How to Plan a Live Music Tour

So, your band is going on tour! Whether that means a two-month mini-tour in neighboring states or international music festivals spanning multiple continents, a lot of complex planning goes into a successful tour. Managing and producing a tour involves countless details — from finding venues and booking shows to figuring out where band members and crew will sleep and eat while they are on the road.

While gaining hands-on experience in related positions, such as roadie, publicist and sound technician, can help develop the necessary skills for planning a live music tour, academic studies that support a thorough understanding of promotion, management, legal considerations, finance and marketing can be invaluable in preparing for a career in live entertainment, including tour planning and management. For example, the online Master of Arts program in Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management (AP Live) from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music offers courses in logistics, management, budgeting, marketing, programming, risks, finance and more within a live entertainment and performing arts facility.

Who Handles the Details Leading Up to the Tour?

Simply put, a music tour planner makes sure all the details of a tour are ironed out — before the band leaves.

  • Planning and booking shows.
  • Budgeting every expense, from checking extra bags to food and gas.
  • Making transportation and lodging arrangements.
  • Advancing all shows (confirming by contract all the details related to a booking, such as points of contact, promotion, load-in time, sound check, tickets and door, set length, special meal requests, payment).
  • Organizing press before and during the tour.
  • Ensuring backline needs of the band will be met (such as providing amplifiers and instruments musicians may not want to carry from one location to the next).

Who Runs the Show on the Road?

Often, especially with a small band, the role of tour planner may be integrated with the position of tour manager (also called a concert tour manager), someone who works with the band both before the tour and on the road. During the tour, this person is typically responsible for everything from “handling” band members to dealing with contractual agreements when a show needs to be cancelled. The tour manager may also perform the following duties:

  • Oversee travel arrangements, including hotel stays.
  • Travel with the band and deal with any issues that come up.
  • Confirm arrangements with promoters and venues.
  • Prepare daily itinerary or day sheets for band members and crew, covering every detail of every day on tour — from arrival and departure times to load in, sound check, show start, curfew, and meal times.
  • Making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time (including for load-in, set-up, sound check, stage call).
  • Keeping everyone involved with the tour on task.
  • Tracking show attendance figures.
  • Managing tour payments and expenses.
  • Arranging interviews with press and radio.
  • Maintaining an up-to-date online presence.

With a smaller tour, a manager typically wears many hats, including travel agent, driver, personal advisor and mediator. On bigger tours, a production coordinator or manager, tour accountant, and personal assistants may be part of the team.

What Does It Take to Launch a Career as Tour Planner or Manager?

Many of the skills tour planners and managers need can be learned on the job, including in related positions such as roadie and venue manager. Because of the sound, lighting, and stage management elements, a background in theater production or sound engineering may come in handy as well. However, an AP Live degree can help those who are interested in the live music industry build a robust foundation for success, with relevant courses in tour management and production, marketing and promotion, performing arts center and facility management, legal aspects, financial management, and more.

With everything that life on the road entails, planning and executing a live band tour can certainly be demanding. Long days and extended periods of time away from home are the norm. But if you are a person who has an interest in music and you also enjoy traveling, putting a live music tour together may be a rewarding career path. And with the right knowledge and skills, you just might get some sleep!

Learn more about the Frost online AP Live program.


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