In all of our other features, we highlight bands/artists; now we want to take you into the world of the people who work for a band on tour, their crew. For this feature, we teamed up with tour manager, Ben Packard. You can can find out more about Ben and advice he has for people interested in hitting the road (his “Trick of the Trade”), after the break.
Current – Kalin & Myles, Tre Coast
Previous – Jonny Craig, Before You Exit, Hollywood Ending, Ryan Beatty, Like The Movies, Kyle Lucas, Top Flight
What positions have you held (i.e. Tour Manager, Front of House, etc.)?
Current – Tour Manager, Personal Security
Previous – Assistant Tour Manager, Merchandise Manager, Stage Manager, VIP Coordinator, Production Manager
Your first touring gig:
Who did you work for?
After touring regionally with countless local bands for a few years, my first “real” tour was with Before You Exit on The Resolution Tour with Action Item and Paradise Fears.
How did you get the gig?
I met the band through mutual friends while I was living in Orlando. I had known about them for a while and liked what they were doing. It just so happened that they were looking for a Tour Manager, and I was looking for a new artist to work with. They took a chance on me, and before I knew it we were on the tour bus headed to the first show. From that point on, one job lead to another and everything snowballed into where I am today. I got lucky. There is no formal way to get your first touring gig; you need to meet as many people as you can, get as much hands-on experience as you can, and more likely than not, just be in the right place at the right time.
What was (is your continued) motivation for wanting to start working for tour bands?
One of the biggest motivating factors for me has always been seeing the crowd’s reaction to the shows I help make possible. Seeing thousands of people absolutely lose their minds when my artist walks onstage is a crazy feeling, not only for the artist but for me as well! You can’t help but smile in that situation. What motivates me to continue touring with bands is watching the progression and success that results from something that I had a small part in. Watching the people I work with go from recording music in their bedroom to playing their first show, to eventually becoming a household name is super rewarding for me. A perfect example of this is the guys I currently work with, Kalin and Myles. When I started with them a few years ago they were still relatively unknown, playing for small crowds in tiny clubs. Through continuous hard work on their part, and with a great team of people behind them, in 2015, they were opening for One Direction and even headlining an arena by themselves (which to this day is one of the most incredible experiences I’ve been a part of).
While growing up were you involved in your local music scene? If so, how did you get involved?
For sure! Let me start by saying that I have less than zero musical talent, but I love everything about music, especially live music. I love how it brings people together and makes them happy. Growing up I always fell into the position of the “roadie” for my friend’s bands. I would help carry gear, make set lists, sell merchandise; pretty much anything I could do to be involved. This opened my eyes to how “real” shows were run from a venue standpoint. I would also drive hundreds of miles to see my favorite bands live when I was in high school, sometimes 5 nights a week! At one point I started using a friend’s camera to take pictures of the bands I was watching. I didn’t think my photos were anything special, but apparently some people did. Local bands started asking me to come photograph their shows for them. This led to my work being published in local newspapers and on the Internet, which eventually allowed me to work for all kinds of magazines and national media outlets photographing major artists. While working as a photographer in my hometown didn’t directly evolve my career as a tour manager, just being in those arenas and in that atmosphere opened my eyes to all of the intricate details that are involved in managing a successful concert tour.
If you could recommend one piece of advice (“trick of the trade”) to current or aspiring crew members, what would it be?
It’s almost impossible to narrow it down to one good piece of advice. As a tour manager, you’ve got to be organized, confident, trustworthy, have a good attitude, be able to make decisions, and be able to work for days on end with little to no sleep. Sometimes you’ve got to be able to take a step back, look at the big picture, and put yourself in someone else’s shoes if need be. You can’t possibly know everything, and you need to accept that. You will never stop learning. Don’t be afraid to take on a job that you’re not 100% sure how to do yet; sometimes to get ahead in life you can’t be scared to fake it till you make it!