Scene Not Heard shifts the focus from the individuals who create the best albums to take an inside look at the behind-the-scenes jobs that keep the industry running. Go beyond the music and meet the people who keep your favorite bands in the public eye…
Avanthi Govender is the tour manager for singer-songwriter Julien Baker. Touring is commonly cited by bands as their main source of income and often requires taking extensive and rigorous paths to play each city. While the band or artist is performing, there are plenty of things happening backstage that allow for them to even be there in the first place. This is where Govender thrives and shines. She first ventured into touring and music in Detroit when she began handling the merchandise for friends’ bands and, soon after, playing for the project Petal. Through this experience, Govender realized that being a tour manager sounded like the ideal job for her.
So, what exactly is the job description of a tour manager, including the day-to-day struggles?
“Before a tour starts, I advance the shows, so I am in contact with the venues and promoters, working out schedules and needs on both ends. I figure out the logistics of driving and hotels for every show, coordinate schedules with management [and] label and artist for press, take care of maintenance for the vehicle we travel in, assist with stage and production setup, and do the tour accounting. I’m sure there are a bunch of other tasks I’m forgetting, but my main jobs are making sure we’re on time and that everyone is doing OK.”
“Things go wrong and you, [as a tour manager], are responsible for fixing them. Sometimes, the issue is someone breaks into your van; sometimes, the issue is someone on the crew is having a bad day. No matter the severity, you have to make it OK, which could be filing a police report and making a window out of cardboard or gifting everyone a small duck so they know they have someone flying in their corner. The most gratifying thing is having a happy crew; when everyone is happy, you’re doing your job properly.”
Govender also states that being in charge and staying organized is a quintessential part of the job. With so many responsibilities, the tour manager’s ability to micromanage helps keep artists on the road, playing shows, and further continuing the live music cycle of the industry. More often than not, artists are gathered in tight spaces—such as vans, green rooms, and hotel rooms—and staying sane is definitely part of the battle.
Govender explains that experience does matter while on the road and offers some helpful hints to avoid losing one’s mind every day—including what to do in different cities.
“Generally, we look for the closest coffee shops, record stores, smoothie places, health food stores, and vintage spots. You can find a lot of solace in a quality coffee shop or respite in a store that sells novelty socks. There’s generally a Google Maps screenshot of the location of the nearest Whole Foods sent in the group chat.”
“We play a lot of van games, make very specific collaborative Spotify playlists, do a lot of skits, and stop at as many scenic overlooks as possible. Looking at a river for 10 minutes, climbing on rocks along the coast, or making a pit stop at a national park can do wonders for morale.”
Individuals like Govender and other tour managers are extremely important and beloved. Their wealth of experience and ability to keep tight schedules ensure that the artists you love most will arrive in your city on time, well-fed—however that may be—and prepared to steal the spotlight onstage.
We at New Noise especially love tour managers for their communication skills when we have pre-show interviews and willingness to help us see our own favorite bands live!