What Is Involved in Putting Together a Big Music Tour?

Live performances have always been an important part of the music industry, as music is inherently a performance art. Traditionally, bands and artists would tour to gain exposure; build a fan base; promote record releases; and, to some degree, generate income. With the advent of digital downloading and streaming, revenues for artists and labels alike have dropped. So, increasingly, income from live performances has become an integral part of overall music industry revenue.

Complexity of Music Tours

Putting together a string of live performances as a major tour is a complex task, involving booking shows, writing up contractual agreements for venues and artists, planning out logistics, and hiring production staff, all of which are involved in successful tour management. As the live music industry is a growing sector of the industry as a whole, capable music tour managers are highly sought-after, being an essential part of the successful tour. Candidates for an online Master of Arts in Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management (AP Live) have the opportunity to develop the expansive skill set necessary for a career in this lucrative and exciting facet of the live music industry.

Tour management owes its complexity to the broad array of responsibilities the job entails. Although generally not directly responsible for booking the performances, a tour manager must acquire all information from the booking agency such as contracts, advances, load-in times, sound checks, show times, curfews and hospitality information. The music tour manager is also often responsible for sending riders to venues (requests for food, drink and other specific forms of hospitality), arranging transportation and setting up accommodations for band members and tour staff.


To prepare for the tour, tour managers gather all of these details into daily itineraries for everyone involved, separated out into the responsibilities and timeframes appropriate for each person’s role in the tour. A band member will receive a tour book consisting of a schedule for each day laid out with the hotel lobby call times; meal times; departure and arrival times; each night’s performance; and details on the venue, equipment, points of contact and any other pertinent information. For a large-scale music tour, every non-musician staff member will receive a similar daily itinerary, although their schedules are often very different, detailing production setup, breakdown and the like.

In addition to preparation responsibilities, perhaps the most important role of tour management is overseeing the execution of all of these details on the road, making sure everyone involved completes each task within the required time frame and ensuring the performance goes smoothly and that the venue renders payment. The tour manager also often plays the role of maintaining positive group dynamics within the band and among the staff — tour managers sometimes refer to themselves as the bands’ handlers rather than their managers.

Promotion and Fan Engagement

Another absolutely essential component of a music tour is promotion. In order to fill venues, the target audience for each show needs effective engagement. Sometimes the venues or festivals take responsibility for promoting their own shows, but often this is the responsibility of the band or record label. An important decision in this case is whether or not to hire a tour promotion company. These companies specialize in the field and tend to run the most effective tour promotion campaigns. However, smaller tour budgets many not be able to afford the expense of delegating such promotion.

Beyond tour management and promotion, big music tours require a large staff, from bus drivers to sound engineers and production staff to lighting designers, stage techs and roadies. Whereas a small tour may consist of the band, the tour manager and a sound engineer, a major tour may employ 50 or even 100 people. An up-and-coming indie band in Europe might only have the finances to tour in a van, with all additional gear, sound crews and stage crews provided by the venues or festivals, while a major act like Paul McCartney may show up to concerts with two tour buses and four semi-trucks full of equipment. Tour organization depends on the needs of the band and the size of their budget.

Major music tours are an important part of the modern music industry. However, the success of these tours depends largely on tour management and organization. Learning about the intricacies of planning and executing a major music tour by enrolling in an AP Live degree program can help aspiring music professionals develop the knowledge and complex skill sets they need to succeed in the live music industry.

Learn more about Frost School of Music’s online MA in Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management.


Careers in Music: Tour Manager

How Stuff Works: How Concert Tours Work

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