Stage managers control all aspects of a live performance, ensuring that everything runs smoothly and to time. They usually work alongside stage hands or runners, and may have an assistant or deputy.
What is the job like?
The work of a stage manager involves:
- Working as part of a larger team to include the artistic director, the production manager and sound/lighting technicians
- Overseeing the positioning of equipment on-stage, including PA and backline instruments, managing the dismantling afterwards, and ensuring that there are sufficient microphone channels
- Using a stage plot or design which has been prepared using a computer-assisted design (CAD) package
- Attending rehearsals and sound checks to record precise timings, for technical aspects such as sound, lighting, any pyrotechnics (fireworks) and the entrance/exit of musicians to the stage
- Ensuring all cues happen exactly on time during the performance – it is particularly important that the show does not overrun
- Dealing with any problems and issues that may arise, and ensuring all the artists’ requirements are met
- Liaising with Front of House staff and caterers for crew/artists
- Managing the budget and following health and safety legislation.
Stage managers also work very closely with the production and tour managers, and there may be some overlap of duties. Touring stage managers often get involved with the forward planning of the event, and this can involve lots of administration. If you are working at a festival, the work may focus more on stage-work alone.
Stage managers will tour with live bands and so the job can involve extensive travel around the UK and abroad for international tours.
How do I get into stage management?
You need experience in other aspects of live music events before you can move into stage management. There are many potential different routes – sound and lighting technical work or front of house are all possibilities. Some people work as stage hands or runners before working their way up, whilst gaining practical experience. This is an extremely competitive area of the live music industry.
As well as a proven interest in music, you also need to be very responsible and the sort of person that others can depend on in any situation. You need to be capable, reliable, level-headed and a good leader.
You also need to be good at problem-salving and making decisions. Stamina is also important as you will be working evenings and weekends on a regular basis and the working day can be very long.
Take every opportunity you can find to gain relevant experience, both at school and for local events. There might be a youth or amateur theatre in your area, and theatre experience would be valuable as many of the skills could be transferred to live music settings. Offer your services for school productions, and almost any backstage role will help you develop the personal qualities needed for stage management.
What training and qualifications do I need?
Apprenticeships offering training in live events could provide relevant experience, if you decided to move into stage management in the future. Visit the creative apprenticeship website for opportunities. You could also send a CV and covering letter to live events venues in your area asking about possible apprenticeships.
Academic entry qualifications for apprenticeships can vary, although most employers will look for a good standard of English and Maths at GCSE. Equally important to employers is relevant experience and enthusiasm.
School qualifications including English, drama/theatre studies and music at GCSE, AS and A level are all relevant for stage management work.
Possible courses include:
- BTEC Level 2 Performing Arts or Music
Entry is usually with 2 GCSE (A-D) passes or equivalent.
- BTEC Level 3 Performing Arts or Music Technology
Entry with 4 GCSE (A-C) passes or equivalent.
- Degree courses in Theatre or Stage Management
Entry to degree courses is with a minimum of two A levels or equivalent and a proven interest in the chosen subject.
What can I earn?
Stage managers for live events are often freelance, and may be recruited on a daily basis. For a small event a stage manager could expect to earn £250 a day, and for a larger event such as a festival earnings in the region of £300-£500 a day could be expected. At the very top earnings for very prestigious events might reach around £700 a day.
Touring stage managers working for bands could earn anything from £1500 to £3000 per week, and possibly up to £5000 per week at the very top.
A typical starting weekly wage for an intermediate apprentice outside London could be £104 per week. In London the starting wage might be between £120 and £150 per week. This could increase to around £170 per week during the apprenticeship.