How To Become A Roadie (The Short Version)

How To Become A Roadie (The Short Version)

So, you want to become a roadie.
You want a job as a roadie but you have no relevant experience or training. You can't find any real information about how to get a roadie job and you don't see any adverts asking for people to work with bands on tour. So, you will be asking yourself "how do I really start operating as a roadie? How do I become a concert tour manager or stringed instrument school or lighting person or FOH engineer or merch seller?"

Well, like everything, there is a simple system involved in becoming a roadie. It may not be simple, but it is simple. There are some steps to take though, and I've listed the first three here.

How To Become A Roadie (The Short Version)

Step 1 - Get To Know Local Talent.

When asked 'how do I become a concert tour manager/ roadie crew/ touring road crew person', I simply always say - find yourself a band!
It really is that simple. Find the most effective, emerging talent in your town, area, or venue and make yourself indispensable to them.

For instance:

· How many times do you hear bands you know complaining about house sound engineers or about weird 'feedback/howl round, bad stage sound or inattentive bar managers? Could you help run their sound as FOH engineer? (Obviously, you will have to learn about live sound engineering - but that's just another step.)

· How many times are musicians late for shows and sound checks? Could you organize schedules and reliable transport and act as their tour manager?

· How many times do band members forget or break their instruments, and assume they are able to borrow other band's equipment? Can you repair amps, string guitars or back-up professional Tools sessions?

Can you see the potential here? With a little forethought (and maybe some technical ability) you can make yourself indispensable to all the 'little' bands in your town. (And in fact, those bands may not be so little; they may be on the verge of signing to an international record deal - you just don't know it yet).

Then take this one step further. Say a band you befriend is playing a show out-of-town or out-of-state. What would a group of musicians, tired and far from home, pay to have someone with them who had organizational or technical skills?

My guess (based on considerable experience), is that they would pay a lot to the right person.

That person could be you.

If you are any doubt yourself that this may be true then let me say that many years ago that person was me. I started out by helping fellow local musicians and the bands I knew from my hometown. The work was hard and I was not that well paid but I had skills that other people needed and, more importantly, I learned new skills. My career grew from there; I needed to prove my worth before I could progress but I made the right choices by making myself indispensable to those local music artists.

That is why I recommend this route to a roadie crew career because it worked for me and many of my colleagues - and it will work for you.

Getting to know local talent involves making yourself known to the people in your area who are also 'going places' -bands, musicians and others who are likely to make the break to national or international touring. You should cultivate contact with your people and build up your network.

Step 2 - Build Up Your Network.

"I do not have a network - I'm just starting out in this business"
"I live in the middle of nowhere, there is no network here"
"I am still at school".

Sound familiar?

You may feel that you have 'no network'. But I would strongly disagree that you have no live music business network. A network is everyone you know - it just happens that some of these people will be useful in establishing your new career. You would be surprised at the number of people you already know who can help. Forget about power lunches and business clubs; you have people around you right now who can help you, all you have to do is ask them for advice and help.

Still not convinced you have a network? Ask yourself:

• Do you go to shows?
• Do you know people in bands or DJs?
• Are you friends with other bands and DJs on Facebook and Twitter?
• Do you know people who work in clubs, bars or record store staff?
• Are you a member of clubs and associations at college?
• Is your best friend/cousin/neighbor someone in the music industry?

If you can answer yes (or maybe) to any of these questions then you have a network, a network that is applicable to what you want to achieve as a roadie.

Use Your Network

You should identify what you need help you need from your network. This could include:
• Finding out which bands and DJs from your area are playing shows and let them know you are available to help.
• Advertising your freelance services in local musical instrument shops, rehearsal studios, record stores, and venues. Use your network to find the right places to advertise.
• Ensuring your network of venue managers, promoters, rehearsal rooms, and music instrument stores know that you are looking to set up a freelance tour crew business.

Use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to tell your network what you are up to.

This is stuff you can do, right now, regardless of where you live, where you work or go to school.
Once you have enlisted the help of your network you should, and this is very important, keep track of all the national touring acts coming into town. Why? Well, venue managers and promoters will often give opening slots to the best local acts. Getting an opening slot for a national touring act can be a big deal for an emerging local band and they will obviously want their show to go as well as possible. That opening band will need technical and organizational assistance but may be completely unaware as to how to find it. This is why you need to contact those local acts as you hear of their opening gigs and offer your services.

A strategy would be to pick one or two venues in your area and make sure you have subscribed to those venue mailing lists, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds for the upcoming concerts. Then check to see which local acts (if any) are opening up for the national band.

The reality of modern concert touring is that the opening act will not be publicly advertised until a couple of weeks before the event, leaving you little or no time to offer your services to that band. You, therefore, need to make sure you have those promising local bands in your network, or that your network can let you know when opening bands have been booked by a local promoter.

The benefit of working for local acts on opening shows is that you may well be able to fit in evening shows around any existing day job. 'Local openers' (as opening acts from your home town are known)are inevitably first on the bill and so will not be expected to load in or sound check until maybe six o'clock in the evening (assuming the standard seven o'clock venue opening time). Then, as they are first on, the local band's performance will be over by eight or nine o'clock which means a relatively early finish for you as well.

This is how I got started in my career as a freelance tour crew person. Unfortunately, I was not following a plan, I simply became the person in my home to mix live sound for local acts - especially when those same acts then opened up for national acts at the larger venues. I gained lots of experience and a good reputation and could keep whatever other 'day job' I held.

You should do the same, but plan it out first. Get yourself known to local acts and when one of them starts to do well, make sure you are part of their team. The success of this small, local act may also be a stepping stone for your own career.

Obviously, you will not get paid much (if anything) in the early days, especially working with an up-and-coming band. Do not be discouraged though. You have to think long-term. This investment of your time and expertise now will be worth more in the bank in the long run. A positive, can-do attitude when dealing with new bands, venue managers or local agents will get you noticed. And getting noticed is your main priority.

So, if you are working in a venue as sound, lighting or stage crew make sure you are always, always nice, polite and attentive to the visiting artists - especially local support/opening acts.

The fledgling bands of today are the superstars of tomorrow and as you know, people value loyalty. That 'local' opening band could be on their way to a large record company deal with lots of tour support money. If they know you, like you and you have done a good job for them so far you could be in the perfect position for them to hire you as a touring crew member.

Being polite, attentive and professional towards the visiting artist - that is what you should be doing in your job. Or, to be more precise - work hard, be nice and learn.

Simple, really.

Step 3 - Take The Rest Of The Steps

Any system involves multiple steps; take them one at a time and you will achieve what you have set out to do.

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