports, incorrect visas, lost equipment, hospital visits – the list is endless. A TM’s job is to anticipate and avoid these kind of situations where at all possible. The show must go on!

5. What do you like/dislike most about being a tour manager/live sound engineer?

TM – I like knowing I made a show happen. I dislike being treated as someone who does this as a hobby.

LSE – same as for TM and I also dislike the move to digital mixing consoles – no fun in staring at a computer screen at a live show.

6. What basic skills and qualifications should someone require if they would like to become a tour manager/live sound engineer?

TM – organised, calm, some basic technical knowledge, good computer skills and a thick skin. A passion for music is a must. You need to know as many bands/musicians/DJs/crew as possible – that is where the work comes from.

LSE – good knowledge of sound theory, some knowledge of electronics and a passion to create good audio. Getting as much experience as possible, working on as many small shows and working your way up is vital. You need to know as many bands/musicians/DJs/crew as possible – that is where the work comes from.