For all those bands out on the road, these are some of the best pieces of touring advice from the general manager of Cato Music, the touring musical production company behind Cato Academy, with 16 years of touring and production management experience.
The Cato Academy is the only school in the world that trains the next generation of touring and production managers, backline techs and live sound engineers under one roof. And this year they’re one of Independent Venue Week’s main partners.
The school, which caters to those wanting to learn about experience working on the road trains people in a number of different areas, from tour and production management to FOH sound, backline, and technical work. Their teachers have worked with the likes Muse; Take That, Queen, Bastille and Hugh Laurie to Will Young, Amy MacDonald, Jungle, Ella Henderson and many more.
Tutors at the academy draw on their own experience of touring and teach a very vocational style. You’ll often find them using real props and stories from their own tours.
We asked Cato’s General Manager, Ant Forbes, what crucial bits of advice any band/touring crew should know before going out on the road. Here’s Ant telling it like it is.
- For the bands, aside from writing great music, it’s really important to find the right crew to tour with as they will be your foundation and support structure and vice versa, crew must choose the right band to work for. There’s nothing worse for your mental state than being on tour 24 hrs a day and hating it. Touring can be a lonely existence unless you have a great touring family around you, in which case you can have the time of your life.
- Finding work as touring crew is not easy, traditionally it has been a cross between knowing the right people or finding the right band to offer your services too, often for no money at the beginning. My personal experience followed this trend, I spent a number of year’s tour managing smaller bands for little or no money mixed with selling merchandise on tour for bigger bands to help pay the bills. This continued until I picked up enough skills and experience to be able to concentrate on tour managing; the production management role came later on as I worked for larger artists. The purpose of the Cato Academy has been to help out those who are looking to get into the industry by offering some structure and qualifications based on those who know to try and help students avoid those hard, early stages.
- No matter what role you are aiming towards in touring it’s very important to be able to improvise. You, of course, need to have structure and routine in place to make sure that you don’t miss any of the important elements of your daily set up; however, the need to improvise will be ever-present.
- Don’t forget that even though you will be repeating the same setup, your location and environment will change daily and the ability to think on your feet will take you far.
- To the venue folk – It’s really important to keep in mind that you are the port of the pirate ship. The more creature comforts you can offer the band and crew the more you’ll be written into their story and their hearts.
- Also to venues – whilst you want the performance areas to be fairly generic to let the touring acts paint their own picture, the backstage/back of house areas can be as charismatic as you like in order to give the touring party a unique and great experience of your venue and a different day to any other on the tour. Parking at a venue is always a bonus!
- The music industry can create overnight successes but this is extremely rare. Most successful bands today are the product of a great deal of hard work and resilience. Don’t feel as though things aren’t going your way if you aren’t filling out the venues straight away, it will happen in time, just put your head down and work hard and when it does happen don’t get complacent.