How to work backstage at a gig

 21 December 2015

Have you ever gone to a gig and wished you were working on it? Or maybe you’ve gone to a festival and wondered how it was all put together? Live music is a huge part of the music industry and there are lots of opportunities for getting involved.

The Cato Academy trains future road crew and connects you with real professionals who work with some of the biggest artists in the world.
The Cato Academy trains future road crew and connects you with real professionals who work with some of the biggest artists in the world.

Obvious backstage roles

Let’s just focus for a minute on all of the roles there are that you could be doing. First of all, there are the more obvious roles. These include:

Production managers

These are the people who pull the whole staging of the show together. They often have production assistants and runners to help them.

Backline techs

These are the girls and guys who set up and look after all of the instruments you see on stage. Be it drums, guitars, or keyboards, there will always be people responsible for the maintenance of the instruments and their set-up for the show.

Live sound engineers

The sound team is often described as the most vital component of any gig. They make sure everything sounds great, not just for the audience but also for the band. As part of this unit, you’ll have front-of-house and monitor engineers.

Tour managers

A good tour manager will make sure that the whole tour runs smoothly from beginning to end. They will help to manage the budget, the itinerary, the transport and accommodation, the planning and everything else to ensure that the entire touring team knows who is who, who is doing what, where to go, what to do, when to be somewhere and at what time.

But there are so many more...

Outside of these core roles, there are hundreds of others. 

The sound team is often described as the most vital component of any gig. 

Think of the lighting technicians, the drivers, the costume team, the make-up team, the booking agents, the record companies, the promoters, the artists’ very own personal team, the people who book the flights and hotels, the experts who make all of the microphones, radio systems and sound equipment, the stage hands, the artist liaison team, the local crew at the venue, and so so many others.

How can you be one of the backstage gang?

Well, there are various options for you to consider.

1.The Cato Academy

The CATO Academy is the only Roadie School in the world that can teach you how to become a tour manager, production manager, backline tech and live sound engineer. Based in London, it is an amazing place that trains future road crew and connects you with real professionals who work with some of the biggest artists in the world.

2.The Appointment Group (TAG) Academy

If you love to plan events and holidays but equally wish you could work in the music biz, you should check out The Appointment Group Academy. It trains the next generation of travel executives who help to plan huge tours that move around the world.

3.Shure Academy

If sound is more your thing, you can undertake courses – many of them for free or online – at the Shure Academy. This will help to broaden your knowledge of audio products and the latest technology and will help you to stand out from others trying to get into the industry with expert knowledge.

4.Full-time or part-time education

There are many great colleges and universities across the UK that offer courses in all sorts of music-related subjects. There are, however, some not so good ones – make sure you do your research, speak to other students and make an effort to visit the college to speak to the teachers. 

It’s advisable to ask how strongly the college is linked with real industry professionals. To get you started, I suggest you check out ACM, BIMM, Westminster University and all of the founding colleges of Creative & Cultural Skills’ National Skills Academy.

5.Apprenticeships and internships

There are lots of apprenticeships and internships on offer nowadays – many more than ever before!  An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to undertake a paid training role within a company as well as work towards a formal qualification. 

An internship is similar – the main difference is that there is no formal studying or education with an internship. You work full time. To start your search for opportunities, check out the National Apprenticeship Service. You should also explore the opportunities on offer via The Big Music Project and Go Think Big.

6.Become an o2 Angel

If you would like to get some experience working at a venue, look out for the O2 Angels programme in your home town.

7. Just do it!

Finally, if you are in a band or your friends are in a band, get out there and start working for yourself.  I’m a firm believer that the best way to learn is by doing it yourself. Yes, it can be the hard way, but you’ll learn from your mistakes and you’ll feel very satisfied when you succeed. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

Follow The Cato Academy on Twitter @TheCatoAcademy.

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