Road Management in the Christian Music Industry
by Kurt Aschliman
One of the many hats I wear is that of a road manager. Often, when presenting this job title to an unsuspecting questioner, I am met with a look of confusion.
“So, you manage the band?”
“No, not exactly. The band has management back in Nashville.”
This in turn is met with a few different responses:
- “Oh, so you’re not the one I should give my cd to. Well, maybe you could give this to one of the guys in the band, it’s just a demo, really rough, but I think the band would like it. Could you do that?”
- “Oh, so what do you actually do then?”
Most people outside of this world, in my opinion, have an understanding of the music industry gleaned from tv shows and that one random conversation they had with an unsuspecting front of house engineer who ended up wishing the barricade was further from his console. I even didn’t know how much it took to make a band work and all of the dynamics involved before I started working for one. In future posts I’ll give an overview of how things are set up in the Sanctus Real world, but for now, more about road management.
When it boils down to it, being a road manager is a cross between being a full time travel planner, personal assistant, administrative assistant and whatever you would call someone who makes sure a contract is executed to its specifications. That last one is the biggest part. It all starts when I am handed a contract.
Contracts contain all of the information of which I usually had no power in negotiating before they were signed, but have all the responsibility in making sure they are carried out. (However, I do get to write the concert rider, so don’t think I’m just an innocent victim here, I do have some control).
Once I have a signed contract in hand, there are certain jobs to be done. Here are the five main jobs I encounter as a road manager:
- Advance Shows
- Plan Travel
- Communicate Plans
- Prepare for Show Day
- Execute Day
As you can tell, this list is heavy on the side of planning. Someone important once said something about life being 90% planning and 10% execution.
This is the communication of details with whomever is putting on the show, typically known as the promoter. The big pieces of information gathered in this stage are schedule (including arrival, load in, meal times, show time and sequencing, and departure), lodging, and transportation if needed. I also handle the production advance in this part of my job. As is the case with many Christian bands, I act as both road manager and production manager. In a future post I will detail out my processes for advancing and the tools I use to make my life easier and more streamlined.
This one is fairly straightforward, but includes mapping out bus routes, booking flights and making sure all the timing lines up. I set bus call, van call and plane call (or at least when we need to leave to get to the airport on time).
I included this as a separate duty because it is an incredibly important task that I overlooked for the first six months of my job with Sanctus Real. This includes communicating all details of the show day to come. Some bands may prefer to just know when and where to show up and nothing more, but what I’ve found is that the more details you can push out to band members, the better. The biggest one is schedule, followed by details of scheduled items. It helps for band members to know what to expect when they head to a scheduled interview / signing / etc. I usually send an e-mail ahead of time and also have a day sheet (a sheet of paper containing all pertinent information) for each band member on the day of the show.
Prepare For Show Day
Preparation for the actual show day is incredibly important. I have walked into some show days where I had all the details I needed but was not organized. These days usually result in a great deal of stress and frustration for not preparing. On a prepared day, I usually have details in an easily accessible place. I create a calendar event with everything from the promoter’s contact information to the venue to the schedule. This provides quick access in the event of any confusion or questions. With so many shows happening all the time, the reality is that one cannot remember all the details of every day. Having them close at hand saves a lot of frustration for both you and your band.
This is straightforward. Do what you’ve prepared to do. I make sure I’ve checked in to all applicable flights, provided bus driver with fuel and toll money, handed out all information and made sure everyone is where they need to be when they need to be there. I handle a lot of jobs on show day, but executing the day as the road manager over arches everything.
So there’s my road management job in a nutshell. Let me know what you think by commenting below!