Rock band road crews accompany bands on tour, assisting them with instruments and other equipment.
For a traveling band, touring can be both a stressful and fulfilling experience; there are a lot of elements that contribute to a band being able to focus on their music and play the best possible show. This responsibility falls on a band's traveling road crew, who accompany them on the journey from gig to gig and keep things running smoothly. The size of a road crew depends on the needs and resources of a band; local bands who are just starting out often bring a couple of strong friends with them on tours, paying them in meals and drinks, while established bands with money to spend tend to hire professional technicians and experienced tour personnel.
Instrument techs are responsible for the setups of each individual instrument and its corresponding equipment, and may have a specialty, such as guitars or keyboards. Larger bands may have an instrument tech that works closely with each player, configuring each piece of equipment to their exact preferences. Roadies handle most of the heavy lifting and grunt work that comes with touring, such as lugging amps to the stage and wrapping cables. Most bands travel with their manager, who may work closely with a tour manager to coordinate scheduling, lodgings, venues, publicity, budgeting, and more. It's common for bands to travel in buses, which require a driver comfortable with navigating a large vehicle at all hours on interstate highways and in unfamiliar areas. Often, due to sleep schedules, at least one of the other crew members should be able to drive the tour vehicle. On the road, space is limited, and it can be especially useful to have crew with multiple skills. Bands may have merchandise that fans can purchase at shows, and someone is typically responsible for selling it at a dedicated table; at smaller, low profile shows, this is often a member of the band, but larger touring crews may bring along someone expressly for this purpose. With more established bands, the road crew may be expanded significantly to include stylists, security, medics, or other professionals.
Work on a band's touring road crew may include...
- Setting up instruments, pedals, cables, and amplifiers
- Getting the band from one venue to the next
- Testing instruments during sound checks
- Solving technical problems as they arise
- Breaking down and reloading equipment after each show
For music tech enthusiasts and dedicated travelers, joining a touring band on their musical journey can be an exciting way to work and live. However, constant travel can be hard on road crew with local families or obligations - when it comes to work, the band comes first, which can make it hard to maintain connections, jobs, or housing. For true lovers of the road life, this sounds like a dream come true, but there's a flipside: most bands don't tour nonstop, often taking time to write or record new music. Crew work is heavily reliant on a band's schedule, meaning road crew may have to find alternative sources of income when the band isn't touring.
There's no special training required to join a road crew; most jobs are found informally by making a good connection with a band or tour manager. It's important to have a good understanding of instruments and live sound, and it doesn't hurt to be physically fit, since touring comes with a lot of sleeping in vehicles and lugging items from one place to another. Since road crew accompany a band everywhere they go, it's important that they all get along well; a road crew member who doesn't share the vibe of a band may not be asked to rejoin them on future tours. Demonstrating knowledge of instruments and a good attitude can make a crew member's career. Roadies, techs, and others who really mesh with a band can make themselves indispensable, eventually moving up the ranks to management or even joining the band.
If the road life sounds like a dream and you're no stranger to pulling your weight, working on a touring band's road crew could be a great career move.