FROM THE DESK OF DAVE RADSTOCK
THE WORLD TOURS
We have all been there, attended a concert of our favourite artist or band. We enter the arena, excited at the prospect of what’s to come. We feel the electric atmosphere, we mingle with the thousands of other fans, sharing stories of the times spent supporting and following our heroes, and snap up the many souvenirs available to add to the whole occasion. We take our seats and look wide eyed, and marvel at the stage, the lights, the instruments strategically placed, awaiting their masters to bring them to life, and of course, the entrance of the star to entertain us and transport us to times past with their music, and songs.... and make our evening enjoyable.
And whilst we are immersed in the joy and excitement of the concert, we don’t even consider what goes into putting on such an extravaganza.
This article sets out to look at what it takes to actually put on a world tour, and how much work goes into it, from all connected.
Many of us believe that the “STAR” just turns up and performs, but there is so much more involved, months of planning, venues, costs, hotels, employing many, many, people, from coach drivers, to caterers, to roadies, and promotional and publicity experts.
With someone of the calibre and status of Neil Diamond, these tasks are magnified
tenfold, given all the towns and cities such a tour visits, everything has to be in place before even beginning to set off on the road.
Live performance has always been an important part of the music industry, particularly as music is inherently a performance art. Bands and artists tour to gain exposure, to build a fan base, promote record releases, and to some degree, generate income. With the advent of digital downloading and streaming, revenues for artists and labels alike have dropped, so increasingly, live performances have become an integral part of overall music industry income.
COMPLEXITY OF MUSIC TOURS
Putting together a large number of live performances, as part of a major tour, is a complex task, involving booking shows, writing up contractual agreements for venues and artists, planning out logistics, and hiring production staff, these tasks are the role of the “Tour Management Company”, people who are highly sought after in being an essential part of a successful tour.
Tour management owes its complexity to the vast array of responsibilities the role entails, although not directly responsible for booking the performances, a tour manager must acquire all the information from the booking agency, such as contracts, advances, load-in times, sound-checks, show times, curfews, and hospitality information. The Tour Manager is also often responsible for sending riders to venues, (requests for food, drink, and other specific forms of hospitality). Arranging transportation, and arranging accommodation for the band and artist, and other tour staff.
To prepare for the tour, Tour Managers gather all of these details into daily itineraries for everyone involved, separated into responsibilities and time-frames appropriate for each person’s role in the tour. For example, Neil Diamond will receive a tour book consisting of a schedule for each day, laid out with the hotel lobby call times, meal times, departure and arrival times, each night’s performance, details of the venue, equipment, points of contact, and any other pertinent information. For a large scale tour, such as a World Tour, this information will be immense, detailing every arena and venue, Neil would visit, as well as information about each town and city. Every non-musician staff member will receive a similar daily itinerary, although their schedule will be vastly different, dealing with production set-up, breakdown and the like.
Being a major international star, Neil Diamond and the band will have their own equipment, and will have it flown to wherever they are performing, and loaded onto trucks to transport it to the venue. Most performers don’t have such luxury and will hire all the equipment they need, which can cost a huge amount, ranging from instruments, to speakers, amplifiers,digital processors and mixers for sound mixing, microphones, leads, lighting, most venues have speakers and lighting, so costs can be cut, and a deal negotiated for hire of the venue including use of in house equipment.
There are many things to consider when planning a concert tour, and none more important than costing, the whole point of doing a tour is to earn money, so the first question has to be about making a profit.
Neil Diamond is a world famous music icon, and can almost guarantee packed houses every night of the tour, but many bands and artists don’t have such a profile, and so have to think carefully about the costs of putting on a tour, even a short nationwide tour of their home country. Hotels, food, venues, staff, promotional material, tickets, transport, equipment if having to hire it, clothing, all expenses that need careful consideration.
PROMOTION AND FAN ENGAGEMENT
An absolute essential component of a major music tour, is promotion. In order to fill venues, the target audience for each show needs effective engagement. With regards to Neil Diamond’s World Tour, this is taken care of by concert promoters Live Nation who are the largest concert promotions company in the world. They will deal with advertising the tour via many media platforms, TV, press, radio, they are also responsible for selling tickets via the many outlets available, arenas, and other booking facilities, online etc... the artist also has a major role to play, in this case, Neil would embark on his own promotional tour, appearing on chat shows, performing at music outlets, interviews with newspapers and magazines. Another means of promoting a tour is offering tickets as a prize in a competition, all viable in raising interest in the tour.
Roadies, also known as backstage crew, and sound and lighting technicians, play an essential part in staging a live music concert. They are regularly highly skilled technical specialists. They set up all the equipment that artists and performers need, including the sound and lighting equipment, musical instruments, and special effects. During performances, they are on hand to address any technical difficulties that may arise, and are responsible for packing away and securing equipment when the performance finishes. The size of the crew will depend on the standing of the band or artist, and the scale of the performance and venue. Some work alone carrying out varied tasks, whilst others perform specialist crew duties, these could include:
Driving, loading and unloading vans, trailers and buses
Lifting and carrying equipment and sets, often using forklift trucks
Security of instruments, equipment, and performers
Installation of sets, and sound equipment, installing lights on towers, and scaffolding
Setting up visual displays, including large screens, and computer/live film feeds and video links
Rigging up electrical wiring and lighting
Setting up pyrotechnics, fireworks, and laser displays
Conducting sound level checks
Tuning and maintaining instruments, before and during the show
Roadies may also have other specific duties, such as making travel arrangements, organising catering and refreshment, for backstage crew and artists, and coordinating backstage passes. The role involves working alongside many different people, including :
Sound engineers, stage, lighting and sound designers, health and safety specialists, security personnel, artists, performers and their management teams.
Being a roadie is very physically demanding, and pressured, as sets need to be put up and dismantled quickly and safely within set times, and involves working incredibly long hours.
This is the familiar sight we see when we take our seats, a culmination of the efforts of a great many people, working together to ensure the tour and individual performances go ahead. Contrary to what we might believe, that the artist and band just turn up to perform, Neil Diamond and his band will have travelled endlessly to bring the show to us, rehearsed and planned the set list for the show, ensuring nothing is left to chance, and to present a spectacular evening’s entertainment, both musically and visually. The sound engineers, lighting technicians, and cameramen bring their individual talents to ensure the production runs smoothly without a hitch, every minute detail is taken care of.
Neil Diamond has always recognised the importance of the role the audience plays during his concerts. None more so during his introduction of his
“Love At The Greek” video -
“The audience is the other part of the performance, you can’t do it without them, you want them, you need them, they’ve got to be with you, or else there’s nothing, and when the audience is with you, and the band is cooking, and the night is made for love, suddenly, you’re not just a man on stage anymore, you’re a man having a love affair with thousands of other people, and most of all, best of all... you’re not alone anymore.”
As members of the audience we have a role to play in not just accepting the show, and taking it for granted, but to show our appreciation, via applause, participating, and respecting what it has taken to present the show, every artist feeds off the energy of the audience, and how up for it they are, and in many instances lifts the artist’s performance to higher levels.
After the bows, the ovations, and encores, and after we have left the arena and stepped into the cool night air, still full of the excitement of the concert, spare a thought for what it has taken to bring the show to our towns and cities, it has been a huge undertaking by all concerned, at great cost, time, and effort, by a great many people, all in the name of giving us such a memorable night’s entertainment, and the “STAR” will probably be still fulfilling other after show obligations,
long into the small hours of the morning.