When you’re a touring rock band, your to-do list is never done. You travel to the venue for soundcheck, give interviews, do radio promotions, perform a concert, meet fans, and then head back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep, so you can start the whole process over again the next day. Widespread Panic, which is celebrating its 25th year in business, knows this routine well — and tour manager Steve Lopez keeps the operation running smoothly. He recently spoke with the Intuit Small Business Blog about what it takes to keep the jam band’s tour on track.
ISBB: How did you get into the tour management business?
Lopez: About 14 years ago, I was going to school in Portland, Ore., and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something with music. I started selling merchandise for local bands, then moved into sound technology, and eventually, tour management. I started out with a local band, and through friends of friends, I got a job with Widespread Panic as a production assistant and later became tour manager.
What does your job involve on a day-to-day basis?
After our managers and agents agree on a set of tour dates, I start the logistics of getting the 32 band and crew members from Point A to Point B in the most economical and safest way possible, deciding whether people will fly, drive, or take a bus and what routes to take. Once a tour gets going, my day-to-day role is managing six guys in a band: making sure that security is in place, releasing additional tickets if the show is sold out, making sure the band members are doing their press and interviews on time, and getting them to the venue and back out — then doing it all the next day.
It’s my duty to remind the band members of upcoming tasks, such as making sure that everyone’s there for a soundcheck. I’ll deliver daily schedules to each band member’s hotel room and send them email reminders as well. My phone is my best friend: I’m constantly checking and answering emails.
Once the tour’s over, I’ll sometimes manage tours for other bands on a contractual basis, if my schedule allows it. But I’m usually still focused on upcoming Widespread Panic gigs: When this tour’s over, for instance, I’ll be flying to Mexico to do a site survey for a performance they’re doing there in January.
What’s the most essential skill for being a successful tour manager?
You’ve got to work well under pressure. You have to be able to take 17 different things that are going on, get them all in your head, and solve any problems without showing that you’re angry or upset. If you’re good at that, you’ll be well-liked in this business.