-Expert Tips from Professional Tour Managers On Surviving The Fair And Festival Season-
Many new and developing music artists are about to dive into their first summer touring season, so it seems the perfect good time to review some road survival tips to help prep them for this exciting career transition. Our “road pro” expert panel includes:
Doug Goodman spent the last 31 years working on the road as a tour manager and accountant. He started his career with the band Slayer in the ‘80s and has worked with a wide variety of superstar rock and pop acts since then. He is currently handling Smashing Pumpkins and George Lopez.
Philip Haney is the acting tour manager for the Eli Young Band. He began working with them over 9 years ago as the front of house engineer and after a few years took tour manager responsibilities.
Tristan Lora is an artist manager that has spent the last 14 years tour managing and assisting musical acts and celebrity actors. He considers himself fortunate to have had “long rides” with such talents as: Ryan Bingham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stealing Angels, Jana Kramer, Jamie Lynn Spears and many more.
Jordan Powell spent 15 years traveling as a tour manager for several artists. Seven of those years were spent with superstar Miranda Lambert. He is now “retired” from the road and managing artists from a “comfortable chair” in Nashville.
Lauren (Larry) Spratlin has been working as a tour manager for 5 years with talents such as Patty Griffin and Jason Isbell. She is currently on the road with The Weepies.
NEKST: Instruments aside, what are some of the most essential items a new artist should pack before leaving on an extended summertime tour run?
Doug Goodman: Patience.
Philip Haney: Extra phone chargers, underwear and socks. Towels (many venues won’t provide them) and wet wipes for the times you just don’t have a shower available. Also, bring a great attitude!
Tristan Lora: Headphones, flip flops, swimsuits and work out clothes are essential. Staying fit is the key to staying healthy.
Jordan Powell: Duplicate sets of toiletries/makeup, extra AC& DC phone chargers AND THEIR TOUR MANAGER’S ADVANCE SHEETS.
Larry Spratlin: Pack attire for any kind of weather, but don’t pack your whole closet. Immune defense packs and vitamins. If you’re a drinker, powdered Pedialyte can be a morning after miracle.
NEKST: How can musical artists best prepare for performing in the outdoor heat? Note: Each of the experts highly pushed hydration as the #1 key suggestion, (even up to daily therapy a week in advance) and refraining from drinking alcohol the night before. The below reflects other preparation suggestions.
Doug Goodman: Rest. But, their best move is to write a hit so that they can play after the sun goes down.
Philip Haney: A close second to water (as heat will fatigue you) is food; always utilize catering even if you don’t feel hungry as you will need the energy for the long festival days.
Tristan Lora: If possible, have a great green room, hotel or bus for retreat. Don’t bring 1 case of water and 5 cases of beer- been there, done that- it was miserable. Drunk and miserable.
Jordan Powell: Buy and carry a blower fan (or two) for the stage. Don’t be scared to dress weather appropriate (hats/sunglasses/short sleeves) and lose the jackets.
NEKST: What is the most important personality trait a touring artist can have when meeting/dealing with fans OFF stage?
Doug Goodman: Patience (again) and a smile.
Philip Haney: It can be overwhelming, but you need to remember the fans are the reason you are touring. They deserve a little bit of your time so they can tell you what your music does to them. Take deep breaths and keep a grateful attitude.
Tristan Lora: Never be the bad guy/girl. Let the tour manager do that. It’s important that the fans feel you are approachable and think highly of you. Don’t become out of control, keep your cool.
Jordan Powell: Kindness. If there’s a situation where someone has to be a bad guy, let it be the tour manager or someone else. Fans should always be left with a positive impression of you.
Larry Spratlin: Fan are oftentimes so excited that they either don’t know what to say or they simply can’t stop talking. It is an unusual and difficult task to have a brief and meaningful conversation over and over again. Being sincere and having the ability to guide the conversation is key.
NEKST: Any tips for “first bus” bliss? (Bus mate harmony? Road weariness? How to make a bus feel like home?)
Doug Goodman: Ha! Dare I type “patience” a third time?
Philip Haney: Be clean! Some people are used to leaving their shoes or personal items lying around at home. A tour bus is home to many people, so respect for the limited space is necessary. Make sure your bunk is comfy. Consider bringing better pillows. No #2!!
Tristan Lora: A bus is your home (in tight quarters) along with a lot of others so keep it tidy. Bring movies and fun games. Cards Against Humanity is a solid start. Travel with people you like. Plan fun outings in the cities you visit when you have a few downtime hours.
Jordan Powell: Stock the bus with your favorite foods/drinks, baseball/football or things to play with in downtime. Bring your favorite pillow/sheets, pictures of friends and family to hang in your bunk. Make DAMN sure that you and your driver see eye to eye. They can make your life great or terrible.
Larry Spratlin: Prioritize your needs. Figure out what you need to be comfortable, keep it simple, and stick with it. And clean up after yourself! No one likes a dirty bus.
NEKST: What should a new touring artist expect scheduling-wise during the Fair and Festival touring season?
Doug Goodman: Lots of down time. Most festival acts don’t get a sound check, and if they do it will be in the morning before the door time. Make sure
whoever is handling the scheduling allows plenty of time to get to and from
things, because huge crowds have a way of causing travel slowdowns, whether
you’re walking or riding.
Philip Haney: One thing is certain; you do whatever it takes to make sure the show goes on. Be available to your crew and the local sound crew as festivals are sometimes a sit-and-wait game. Prepare for last minute schedule changes due to weather and know that many festivals have press on site that may want to interview you- on camera- so don’t expect to roll out of bed close to show time.
Jordan Powell: Driving all over the map with no rhyme or reason to make your gigs. You may literally drive thru a town 3 times in a weekend but never play there, just zig zagging.
Larry Spratlin: Sleep probably won’t be a big part of it.
Philip Haney adds the following helpful suggestion; “Festivals are packed with talented bands and great crews, establishing camaraderie is a plus. Hang out, get to know each other, because the touring life can be so fun!” Now, get your hydrated and tidy self out there on stage and show the music fans why you are really there in the first place.