Road Manager  What They Do

Just the Facts

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dotRoad managers, also called tour managers, are responsible for everything that happens on tour. They get everyone and everything from point A to B, booking flights and hotels and arranging for the tour buses, trucks and limos.

dotThey rent, fix and transport equipment and make sure it's set up and taken down. They settle payment with the venue, ensuring the band is paid for the concert and the crew is paid for their work. They make all catering and hospitality arrangements. And sometimes, they get a chance to sleep.

"You're basically like a travel agent, a tour guide, a babysitter, a therapist, all rolled into one," says Gordy Gale, a road manager in Los Angeles.

"Every single facet of putting on a concert is up to you. You deal with everything from names missing from guest lists to promoters who decide they don't want to pay you. You have to hire the crew, and you have to know every job on the crew because if they get sick or can't handle it, you have to do it.

"You have to be able to work in any country at any time," says Gale. "You have to know how to get equipment in and out of foreign countries, get through customs, deal with duties and taxes. You have to know the customs of the country, be able to speak several languages, be able to drive in foreign countries, know where to rent equipment, get a stage crew, get trucking permits, insurance. It's pretty involved."

Road managers generally work for the artists, not their record companies. They do a lot of the same work that band managers do year-round, but they do it on the road. Band managers hire them on a contract basis for the duration of a tour. Road managers answer to band managers, their main contacts on the road.

"[The band manager] has to deal with the record company, the publicist, attorneys, contracts and big deals," says Gale. "They'll hire a tour manager to take the tours off their plate, because if they're gone, nobody's working on getting the band future business. So you're almost identical to the manager -- you're like his rep, but you tour."

"Depending on how much the management office is involved in the touring, you could be doing everything or just a few things," says road manager Ben Richardson. "It's a very nebulous job description. But more often it means you'll just be sent a contract and you'll be responsible for putting the whole thing together."

"You have to know a little bit about every aspect of the industry," says Gary Scrutton, a touring guitar technician and former road manager. "You need to know everything about union rates when you're hiring...and know how much time they need to set up. You do everything from accounting to monitoring weather conditions. There's just so much to know."

dotTouring means long days and a long time away from home. Traveling is a way of life for road managers, who have carved out a living from organizing the affairs of bands on the move.

Gale, who speaks "a little bit of" Japanese, Italian, Spanish and French, has spent most of his career in the music industry on the road. He says tours are demanding but always fun.

Gale says, "When you're on the road you miss home, and when you're home you miss the road. I've worked on some very stressful tours but that's just how it is....You work from the beginning of the tour to the end of the tour, as well as taking care of business in the weeks leading up to the tour."

dotA road manager's work environment varies from the hotel room to the tour bus to the production office. Surroundings are constantly changing, so road managers have to be mobile and versatile.

"Each day at the venue you usually have an office set up," says David Norman, a road manager in Atlanta. "You usually travel with a couple [of] road cases like your fax machine and laptop and printer. You always carry a phone."

"There is very little glamour in being a road manager or being on the road," says Julia Rose, a road manager in New York. "You spend a lot of hours tied to your phone in a hotel room, constantly making and refining arrangements, then spend long hours in a dirty club or in a production office with no windows, or hanging outside a dressing room. There's loads of travel, but very little time to see any sights."

"A typical day could start at 8 or 9 in the morning and not finish till 1 or 2 at night, so the hours are really long," says Scrutton. "It takes at least 12 to 14 hours just to set up and take down a two-hour show. And you spend all of it walking or standing, so you get lots of exercise."

dotThe basic physical requirements of being a road manager include being able to lug some equipment and control crowds. Someone with physical disabilities probably wouldn't be able to do most of what this job requires.

"You could possibly get away with having a bad back, but that's about it," says Gale. "Most of it involves jumping in to help lug the gear, hook up electricity, troubleshoot generators and do crowd control."

"I'd say the biggest requirements are stamina, a strong immune system, the ability to digest bad food and the ability to function on very little sleep," says Rose. "Sometimes I help push cases of equipment, and there's lots of running around in larger venues."

At a Glance

Take care of business for a touring band

  • Road managers are hired by a band manager for the duration of a tour
  • Physical requirements include being able to lug equipment and do crowd control
  • Some road managers recommend taking college courses in business management or music management