How To Be a Band's Tour Manager (Without Murdering Anyone)
Casey Schafer is an ex-tour manager with more than a decade of on-the-road experience, working with a variety of artists, including pop-punk bands (MxPx) and rap superstars (Lil Wayne). He now owns and operates the North Beach-based record label Burning House, and manages artists with whom he no longer has to share sleeping quarters. Here, for those of you who wish to pursue a life doing "the most thankless job in the world", are his tips on how to be a tour manager without committing murder.
"Your main job as a tour manager is to make sure the band gets paid. One time in Ft. Lauderdale, the promoter decided that he couldn't or wouldn't pay. I'm sitting in this guy's office waiting for him to come back with the money and I look out of his window and see him getting into his car. Now, some tour managers would just call the booking agent and let them deal with it later. I, however, was a little intoxicated, so instead, ran downstairs and jumped on the hood of his car. We went around and around in this game of chicken for a while until he realized that I was 20 years younger than him -- and thus invincible -- and in the end, we went back to his office and I was paid in full. He even threw in a couple of bottles of Jack Daniels for the road."
Don't Kill the Band Members
"When a band is finally able to afford a tour manager (I mean a real one -- not your buddy from back home that wishes he'd taken you up on your offer to join the band instead of joining the football team), they really do want to be babysat. On the road, the tour manager is the parent. Be firm, but try and be pleasant. Try not to get in the habit of negotiating on little things. Pick your battles -- there will be many, so choose wisely."
Don't Let the Band Members Kill Each Other
"Fights only really happen during periods of intoxication. And generally it's your crew members that fight (I will never fully understand the rivalry between lighting guys and sound guys). If they fight, they get fired, but when band members fight, you have to treat it like a hockey referee would -- let it go until someone hits the ground and then put them in the penalty box (which is either their bunk on the bus or their bench in the van)."
Become a Food Hoarder
"Always take the deli trays from the venue. You pay for them anyway, so you might as well. You can literally survive for couple of days on those things. Then splurge and hit up a Cracker Barrel with the money you've saved."
Don't Take Sexual Favors from Moms
"I was on tour with this pop star from a very popular reality TV show and every single damn day we would have floods of mothers and daughters waiting for us at our hotel. They were clever about it -- a group of five or six people would split up and cover all of the hotels anywhere close to the venue. When we arrived at the hotel, one of the moms would give a bat signal to the other moms to let them know where we were. Anyway, on more than one occasion a mother would offer me sexual favors if I would introduce their pre-teen daughter to this overrated ass clown that I worked for. Typically, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this just made me sad."
Remember: Local Bands Can Be Douches
"When the promoter puts a local band on the bill, they often think that because they got played on the town radio station once or twice and get free drinks at their local bar, they are entitled to sit in your dressing room and drink your beer. Look, you little shits, there is a reason you are still a local band after eight years. The dressing room is a temporary home for the touring bands to relax in while they try and piece together what is left of their relationships back home. Stay out!"
Don't Panic In Foreign Countries
"I'd say 75% of the time, communication isn't too much of a problem because most people speak enough English to get by. But there was one time -- I can't remember what country I was in -- I paid some local kid standing in line 50 euros to hang out and translate for me all day. You gotta do what you've gotta do..."