As a tour manager, you’re often called upon to spend intense time with some of the music industry’s biggest stars. The daily routine can be both exciting and exhausting and you have to love life on the road: Berlin today; Moscow tomorrow; New York next week. Many BIMM Berlin students dream of a job as a tour manager, so we brought Sheep Tourdog – one of the most successful professionals in tour management – to BIMM Berlin, where he hosted a Masterclass for our students. The Berlin-based tour manager has spent the past 13 years on the road with big names in the industry, and has toured the world with Thirty Seconds To Mars. In the Masterclass audience was Anna Jakisch, Head of Communications at the event management agency Fachhandel für Ereignisse. Here she presents her take on the truly inspiring event.
An exciting career
It’s a tour manager’s job to make sure the band’s tour schedule runs smoothly for everyone involved. This means getting the band safely to venues and hotels, managing their tight schedule, handling finances, and dealing with venue managers, sound engineers, promoters and media representatives. You have to be aware of all the necessary information at all times and understand the individual workflows of all involved, right down to the last detail, to ensure a smooth process.
Sheep loves his job, the musicians, tour bus life and the whole music industry. So far he’s mostly had positive experiences, but he did claim that “not everyone is made for this job. Some complain of stress and flee towards alcohol abuse. You have to be able to withstand enormous pressure”.
It’s a profession where you’ll always meet different personalities and have to learn how to deal with all kinds of characters: “It’s definitely a challenge! Not every band member is always easy. Each band has its own expectations and I always try to do my best!” he said
“The bigger the band you’re touring with, the more time you’ll invest. With big bands, a working day can last around 12-14 hours. But it’s great fun!” says Sheep.
Generally, the larger the production budget involved, the bigger the crew and the more press inquiries and meetings you’ll get… and sometimes an extra tour driver is needed or someone to look after the merchandise stand: “You have to learn to recognise this moment,” he said.
Find the perfect tool for you
One of the key challenges of this job is to stay organised. “It’s best to do everything that needs to be done in advance. If you put everything off until the last minute, you’ll get into trouble,” Sheep warns.
Fortunately, there are excellent tools available which make organising easier. Sheep reveals he prefers to use the professional Tour Management Software Master Tour. There are a lot of productivity apps, but Master Tour brings them all into one interface… from your emails and to-do and crew lists, to your schedules for every day and every period of time. “As a tour manager, there are a lot of different things you need to look after continuously. Tools like these help you to get everything under control,” he said
Sheep stated that he receives an enormous number of emails whenever he opens his mailbox. He showed the BIMM students how he categorises and sorts all the requests from different people, and mentioned that, since emails require everything to be in writing and can also be accessed at a later point in time, this is his main communication medium.
Your career as a tour manager: invest in your experiences
The right network is the key to building a successful career as a tour manager. “It has a lot to do with luck: you have to know the right people and be recommended,” said Sheep. “It’s very much a case of who you know and who your contacts are”.
Sheep received his first job thanks to a friend’s recommendation: “This works best if you have good references on your CV,” he said.
“Compromises may be necessary when a great opportunity opens up. To get a foot in the door, you may have to work without payment at the beginning. I took a friend of mine on tour with Thirty Seconds To Mars as an assistant, without pay. Now he’s a successful tour manager,” he said.
Sheep knows you grow with the job: “Meeting local and upcoming bands, and collaborating and becoming friends with them is a key part of the job. When these bands grow up, you can grow with them.”
This also requires a lot of self-organisation. Working as a tour manager means no regular income because it’s project-based work and dry spells will occur. “When a tour’s cancelled, you take on the risk yourself,” Sheep explained. “There are times when there’s only beans on toast to eat – for example, nobody goes on tour over Christmas and New Year’s Eve”.
Things don’t always go according to plan, such as visa restrictions or flight schedule changes, so using your creativity and negotiating skills are a prerequisite for this job.
“Thinking outside the box helps me to grow personally. Often you do things you didn’t think you could. I get paid to spend time with incredible people in the best places around the world. This is amazing!” he said.
As a final question, the students wanted to know if, as a tour manager, you have to like the music of the band you’re touring with: “No, that’s completely secondary,” said Sheep. “You’ll probably need the time while the band plays to work anyway!”
To find out more about studying at BIMM Berlin, order a prospectus.
Photos by Eline Duijsens.