What Does a Tour Manager Do?

The exterior of a band's luxurious touring bus parked at concert venue.

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A tour manager is a person who runs the show when a band is on tour. Tour managers are responsible for making sure a concert tour runs smoothly. Their jobs involve looking after the tour finances, making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be—and generally making sure that everyone on tour is on task.

Tour manager jobs often also involve dealing with the personal issues of the other people on the tour and generally making sure that everyone on tour is happy.

What Does a Music Tour Manager Do?

On a small indie tour, the tour manager may be the same person as the band manager. Tour managers may double as the driver or be a road crew member. They may even be the most responsible member of the band who is good with organization and management duties.

A tour manager may have started as a friend of the band who was along for the ride. These kinds of tour managers often take on a workhorse, everyman kind of role, reacting to whatever comes up, solving problems, and putting out fires.

However, on big-budget tours, the role of tour manager is a lot more formal. There may be a team of people in place running the tour, and the tour manager's job and responsibilities become more defined. For instance, if there is a full road crew in place, the tour manager makes sure they are doing their job and are where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there. ­But, on well-financed concert tours, they don't have to look after the gear themselves. These tour managers act more as supervisors to the team working for the band.

Indie Tour Managers vs. Big Budget Tour Managers

Like many jobs in the music industry, there is a big divide between the work done by tour managers on smaller tours and tour managers on big-budget tours. But here are a few of the basic aspects of the job, which encompass most of the behind the scenes business of a tour.

These responsibilities can include:

  • Confirming Reservations;
  • Managing Tour Finances;
  • Getting everyone to where they need to be on time;
  • Dealing with promoters, venue managers, ticket agents, and the like;
  • Confirming Show Times.

On larger tours, the job of tour manager might be split between a few people. For instance, there may be a tour accountant to manage the finances and someone else managing the road crew. But there will always be one person with the ultimate responsibility and decision-making power to whom these additional managers report.

Tour Manager As Tour Mom (or Dad)

In addition to a tour manager's specific duties, there are less easy to define but very important aspects of the job. A tour manager is the one who needs to help manage all of the emotional ups and downs and demands of life on the road. It falls to the tour manager to try to make everyone happy. Whether one of the musicians is feeling fed up and threatening to walk out on tour, or if the band decides they want an ice cream sundae in the middle of the night. Touring is extremely difficult work. It is physically and emotionally draining, and the tour manager needs to keep everyone on track, healthy, happy, and ready to do their jobs.

Salaries for Tour Managers Vary

The pay for a tour manager depends very much on the size of the tour. The fee structure is normally a base salary plus expenses and a daily stipend for incidental expenses. The profitability of the tour is a major factor in determining how much exactly a tour manager gets paid. When tour managers are just starting and trying to build a reputation, they may take work on small tours for expenses only. But tour managers for large, highly profitable tours are paid a generous base salary. Pay should be negotiated in advance of the tour and factored into the tour budget.

How to Find Tour Manager Jobs

Many tour managers build a client base through word of mouth. They may start working for friends' bands on small tours and then find new jobs from recommendations. Alternatively, tour management companies, and sometimes crew companies, have a staff of tour managers ready for hire. The musicians' manager, the publishing label, or the band's agent may hire the tour manager.

There are a lot of perks to being a tour manager. You get to travel extensively and see some great shows. However, it is also a great deal of responsibility. To be a good tour manager, you have to be able to calmly, and cooly juggles the demands of a large group of people. As well, as being able to fulfill requests that may sometimes seem unreasonable. The difficulty of the job always depends on the group of people you are with on the road.

As a tour manager, you are ultimately the one responsible for seeing that the tour moves from show to show without a problem. So, you can't engage in most of the partying that typically happens on the road. Although everyone is on tour to work, the tour manager is the one person who can never really take a night off.

If you are organized and think you can handle the demands of the road, however, working as a tour manager can be a fun and rewarding job.