Touring With the Band - Music Industry Gigs and What They Pay


Elvis Week runs August 10-16, when fans from around the world gather in Memphis, Tenn. to celebrate the King of Rock 'n' Roll. What would it be like to tour with the King today? It is tough to say but you'd have to imagine it would be lavish and maybe not as wild as his earlier days. The King would be 76 years old.

In honor of this celebration of music and entertainment, decided to talk to some music industry insiders of today and find out what it's really like to go on the road with a band. The following are insider tips on snagging a job as part of the crew, learning needed skills, networking, typical pay and more.

Expect long hours

Whether running a spotlight (a mid-career Live Performances Lighting Technician earns around $33,900 a year) or performing onstage (an experienced Guitarist earns $25.50/hour on average), expect to work long hours and spend much of your time traveling by plane or bus. Tony Marino, tour manager for Panic! At the Disco and former road manager for the Jonas Brothers' national and worldwide tours, estimates that he spends 70 percent of his time on the road. Frequent flights or long bus rides mean sporadic sleep, so "when you have the opportunity to put your head on a pillow, I suggest taking it," says John "Mac" McDonnell, a music tour veteran who teaches Live Sound and Production at Mediatech Institute in Austin, Texas.

Learn on the job

Unlike jobs that require a Master's or professional degree, many musical touring jobs focus on skills acquired on the job. Those run the gamut, from technical skills like mixing sound (a mid-career Sound Engineering Technician earns around $18/hour) to communication skills like explaining a last-minute change to stage hands (a mid-career Stage Manager earns around $37,700 a year). Tony recommends that aspiring road or tour managers "try and get an assistant job on a tour so you can see first hand what is involved in the job." According to Alissa Kelly, Partner & COO at PR Plus, "For me and for the majority of people I know, the biggest thing is not book education. It's adapting and learning as you go." Kelly handles publicity for touring groups including indie band Imagine Dragons (a mid-career Publicist in the entertainment industry earns around $45,400).

Sometimes it's not what you know but who you know.

McDonnell landed his first touring gig a month out of college (he earned a degree in lighting design and technical theater) by being in the right place at the right time. Initially, he worked as a "warm body to move around equipment" for Johnny Cash's tour but worked his way up to lighting director. He later met saxophonist Kirk Whalum and became Whalum's tour manager. Many of the tour managers Kelly knows were friends with the band and agreed to go on the road, picking it up as they go. Knowing the right people can certainly help get a foothold in the industry.

Be able to think on your feet.

Weather delays, backstage drama, and broken equipment are just a few of the factors that can threaten to derail a concert. Touring professionals have to be ready for anything. "I am pretty much always on call since, in this business, anything can happen and last minute changes happen very often," says Tony, whose job as a tour manager involves keeping track of guest lists, scheduling shows, coordinating meals, and overseeing setup at concert venues. Kelly has also had to problem solve on the fly when TV segments with her clients get preempted due to breaking news.

Do it for the music, not the money.

Competition is fierce for both onstage and offstage jobs, so if you enter the music industry to become rich and famous, you may be disappointed. With long hours and very few musicians making millions (an experienced Singer/Musician earns around $52,000/year), the best reason to go on tour is because you love music. As Kelly says, "Watching the band and then looking out into the crowd to see them react ... it's amazing!"

Source: All salary data is from Salaries listed for "mid-career workers" are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with five to ten years of experience and include any bonuses, commission, or profit sharing. Salaries listed for "experienced workers" are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with ten or more years of experience and include any bonuses, commission, or profit sharing.

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one more the rocker.if your rocking no this is real.not a lot of call's for lead guiter player band dont no get call's from cover bands.that still rock.but the 80 is gone.just like the hair.mine still long.but sad as it is.most rocker today.have no hair.long live rock'n'roll.

August 16 2011 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was in some hair bands in the 80's played lead guitar.roadies were payed good money.i have 23 years in the music industry.year of geting high.i hooked up with .ransomed ministries.for paid went down.something's we had to pay to play(lol)thats all the bands i was with all son is in a rap band.they have to pay to play.a lot of other band's have told me the same cost you more to do a show.then you make.if you make any thing at all.i dont like rap but i help my son.i am gald .i and not doing show's any more.i and more into a manager for my son.and no i dont get paid.

August 16 2011 at 1:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Bob Shull.

Sounds interesting.

