Backstage Metal – Part 3: The Tour Manager (TM)

Have you ever been on tour? Well, we’re talking about like following a band around so you don’t miss a single concert because you enjoy seeing this band on stage so damn much! It’s such a memorable experience you never want to miss. And we’re absolutely not talking about the groupie thing here! It’s just about our passion – the music! Some people take the opportunity to make this tour life their profession. And their profession is our first guaranty that we’re able to enjoy the concerts as smoothly as it can be. Have you been aware of the funny fact that a tour manager is usually only called TM, just like Trademark. And you know what: he’s kind of the trademark of a tour! Of course, there are always several other aspects to be considered but if the band has a great tour manager the riskiest job is done! And all this just because of an almost invisible superhero. So what does the job of a tour manager bring along? And what kind of a person is it? A stressed and hectic guy babysitting the band? Or does he just pamper the musicians by satisfying their wishes? Is he the stand-in for the band manager? However, it must be an awesome job to tour with a band, enjoy concerts for free and even get paid for, isn’t it? To be honest, we were just as curious as you might be now. So Lars Hoffmann really had to shed some light on our probably erroneous idea of his job profile. And he really did! During a busy day on tour with Rhapsody Reunion on their „20th Anniversary Farewell“ tour he had some minutes left to give some well needed answers. Important to add that he was far off from being stressed or hectic! So relax and read.

Working in this business doing several different jobs as stagehand & roadie, production manager & TM (various companies) & backline technician (various bands) for about 23 years all over Europe you can definitely describe him well experienced and he probably has a lot of stories to tell. Only fair enough to mention that he didn’t spread even a single secret of any band.

In the beginning of 2000, he found his own company EOS – Events on Stage for production & touring management, accounting and event management in Bochum, Germany. Looking through his portfolio you can find a wide range of big national and international names as well as less popular ones of various genres. Here we go with our 101 about Lars:

101

Lars Hoffman, TM

Name: Lars Hoffmann

Profession: Freelance TM, production manager, stagemanager at Urbanatix, Streetart and World Artisitc, PM at Zeltfestival Ruhr and working with Contra Promotion GmbH, Radar Musik & Unterhaltungs GmbH, ZFR Event GmbH & Co. KG and many more

Education: Sound engineer and qualified in event technology at Management Akademie Essen

Superhero: Lars wouldn’t match himself with a superhero as he likes himself as he is. So we decided to create one matching with him: Beast Bane

The cool-headed BB needs to control a whole bunch of beasts (aka artists and crew) with his irresistible superpower. Sometimes he surely has to wield his power in terms of his affiliates and yet remains pragmatic and relaxed.

Lars – Organizer and Maid-Of-All-Work

From the beginning of the interview on, Lars was full of energy and you can feel that he really enjoys pretty much what he’s doing for life. The TM’s job comes along with of a lot of travelling different countries and includes meeting new people – each day.

Listening to Lars while he speaks of his daily workflow and unlimited working hours let us be flabbergasted. We thought it was easier to describe it … but that was before we learned that you definitely have to differ between before, during and after a tour. Anyway – in the end it’s a whole lot of work!

After the booker did his job booking the venues, and the routing is set too, it’s Lars’ turn. He gets the tour dates including the unsaid message: „Lars, it’s your tour. Rock it!“ and so he begins with the planning and organization. First of all, he’s booking a nightliner bus and he’s checking if hotels are needed or whether an electric hook-up for the bus is available for each day of the tour. Sounds easy so far? Certainly, because the „before“ has just begun. The TM asks the bands for their technical requirements (on and off stage), what they need locally and any special wishes for e.g. the catering so that he’s able to stitch together the tour rider for the promoters. Having these information, he talks to the local promoters and technicians, fitting in their time schedules, technical requirements, catering etc. And the bigger the tour, the more bands and the more stations the tour has – the more effort all of this takes. Are you already afraid that we all underestimated the TM’s job? Well, the biggest part is yet to come. The tour itself.

It seems like a TM always has to keep an eye on the time and schedule. He’s the first to come and the last to go: starting around 10:00 am by checking the venue until his final call in the bus: everybody on board? But while the band is relaxing from the show or having a beer with the fans at the merch, Lars is doing the prepared accounting with the local promoter and makes sure everything and everybody is ready for the bus, take off at 1:00 am classically. And even then, sometimes he has to help the bus driver to get the big nightliner bus back to beat the street. In between he has to conquer all these little challenges each and every day keeps in store such as technical issues or having only one shower (often in disgusting condition even) for about 30 people or any sudden needs of a musicians or crew member. You need a washing machine and a dryer at one of the upcoming stops? Ask the TM. He will show you to the closest self-service laundry or the machines in the venues on hand. Once more you can see how relaxed Lars really is because he thinks that „there’s always a solution for everything. There’s no way for ‘no way’ on tour!“ and getting upset and being stressed is absolutely out of the question for Lars whereas he knows other TMs who aren’t that well balanced as he is.

