Musicians' Survival Guide: Callum Read

By Kath Hartley

Posted

In this instalment of the Musicians' Survival Guide we spoke to Callum Read about life as a tour manager...

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What’s life like on the road?

As a tour manager you are so busy that time goes very fast; you have a lot to think about and a lot to make sure is running smoothly. For some other roles it can be lonely. Tour managing is extremely exhausting mentally and physically. Often your average sleep time on tour is around 4-5 hours per night.

Does the tour experience differ in other countries?

For sure – different countries have different customs and different ways of doing things i.e. Different traffic laws to be aware of etc. In general, the language of music and the way you put on a show is quite consistent. Lots of equipment in the industry is the same and you can usually expect to find familiarities all around the world.

How did you get in to tour managing?

Like many tour managers out there, I kind of fell into it by accident. I needed to drive a band from America around the UK as they couldn’t use a stick shift (manual gear vehicle). Naturally, as time went on throughout the tour, it developed from just driving to organising, to taking care of all elements of work needed to make the logistics of the gigs around the country happen. I found more work afterwards and it just continued.

How many artists have you worked with as a tour manager?

In the last 4/5 years I’ve toured with many different bands at many different levels. From arena tours supporting The Killers (with Alex Cameron) to the small bar-venue circuit during the early days of a band’s career.

Some of my favourite tours include Hinds, Dream Wife, Alex Cameron, The Orielles, Shadowlark and Dr Dog.

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What skills are particularly useful to have in your arsenal as a tour manager?

Time keeping, first aid experience, patience, organisational skills and being able to listen and respond to personal problems. Generally, problem solving is an absolute must. You must be able to think on your feet and find a solution to a problem ASAP.

Do you do other work alongside tour management?

I also now work in artist management, which has been possible because of the transferable skills gained in knowing the general ins and outs of the business, and knowing how to look after artists. Many skills can be transferable to non-touring roles such as show reps and artist management.

What does tour managing typically include, and what does your average day consist of?

Before Tour – wake up, put coffee on and open google maps. Plan the journeys and build the travel schedule whilst arranging the production details with the promoters. Coordinate any press commitments that the band have with their daily schedule. This can take a lot of time with waiting on responses, but sometimes it just falls together.

On Tour – Wake up before anyone, have breakfast, check the van hasn’t been broken into, prepare PD’s (per diems/allowances) for the day, check the schedule for the day and any emails. Collect the van in time for the lobby call, load van with band and depart on time for schedule (tell anybody off who is late). Follow schedule to the letter, arrive at the venue with everybody fed and watered ready to soundcheck. Set up the stage ready for the band. Run the lines and EQ out the lines so the bands can arrive on stage and dive straight in to a song. Prepare any merchandise before doors, coordinate any press and arrange buyout for dinner (if agreed)/dinner location. Prepare the band for stage / change over stage for band ready to go on and stand side of stage for the show making sure it all runs smoothly. Sell merchandise, pack down the equipment at the end of the show and depart as per schedule time.

Does working unsociable hours and long days influence your work/life balance?

Absolutely. As you are incredibly busy as a tour manager, It is often hard to find time to just text your loved ones back home – which is obviously very difficult.

 

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Can you make a living from doing it?

You certainly can, but your lifestyle depends on how much that is possible for you personally. If you have a family, it may be hard to find the balance. If you are a free spirit with few responsibilities it can be really rewarding and provide you with a financial living.

Are there any stand out or funny moments for you in your tour management career so far?

You encounter many crazy people on the road. I have lots of good memories and although it can be lonely and hard work at times, you spend time with your ‘tour family’ (like minded individuals) on the road which is always nice. In every tour there is at least one funny moment, so it’s really hard to pinpoint any in particular. With the right band/artist, every day can be good fun!

Many people think you need to be ill-tempered to be successful in this area of work. Is there any truth to this?

I think it is more that many frustrations become aired by tour managers who have a lot to deal with. If something goes wrong in an area that could have been easily avoided, many tour managers see this as a waste of precious time and can be moody because of it. It comes with the stress of the job sadly. However to be successful it is not a necessity to be ill tempered, but rather a by-product of the stresses involved!

Would you recommend tour managing as a job, and if so what tips could you give to someone wanting to get in to this area of work?

I would definitely recommend the job, you can travel the world and see things that you couldn’t see otherwise while getting paid to do so. If you get stressed easily, I’d definitely not recommend it. However, if you can think on your feet and you like a challenge I would certainly recommend it!

 

By Kath Hartley

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