Crew: Road Manager • Tour Manager
Road managers are responsible for making sure the touring artist is properly represented and that the performance runs smoothly from start to finish. Depending on the size of the tour, the road manager may also oversee travel arrangements and advancement of each performance date. Road managers also act as liaisons between the publicist and the media to ensure that artist interviews and other events run smoothly. They manage the road crew and musicians, reconcile and collect performance fees owed to the artist, and distribute per diems.
“You've got to be able to communicate effectively with people, from the guys unloading your bus, to the promoter and the general public,” says Jeff Jackson. “You've got to be detail oriented so you can keep your road report, and have math skills to handle the money.”
A DAY IN THE LIFE
On the road, Jeff Jackson begins the day waking up on the tour bus in the parking lot of a hotel. His first chore is to check into the hotel and distribute the keys and room assignments to the band and crew. “I make sure everyone has a map of where their room is and let them know what time they need to be back on the bus to go to load-in and sound check. If there are scheduled interviews, I might put my artist on the phone for those. I check in with the agency, call the manager, and basically take care of necessary business.” After lunch, the band and crew are back on the bus and taken to the venue. “I'll ride the bus down to load-in to meet the promoter or the venue representative while my crew is off-loading the bus, and meet with the box office and set up my tickets. I find out where we're going to have a ‘meet and greet’ before the show, reconfirm the show times, and check that our catering requests were fulfilled. Usually, I'll ride back to the hotel with the venue runner to pick up my artist for sound check. Once sound check starts, I'll check with our merchandise person, and continue to oversee sound check until the doors open.” While the audience arrives, the group eats and relaxes before show time. “Depending on the situation, I typically settle my shows before the performance and if there are any bonuses, I'll do that and the actual ticket count after the show. During this time, the band and crew are loading out. Then we get everybody on the bus and leave for our next destination. We roll through the night and in the morning it starts all over again.”
“Remember that everything you and your entourage do reflects upon the artist's image. People aren't going to remember the road manager was impolite; they'll say the artist was rude.”
“Surround yourself with people that are better than you because it elevates you, it sort of makes you rise to their level of achievement.”
“Although our management office has the capabilities to advance our dates, I prefer to advance my own shows when I'm home. I get deal memos and contracts, once they are fully executed, from the agency. First, I sit down and read the contracts and see what has been agreed to, provision-wise. Then I call the contractor and we literally go through the contract page by page and make sure that we're on the same page as far as what he has agreed to. When I'm home off the road, I also set up hotel rooms and I do the itineraries, and fax them out to my artist, management, the band, and crew. The day before we go back out on the road, I call everyone who will be on the bus and make sure they are aware of our leave times and other details. I call the driver and the bus company, too. While I'm home, I'm also talking with management and our agency on a daily basis.”
POINTERS FOR THE JOB SEARCH
“If you want to be a road manager, you need to get out on the road at any level—whether that's selling tee shirts, as a sideman, or a member of the crew—so you can learn how everything works and have a handle on the political structure of being on the road.”
JEFF JACKSON, ROAD MANAGER
Jeff Jackson knew from the time he was in grade school that he wanted to work in a band. At age 15, he and some friends put together a group to play for their Grand Junction, Colorado high school dance. They were terrible, but bass player Jackson felt like a rock star. Moving on to more talented groups as the years passed, in 1989 he played for an artist that got some label attention, and went to Nashville to showcase for Warner Brothers Records. The deal never happened, but Jackson felt at home among the area's musicians and decided to stay.
THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS JOB:
“It's a bit like the military, being on the road: you have to hurry, hurry, hurry, and then you end up waiting for two or three hours. The waiting is the worst part. It's not like that every day, but when you're dependent on other people to stay on time, you often end up waiting.”
THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS JOB:
“I really enjoy the travel and being in a different place every day.”
Planning to land a job as a sideman with a major country artist, Jackson began showing up at all the late night jam sessions where that city's leading players hung out. Doing so allowed him to play with, and learn from, musicians of a caliber he had not been exposed to before. He picked up whatever gigs he could find to support himself and auditioned for various artists, but never made it into a major group. In 1993, through a friend who knew the co-manager of a new country artist, Jackson got another audition. While not hired for the band, his friendly, outgoing personality led management to offer him the position of road manager. The career change did not prove much of a stretch, since Jackson had always been the one to handle business for the regional bands he played in. But, he did have to adjust to the differences of traveling on a national level.
When the artist downsized his organization at the end of the year, Jackson was faced with the choice of returning to the role of musician, or continuing to work as a road manager. He turned down an offer to play bass with a band in order to road manage singer David Ball. Since that time, Jackson has been out on the road almost continuously with artists like Hal Ketchum, Buffalo Club, David Kersch, and Gary Allan.
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