Despite of any challenging situation during the day he still enjoys his job and „the best part is when the band is on stage and the audience is stoked. That’s what we all work for.“

At this point we can truly say that a TM is like a maid-of-all-work with a 24/7 job and availability. Not to forget that a TM is doing this over and over again, regularly with another artist. And it’s a fact that just the slightest part is routine.

Lars – the Open-Minded Socializer

When it comes to the point of how to prepare yourself for new bands Lars explains that you have to be open minded and approachable. Be open for all the new characters is sort of essential. Everyone is different, every band is different and every band has a different mentality so you have to slowly feel their way. Usually the first day of a tour is the moment of meeting the people Lars tours with! Especially on such circumstances when you have to live fenced together with almost no space (your bunk in a nightliner provides as much space as a coffin and this is the only spot you have at least some sort of privacy) for weeks it’s important to approach them openly and socialize. Furthermore, there has to be a little bit of chemistry and sympathy otherwise it wouldn’t work out well. During the ongoing tour everyone grows together and even friends so that the end of the tour is more than only a nice happening.

Lars amplifies that „this isn’t a job everyone can do.“ You need a good portion of cool-headedness to work your way into it. When he tells us with relief that he has never worked with a difficult artist so far but heard some bad stories from others He further explains that it’s always kind of a interaction between the artist, the crew, the management and even the tour promoter.

Lars – Impressed by Stamina

It seems as easy as it is to talk to Lars to impress him as an artist. What all the music supporters probably love to read is that he favors an artist who interacts with the fans in an appropriate degree. Looks like this is one of those TM supporting the wishes of the fans too! Yay!

Apart from that he further states that the musicians he’s touring with really have to catch him in some way even if he isn’t fond of their kind of music in the first place. All the more the musicians can make it up with their charisma and their natural but powerful personality on and off stage. When they noticeably give everything on stage to thrill their fans through the whole tour of several weeks, day by day with no less power than in the beginning does impress him a lot.

Somehow Lars also expect the artists to be kind, polite and respectful towards him, just the way he treats them, too. Once more he’s the lucky guy who has met only such sociable artists so far.

Lars – His Likes and Trends

When it comes to the point of rising and vanishing genres Lars is probably one who has the best insight into various genres as he isn’t focused on working with artists of one specific genre. Speaking of it, he mentions that before his current, well-attended tour with Rhapsody Reunion he did a 7-weeks-tour with only two days off with Schiller Klangwelten. The concerts took place in theatres and operas, everything seated and with older audience who enjoyed pure acoustic and electronic music without any singer. Surprisingly, even though the ticket prices were high and he wondered whether there will be any audience at all, the tour has been almost sold out. The electronic music is still a big thing nowadays. But so is metal like it was 20 years ago, 10 years ago or it will continue to be in 5 years. He thinks that „nothing will change about that because the fanbase exists.“ While go on thinking about the topic, no genre comes into his mind which would totally vanish as every single one has his right to exist and constantly going well. However, he adds that the 80s music, such as the British New Wave Band Human League with whom he also worked last year, has been coming back for some years and is still rising.

Taking up the issue of the tour length it’s interesting to learn what Lars personally prefers: a short 2-weeks-tour or a longer 6-weeks-tour? With a laugh he answers that he prefers a 4-weeks-tour and goes on explaining that two weeks are too short while four weeks are just right – for the simple reason that any longer term could be to exhausting yet again. Ironically Lars, who is really down to earth and gets along with new people quite easily, wouldn’t live in a shared apartment with someone else. But he has no problem living in a tour bus for several weeks with so little space, no privacy because you’re only separated by a curtain from numerous of foreign – at least in the beginning – people. He separates private and job life quite strictly and he thinks „that you have to be born for this kind of job and have fun doing it.“ Nevertheless, after some time on tour the longing for some rest and going home is growing.

Certainly it depends on the people you’re touring with and whether or not they like to party hard. Again it looks like Lars has a lot of luck with the artist he has been working with, since he never has had a band throwing parties in the bus every night until early in the morning and he’s able to get the chance of at least three or four hours of sleep. Instead he describes ‘his’ bands as reputable and down-to-earth but still they sometimes have a good glass of wine together after the show. Even the metal bands aren’t the way they had been in the past with their bad reputation and being drunk throughout several weeks and stuff like that. Of course exceptions prove the rule as always!

We could go on and on writing about this impressive insight into the TM’s job and particularly into the person Lars Hoffman, representing all the others of his profession. In the end we have to say that we truly respect them even more for their job now!

Thank you Lars!

Interview: Ms Cesar Little
Text: Bille Weiß
Photo provided by Lars Hoffmann

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Backstage Metal – Part 3: The Tour Manager (TM)

About The Author
- "It has always been this way!" - I heard this phrase too often and it became the best reason for me to make it (whatever it is) my own way.

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