How to Be a Tour Manager: Education and Career Information

Research the requirements to become a tour manager. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a tour manager.

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Do I Want to Be a Tour Manager?

A tour manager sees to it that all aspects of a professional entertainment tour run smoothly. The duties overseen by a tour manager may include booking the performances, arranging for transportation and meals for both the artists and the crew, securing lodging, completing accounting tasks and hiring and firing personnel. The tour manager may also mediate conflicts between personnel members involved in a tour. This job can be stressful when deadlines loom or when conflicts arise.

Job Requirements

Although not always necessary, a bachelor's degree in a field related to business management could be beneficial for an aspiring tour manager. Those with previous experience may also have an edge among applicants. The following table presents the core requirements for a career in tour management.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Some college courses*, bachelor's degree required by some employers**
Degree Field(s) Business management, music or a related field*
Experience Extensive experience is required by some employers**, and many managers start out in entry-level jobs in the music industry*
Key Skills Organization, interpersonal skills, listening skills, problem-solving skills, business skills, creativity***
Technical Skills Knowledge of musical instruments and sound system equipment**

Sources: *CollegeForTN.org, **Job postings from November 2014, ***Interview of professional tour manager Travis Braum by staff from Missouri State University.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is required by some employers, while others are looking for applicants with some college coursework. A prospective tour director may find it helpful to take classes in business law, psychology, accounting, management, computers and first aid. College students who enroll in a business management program may also take classes in marketing, entrepreneurship, operations management and negotiation skills.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in an internship. Practical experience might be a more important consideration for employers than formal education in this field. For this reason, a college student who seeks a career in tour management can benefit from taking part in an internship with an employer in the music business. Interns may be asked to help with marketing campaigns, assist with research, work on multimedia presentations, help construct websites or organize street teams. Actual duties involved in an internship may differ widely by employer. Individuals who complete a music business internship may have the opportunity to make crucial professional contacts in the music industry. Networking and becoming acquainted with the right people is especially important for advancement in this field.

Step 2: Gain Experience in the Live Entertainment Industry

Many tour managers get their start by working on live music tours in some non-management capacity. Prospective tour managers might get experience by working as sound engineers, stage managers or lighting technicians. They might also work as stage hands or tour bus drivers. Alternatively, prospective tour managers might also gain music industry experience by managing a local band or by joining a local band as a musician.

Success Tip:

  • Become familiar with the instruments and sound equipment used by musicians during live tours. Because a tour manager is responsible for assuring that the tour runs smoothly, he or she may find it helpful to develop some technical expertise in maintaining and repairing the instruments, sound systems and other mechanical devices used by musicians on the road. The ability to handle mechanical problems in a pinch may mean the difference between the success or failure of a particular performance.

Step 3: Make Professional Contacts in the Industry

Many tour managers get their positions through personal contacts with others in the music business rather than through job advertisements. Individuals may learn of opportunities by meeting with crew members for an artist, or by talking with the actual musicians involved. Another method of securing an eventual position as a tour manager might be to seek entry-level employment in a large entertainment management firm, and then establish the necessary professional contacts needed for advancement.

Success Tip

  • Familiarize yourself with music industry websites that offer networking opportunities and information about potential jobs. Some websites offer networking opportunities through which individuals who work on live shows can discuss aspects of the business and share information and resources. Other websites offer job boards advertising positions in live entertainment, but registration on the website may be required in order to participate.
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