What is a Road Manager?

A road manager, or tour manager, oversees the logistical and operational aspects of an artist's concert tours or live performances. This role requires a combination of organizational skills, industry knowledge, and the ability to handle the challenges that come with coordinating events on the road. The road manager is responsible for coordinating travel arrangements, ensuring that the touring party, including musicians, crew, and equipment, moves efficiently from one location to another. This involves planning transportation, accommodations, and scheduling rehearsals or soundchecks at various venues.

This demanding yet essential position requires excellent communication skills, adaptability, and the ability to maintain a cohesive and positive atmosphere within the touring team, contributing to the overall success and smooth operation of the artist's live performances.

What does a Road Manager do?

Concert stage equipment at a concert location, organized by a road manager.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a road manager encompass a wide range of tasks related to organizing and executing successful concert tours or live performances. Here are key responsibilities associated with this role:

  • Logistical Coordination: Plan and coordinate all logistical aspects of the tour, including transportation for the touring party (musicians, crew, and equipment) between venues. This involves arranging flights, ground transportation, and accommodations, considering factors such as travel time, comfort, and budget constraints.
  • Venue Coordination: Interface with concert venues and promoters to ensure smooth execution of performances. Coordinate load-in and load-out schedules, rehearsals, and soundchecks. Address any venue-specific requirements and ensure that the technical and hospitality needs of the touring party are met.
  • Budget Management: Develop and manage the tour budget, considering expenses related to travel, accommodations, meals, equipment, and miscellaneous costs. Monitor expenditures, negotiate favorable deals with vendors, and work within budget constraints to maximize financial efficiency.
  • Financial Transactions: Handle financial transactions and settlements on behalf of the touring party. This includes settling payments with venues, vendors, and local crew members. Keep accurate records of expenses, income, and financial agreements throughout the tour.
  • Problem-Solving: Act as the primary problem-solver during the tour, addressing any unexpected challenges or emergencies that may arise. This can range from resolving technical issues with equipment to managing unforeseen travel disruptions.
  • Communication: Serve as the main point of communication between the artist, management, crew, and other stakeholders. Ensure that everyone is informed about the schedule, changes, and any important details related to the tour. Foster effective communication within the touring team.
  • Hospitality and Well-being: Attend to the well-being of the touring party by coordinating meals, accommodations, and general hospitality. Address any health or safety concerns and ensure that the artists and crew have a comfortable and supportive environment while on the road.
  • Tour Documentation: Maintain accurate documentation throughout the tour, including contracts, itineraries, and contact information for venues and vendors. This documentation is crucial for reference, reporting, and future planning.
  • Promotional Activities: Collaborate with the artist's management and promotional team to execute promotional activities related to the tour. This may involve interviews, media appearances, and other promotional events scheduled alongside the performances.
  • Tour Planning and Scheduling: Work with the artist's management to plan the tour itinerary, considering factors such as geographical routing, market demand, and artist preferences. Create a detailed tour schedule that includes travel days, performance dates, and rest days.

Types of Road Managers
In the music industry, the role of a road manager can vary based on the specific needs of the artist or band, the scale of the tour, and the complexity of logistical requirements. Here are some types of road managers:

  • General Tour Manager: A general tour manager oversees all aspects of the tour, handling logistics, budgeting, coordination with venues, and overall planning. This type of road manager is typically responsible for the comprehensive management of the entire tour.
  • Production Tour Manager: A production tour manager focuses specifically on the technical and production aspects of the tour. This includes overseeing the setup and operation of sound systems, lighting, and other technical equipment at each venue. They work closely with the technical crew to ensure a smooth production.
  • Advance Tour Manager: An advance tour manager is often involved in the pre-tour planning and coordination. They work with venues, local promoters, and vendors to ensure that all necessary arrangements are in place before the touring party arrives.
  • Day-to-Day Tour Manager: This type of road manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the tour. They handle the immediate needs of the touring party, manage schedules, and address any issues that arise during the course of the tour.
  • Merchandise Manager: A merchandise manager is specifically focused on handling the sale of merchandise (such as T-shirts, CDs, and other items) during the tour. They coordinate with vendors, manage inventory, and handle transactions at each venue.
  • Artist Liaison: An artist liaison focuses on the well-being and needs of the artists themselves. They act as a point of contact between the artists and the rest of the touring party, ensuring that the artists' preferences and requirements are met.
  • VIP Coordinator: For tours that include VIP packages or special fan experiences, a VIP coordinator manages the logistics of these packages. They ensure that VIP attendees receive the promised perks and have a positive experience.

Are you suited to be a road manager?

Road managers have distinct personalities. They tend to be artistic individuals, which means they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive. They are unstructured, original, nonconforming, and innovative. Some of them are also enterprising, meaning they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic.

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What is the workplace of a Road Manager like?

The workplace of a road manager is characterized by a dynamic and ever-changing environment, primarily centered around concert tours or live performances. The road manager's workplace is, quite literally, on the road, as they travel with the touring party from one venue to another. The nature of the job means that the workplace varies from city to city, encompassing a diverse range of locations, from large concert halls and arenas to intimate club venues.

The road manager's duties often begin well before the actual tour dates, involving extensive planning, coordination, and logistics. During this pre-tour phase, the workplace may involve offices, meetings with promoters, and communication with various stakeholders to ensure that all arrangements are in place. As the tour kicks off, the road manager's workplace transitions to the touring bus or vehicles, hotels, and concert venues. They navigate the unique challenges and opportunities presented by each location, overseeing load-ins, soundchecks, and the overall execution of performances.

The fast-paced nature of the music industry and the touring lifestyle means that adaptability is key for a road manager. Their workplace extends beyond traditional office settings, requiring them to efficiently handle unexpected issues, coordinate with local crews, and ensure that the touring party, including artists, crew, and equipment, moves seamlessly from one city to the next.

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Road Managers are also known as:
Tour Manager Concert Tour Manager