August 16 2011 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

another thing i for got to mention. 90 percent of these companies are fly by nights and when someting happens there gone like the wind.and most people who put on any event dont even see if the company is real or what. and no one cares until something happens like what happen indiana and lets not for happened in rohade island a few years ago when a pyrotech set the building on fire and a number of people were killed. in the new york city i have seen many people setup like an accident waiting to happen and no one does anything. at least in the city new york requires building permit for ericting any of trussing and stages over 2 ft tall.its time to licence and enforce with big fines. and make the licence fee high enough so the slocks cant afford them. do that and that will be the start of the indusry and make every town and state require licenceing reguardless if a big or small this needs to be done yesterday

August 16 2011 at 12:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
The Big Guy

I own a small sound company. I do shows in the $1k a day range. After fuel and crew I usually clear $350. I do about 3 shows a week ,about $1000 a week take home. I pay insurance, about $7k a year. When all is said and done I am making $45k a year. I sleep in my bed most nights. Why would I go out on the road for $35k? This article is based on BS. Most traveling guys are making 1500 a week plus perdiem. Some of the better guys stay on the books when they get home as to not take another tour with another band/group. If you base the salary on those who are doing it for their friends bands, then it will be cheap. cheap cheap

August 16 2011 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to The Big Guy's comment

i aggree with you

August 16 2011 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Big Guy

Who makes the money? The promotors, the record companies, the scalpers (Ticket Master etc) Live nation, clear channel, the booker....They do it all on the cheapest budget. The roofs came down in Indiana and Ontario because of money. This article states that most of this business is learned by doing. So who thought that a roof in Indiana would stand up to a mid west storm? A guy without an engineering degree? This will be the norm as long as money goes into the hands of the pimps who ride on the backs of the talent. That talent includes the working crew. (sound/Lights/stage/sets) The Musicians know it, that's why they are so cool with the crew. Get the money into the hands of those who do the shows, not those greedy bastards who rape the talent, maybe we can return to the days when we had real shows!!!!!

August 16 2011 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to The Big Guy's comment
Nit Witt

The underground has you covered buddy. I run with an indie record lable and every show we do has been set up by us personaly, not a big wig producer whom we never see, so the money goes directly to us. All the money that we make is divided up by responsibility, with the act making the most and stage hands at the bottom. We don't have a manager and haven't in quite some time, wich has never been an issue for our crew. We're all friends and have been for a very long time and our dynamic has just been one in a million. We only hire a publicist when we set out on tour or release an album and is the only step in the process where we hire an outsider. Even than, though, it's somebody we've worked with before, somebody that has gained our trust and respect. A lot of the fans at our shows in our early days bought their tickets from the acts and the road crew. At the shows most of the CDs sold were and have been sold hand to hand by the artist personaly. Most the fans now-a-days are repete customers who bring their friends. We've actually worked with mainstream crews who throw us a lot of envy when they see how much the crowd loves our set over theirs. From Cali to New York, our fans are way more loyal then most of the mainstreamers, it's just a matter of time before our the underground formula for sucess will be taken seriously by music industry leaders.

August 16 2011 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i tour with one of the largest groups on the planet. i would say dream big and be a detail monster, then you can earn several hundred thousand dollars a year

August 16 2011 at 10:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i am reading these comments and aggree with just about all of them. theres another thing the promoter talk about scum thanks to live nation clear chnnel concert goers are paying top dollar yet 90 percent of the companies that provide lighting sound staging get the same money they did 10 year ago. and the euuipment is not geting any cheaper. neither is the cost of insurance fuel etc. maybe the stage collapse in indiana will be a blessing not saying it was a good thing but it will make the goverment take a closer look at the safety in the indusry or lack of . this indusry has been ruined by shoddy work. amaturs that have no clue. and everyone is low balling to get the jobs no none wants to pay. and if you want to know belive it or not 90 percent of these companies started as a guy with a sound system doing sound for a band in a bar. and blame the manufacturs that flood the market. equipment and the fact that most areas dont even require a licence to rig and setup a stage . we need to make this a real indusry and get it out of the basement and until this happens more collapses will happen

August 16 2011 at 10:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

as a owner of a sound company i hope a lot of my customers see this they think were millionares. and that we charge too much. they need to realize that this is not a money indusry

August 16 2011 at 9:36 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

If it wasn't for crew guys, "rock stars" wouldn't know how to order a pizza.

August 16 2011 at 9:15 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Allien's comment

LMAO You got that right !!!! Or run their Memorex tape that everyone hears during a concert!

August 16 2011 at 9:22 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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