People working in the live music industry rarely follow a traditional linear career path of getting a school degree, scoring an entry-level job in the field of their studies, and moving on to better positions and more responsibility. Every roadie has a different journey of how they got where they are now. You need to hustle, be active, network, and get creative to break into live music and touring and to be able to live from one show and tour to another.
Alex has a very inspiring background and how he started in the industry. Definitely not the most typical one (if there even is one) but I’m sure students, young-guns and anybody who is interested in breaking into live music appreciates how his journey started while he was studying at USC. Alex has built his career in tour management and production coordination with persistence, proactivity, clever means, and a lot of networking and this way, created his own pathways into the industry.
I met Alex at the Tour Link Pro conference in January 2018 and reconnected with him shortly after I moved to LA a few months later. We ended up working together at Tour Link the following year and both being locals to LA, have continued keeping in touch. I’m looking forward to continuing the industry beach bonfires that we were both attending that cannot be organized at the moment due to the pandemic and the precautions the city of LA has put in place.
Alex is one of the kindest and polite people I know. He’s always on top of his game and professional in everything that he does. Alex will always lend a helping hand and find a solution to anything you throw his way. He lives to create lifelong memories for fans and a comfortable atmosphere for crew to work in. This is Alex’s story.
Hi Alex! What do you do in the music industry?
I had April and May shows lined up as a Tour Manager and June and July as a Production Coordinator. I find myself very happy and comfortable filling either role.
As the Tour Manager, I get to work on behalf of the artist and their management team as the point person between the artist(s) and all aspects of their day while on the road. It all starts with booking flights and hotels, then ensuring that getting to the flights and hotels go smoothly and easily, ensuring that the venue is prepared for the artist’s performance by means of comfortable dressing rooms, fulfilled hospitality, and a fully executed security plan, among many other details, and the day doesn’t end until the artist(s) leave the venue with everything we arrived with, ready to do it all over again the next day. If there’s no Tour Accountant, then the TM assumes the Per Diem and Settlement duties, too.
As a Production Coordinator, I still do most of the above but will do so in regards to the Band and Crew parties rather than the artist(s) directly. My favorite metaphor for the PC role is that it is the glue that holds all other positions together. I do whatever needs to be done so that our audio, lighting, etc. teams can walk into the venue, know where they are going, know that they will be comfortable doing their jobs, and be able to execute their specific duties without any other worries. This will often include being the point person for catering, dressing rooms, guest list, vehicle parking, bus stock, aftershow food, flights & hotels, day sheets, ground transportation, managing runners, and any other tasks needed for that day/week. The main goal is to try to prevent any/all issues from popping up before anybody else even notices a problem.
How did you end up working as a Tour Manager and a Production Coordinator?
My career started while I was a student at USC doing fraternity parties, though I’m the only person I know who started this way – it definitely wasn’t a traditional intro to the Industry in any means. I brought artists to campus prior to shows at LA Live for Meet & Greets, I helped produce Music Videos, and I worked any show/festival that would answer my emails.
Most importantly, I found mentors – people like Henry Bordeaux, Bobby Schneider, Chris Musgrave, Jennie Perkins, and David Scheirman who would answer my questions at any hour of the day, and who would let me shadow them whenever they were in LA. This allowed me to have a robust resume and hop into a role directly after graduating where I helped three Tour Directors work on as many as 25 tours concurrently from an office. These three Tour Directors, Sarah Shoup, John Nave, and Bree Clarke, then allowed me to tour with their artists, and I haven’t stopped touring since. I cannot thank all these people enough for their patience, their dedication to mentorship, and their trust in giving me positions to grow into.
Mike Garcia, my professor and now Head of USC’s Music Industry department, also gets a huge shoutout for introducing me to all of the people listed above either directly or through recommended networking opportunities.
What is the best thing about your work and on the other hand, the biggest challenge?
I truly believe that each person on tour has their own personal moment each day that reenergizes them, a daily flash of time that reminds them why it is that they work in this crazy industry. For me, there is an energy in seeing a crowd of attendees having the best night of their lives that is inexplainable; to know that I played a role in putting together the setting where lifelong memories are made by thousands of people is absolutely a highlight. Our jobs as roadies are unique to that setting, and it’s what attracted me to the industry. However, I’ve learned to love this next bit of touring even more lately.
We all have loved ones, often in different time zones than our tour, who we collectively miss – significant others, children, parents, pets, friends. It can be extremely depressing missing out on experiences, conversations, and the typically ignored, unappreciated quiet moments with those people at home. I’ve learned to find motivation and personal happiness in providing a work environment that fosters new relationships, experiences, and conversations while touring, too. To help shape a healthy, happy, and comfortable atmosphere away from home for X many crew people for months on end has become a new best part of my job.
How is the Coronavirus affecting you and your work?
I had a few months in a row of good-paying tours that all got canceled in the same week. While that’s definitely a bummer, we were all given the sudden job of staying at home and allowing our health care professionals and other essential workers to best do their work, so that’s what I’m focusing on now. I’m making a point to enjoy each day at home with my housemates and my dog – to not take for granted the happiness of living with two best friends and having my entire network available for FaceTime social hangs.
It’s also provided plenty of time to share my knowledge and experiences with college students who want to get into this industry, and I’m happy to chat with anybody who would like to. Shout out to the many others also giving back during this time – for those interested in being a Tour Manager, I strongly suggest checking out tourmgmt.org for the wisdom of some of those who do it best. For those struggling mentally during this time, I strongly suggest checking out https://showmakersymposium.com.
What’s your best survival tip for fellow people in the industry in this situation?
We will get through this. Take time to enjoy the little things at home that we often don’t have the chance to. Make time each day to learn, to share, and to grow. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help – you are not alone, now or ever.
Feel free to promote yourself and your services, how people can find you on social media, how they can help, etc.
1) Just a selfish PSA: I believe that tours have an incredible opportunity to help the communities where our venues and our festivals exist. My previous crews have collected soaps and shampoo bottles from a tours’ worth of hotels and had multiple boxes to donate to shelters, we have experimented with requiring charitable donations from our crew for multiple comps at a show, and we have donated many boxes of clothing merchandise to shelters and other service providers who need them. This is my main focus as a long-term industry goal. I encourage all touring folk to think of other ways to give back once our jobs hit the road again, and please share any of those ideas!
2) I’m on Facebook, Insta, & LinkedIn – don’t hesitate to reach out for any reason on any/all sites. I encourage sending a brief message with a friend request if we don’t yet know one another, but I look forward to making new connections in any setting.
3) I’m also growing my facial hair out for the first time ever, so that’s pretty cool.
How you can help live music crews: Donate through the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief Project