Showcasing Professionals in Live Music: Interview with David ‘5-1’ Norman, Tour Director and Tour Accountant

Based on all of his positions in touring, you could guess that David’s nickname 5-1 comes from working 5 roles in one. The name has a more peculiar story behind it, mysterious even one could say (read his interview and you’ll find out why), but this guess has some truth behind it.

David started as a successful touring musician, bought a recording studio, and ended up on the road again through a client of his, working multiple crew roles as the “everything guy”. That well describes what he does now, years later, as a Tour Director, Tour Manager, Production Manager, and Tour Accountant. Just one of these positions requires extensive knowledge and expertise but somehow he does it all! No wonder David recommends learning everything you can to be able to do what he does.

I’ve been soaking in some of David’s incredible amount of knowledge in touring during the webinar series of Tour Management 101. Even he himself said that he has learned a lot from the other panelists. If you want to take one thing from this interview, I would say the key is to never stop learning. David is a living example of the importance of lifelong learning and I feel honored to have this opportunity to learn from an industry veteran like him.

This is David’s story.

David '5-1' Norman
Tour Director and Tour Accountant David ‘5-1’ Norman. Photo credit: David ‘5-1’ Norman

Hi David! What do you do in the music industry?

I’m a Tour Director / Tour Manager / Production Manager and a Tour Accountant.

As a Tour Director, my main focus is coordination of all elements of putting a tour together which includes, but not limited to budgeting, payroll, securing vendors, staffing, assisting with the routing and myriad of other things.

Tour Manager – My main focus is usually dealing with the logistics of moving all touring personnel from city to city and country to country. This includes travel logistics (hotels, flights, ground, etc.) and at times dealing with per diem and other accounting items.

Production Manager – I’m responsible for all things technical which includes securing the proper tour vendors (lighting, audio, video, special effects, staffing, etc.). I also advance all of the above artist elements with the various promoter reps on a city by city basis to bring our touring production into those specific venues.

Tour Accountant – My responsibilities include budgeting, payroll, per diem, settling the shows (getting paid), etc.

How did you end up working so many roles in touring? I’d also love to hear where your nickname 5-1 comes from.

I was a drummer in several Top 40 bands and believe it or not, also in a Rush cover band! I eventually came off the road and bought a recording studio in middle Georgia and one of the acts that recorded at my studio got signed to a major deal and when they went on the road, asked me to mix them, which then led me to being the driver, the backline guy, the tour manager, the production manager – basically the everything guy!

Some ideas or guidance I would give to someone wanting to get into this profession is to learn EVERYTHING you can – tour managing, production, and accounting as well as read as much as you can about this world. Try to intern with your local promoter or booking agent to learn the ins and outs of putting on a show. Check out all of the various webinars that are available to you to listen and learn. Find a mentor!

The 5-1 nickname; I won’t say who the artist was but long story short, was on a tour where we had 16 Davids on the tour, 8 of which were on my radio channel. The artist was getting annoyed calling me on the radio and all 8 Davids would show up so one day he asked me what type of things I was interested in and I told him Buddhism, rock music, Prince, conspiracy theories and Area 51. At that point, his eyes got big and he said he’d always been interested in Area 51 as well.

We were playing in Vegas a couple of weeks later and he flew his manager in. The artist, his manager and myself rented a car and drove out to Area 51 (strictly forbidden) where we were “detained” for about an hour in the desert by several very scary heavily armed security. We were let go and returned back to Vegas. The next morning at load-in, the artist came down early and was writing out the setlist as he was talking about the previous day incident out at Area 51 and he was doodling on a piece of paper: 5-1. He snapped his fingers and said that’s it! Your radio call name is going to be 5-1 (pronounced five one)! It’s pretty much stuck to this day – especially when I’m on tour with multiple Davids!

What is the best thing about your work and on the other hand, the biggest challenge?

I come from a military family so touring is an extension of traveling and moving around a lot. I also love getting to meet new people daily, trying different foods, learning the local culture and different languages. I love waking up in a different city daily.

Biggest challenge would be the exhaustion and lack of sleep as well as dealing with multiple personalities on a daily basis as well as putting out various fires during the day.

How is the Coronavirus affecting you and your work?

I’ve been home since January so I’m going a bit stir crazy with cabin fever. I’ve never been home this long in my entire career. I was supposed to be on tour in South America as well as the Coachella, Bonnaroo and over various festivals – all of that has been postponed to hopefully later this year.

Your best survival tip for fellow people in the industry in this situation?

Webinars! I’m also taking a couple of online courses to keep myself sharp during this downtime. Get out and move – ride your bike, walk your dogs, check on friends and family. Network. Do what you can to not go crazy.

Feel free to promote yourself and your services, how people can find you on social media, how they can help, etc.

I started a company late last year called Tour Forensics with my touring partner, Gabi Parra.

We concentrate on providing advance and tour support services to tour managers, production managers, management companies, major and indie record labels as well as to artists themselves no matter how large or small.

We’re currently revamping our website (http://www.tourforensics.com/) and will relaunch it May 19th.


Current news about the live music industry: Medium: Our Industry isn’t coming back like yours is.

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