Tour Manager

,  12 July 2012

Tour managers are responsible for organising the logistics of a band, orchestra, choir or artist on tour, and making sure that everything runs smoothly and on time.

You will need a special blend of skills. Most important are fantastic organisation skills, with the ability to plan and think ahead.
You will need a special blend of skills. Most important are fantastic organisation skills, with the ability to plan and think ahead.

What is the job like?

Tour managers may work for a large tour or artists’ management company. The tours might be in the UK or overseas, and are often organised up to three years in advance.

There are normally two kinds of job: the first is more office-based, and the second often involves being out on tour all the time. They may be some overlap of duties. The work also varies according to the type of music on tour – classical or popular.

The work of an office-based tour manager may include:

  • Financial and budget management
  • Liaising with concert promoters or venues to discuss the availability of artists
  • Booking hotels for artists and crew, perhaps using a hotel broker
  • Dealing with any problems that may arise before or during a tour, such as travel disruptions or artist illness
  • Sometimes attending concerts to meet artists and venue management, and checking that everything is running smoothly
  • Liaising with marketing staff and providing photographs or biographies of artists
  • Ensuring that the sound and any audio-visual systems are appropriate for each venue and that the stage is adequate for the artists’ requirements.

The work of a tour manager or tour courier out on tour may include:

  • Travelling with the artists to the venue
  • Managing the transportation of instruments and PA systems (orchestras don’t use PA systems) to and from venues and overseeing the installation on-site
  • Dealing with any problems or issues that arise during the tour and liaising with venue management.

Office-based tour managers may work a normal office day, with evening and weekend work included whilst attending any tours. Tour couriers work very irregular hours and spend much time away from home.

Managers working on small tours in popular music may take on other roles such as roadie/ driving duties or band management.

How do I get into tour management?

You don’t need musical ability to be a tour manager, although an interest in music is important. Within the classical sector a more detailed knowledge of music is often expected.

Tour managers have usually had many years’ experience in the music industry, and have often worked their way up through different roles. It may be possible to start out as a junior office or administrative assistant and work your way up.

IT skills and knowledge of office packages are a definite advantage. In the popular music sector people may move into tour management after experience in another field, such as promotions work.

The work of a tour manager is not especially glamorous and you need a special blend of skills. Most important are fantastic organisation skills, with the ability to plan and think ahead. Whilst on tour you need to trouble-shoot and solve problems – the success of the tour depends on you.

As well as good people-management skills you also need to be a good financial manager with a head for business. Any experience you can get in organising events and activities will be an advantage. Offer to help with school productions or musical events.

What training and qualifications do I need?

School exams that would help for this career include subjects like English, maths, business studies and music.

Apprenticeships in the music industry could provide a useful background for moving into tour management later on. Visit the creative apprenticeship website for opportunities. 

Academic entry qualifications for apprenticeships can vary, although most employers will look for a good standard of English and Maths at GCSE as a minimum. However, enthusiasm for working in the music industry is equally important.

Relevantcourses include:

  • BTEC Level 2 Business Studies
    Entry is usually with 2 GCSE (A-D) passes or equivalent.
  • BTEC Level 3 Business Studies
    Entry with 4 GCSE (A-C) passes or equivalent.
  • Degree courses include Music Industry Management, Music and Live Events Management or Music
    The minimum entry requirements for a degree are two A levels, (and normally five GCSE (A-C) passes including English and sometimes maths) although many courses request three A levels.

What can I earn?

A typical starting weekly wage for an intermediate apprentice outside London could be £104 per week. This could increase to around £170 per week or more with experience during the apprenticeship.

Salaries can vary greatly, but a recent graduate might earn in the region of £20,000. This can rise to £25,000 - £30,000 for those with more experience, and some very experienced tour managers earn more than this.

There is no structured pay scale, and promotion is entirely based on merit and hard work.

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