A road manager is an individual employed by a band to coordinate the many tasks involved in planning and carrying out a concert tour. The job of a road manager has many facets, but for the most part it can be divided into three primary areas: advance planning, addressing the day-to-day needs of tours in progress, and financial management. Due to its long hours, numerous demands, and dependence on an ability to multitask, the position can be mentally and physically challenging; thus it is often best suited to those with prior touring experience.
Though the road manager travels with the band for the duration of its tour, his work actually begins before the circuit starts. Once the tour dates have been booked by the band’s agent, the road manager communicates with each venue at which the band will play to organize arrival, set-up, sound check, and performance times. He also inquires about the layout of each venue so the band and its crew will be aware prior to arrival of challenges like steep staircases or poor acoustics. Additionally, he notifies venue management of any demands the band might have, such as the provision of a certain type of beverage backstage. In the music industry, this pre-tour work is known as “advancing.”
Once the tour has begun, the road manager is responsible for ensuring that all aspects of gig arrival and departure as well as band and crew travel run smoothly. He supervises the unloading and setup of equipment, ensures that the band and the venue adhere to the planned performance schedule, and oversees the reloading of equipment at the concert’s conclusion. After the event, he is responsible for ensuring that the band and crew travel onward according to the tour plan. If they require overnight accommodations, he takes charge of hotel check-in and check-out, making sure that the band and its organization are back on the road in time to make their next concert.
Finally, the road manager oversees several of the financial aspects of the tour. He is responsible for giving band and crew members a daily allowance, or per diem, and must also collect all fees due to the band from the venue or promoter after each performance. In addition, he typically settles any travel and accommodation expenses that arise while staying within the budget allotted for the tour.
There is no set route or training course to become a road manager. Instead, many in the field begin as crew members on band tours and work their way up to the position. After gaining firsthand experience of the many tasks involved in running a tour, one might find the multifaceted job of a manager easier to carry out.