Hitting The Road: Touring Etiquette For The Uninitiated
By Becky Pell
Considering instinctual behaviors from long-time roadies for surviving your first time on the road with a large-scale tour.
Going on a large-scale tour for the first time is a daunting experience. Thrown together in close quarters with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, the days are long, you’re away from home, and you’re never in one place for long before it’s time to load out and move on.
On top of that there’s a whole touring etiquette that you may never have encountered before – ways of behavior that are instinctual to long-time roadies but which offer many potential pitfalls for the uninitiated.
With 25 industry-years on my clock, I hope I can shed some light for newcomers on the “hows and whys” of touring behavior and help you to feel a little more comfortable on that exciting first big tour.
The travel is a major perk of touring. Your home is likely to be a sleeper bus for several days at a time, interspersed with hotels on days off. Buses can be good fun, but there are rules.
== Always be on time for the bus call or be prepared to be left behind. (Note: on time in touring means 15 minutes early!) If you’re checking out of a hotel, leave yourself enough time to wait in line at reception.
== Don’t bring friends and family on the tour bus. Your first bus is exciting, but it’s also people’s home and as such is sacred. If you’re desperate to show someone what it’s like, keep it very brief and ask your bus-mates if they’re ok with it first.
== Always adhere to the highest standards of bathroom etiquette, being as considerate as possible for everyone, and they’ll do the same for you. And clear up after yourself in the kitchen – you’re not six and the driver is not your mommy.
You’ll be on the road with a lot of other people, which is great – there’s nothing like touring for meeting interesting folk and forging bonds quickly. Here are a few key ways to make it easier on yourself.
== You’ll be accepted into the fold much faster if you remember that you’re new to touring and respect the older hands’ experience. Be alert, cheerful and helpful, and don’t moan (even if they do – moaning is a privilege earned over many years).
== Don’t be a know-it-all. You might have a college degree or several years in a supplier warehouse, but things happen differently in practice than theory so be open to learning from people who have been doing it longer than you. Listen to what they tell you – as a wise person once said, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
== Accept that touring can take its toll on the best of us – everyone has “off” days so don’t take it personally if someone seems grumpy. Most people are happy to share their knowledge, just choose your moment if you want to pick someone’s brain – right before sound check or when they’re obviously busy is not the time.
== Respect the fact that sound checks and all backstage areas are the private time and space of the artists. Don’t bother them for selfies and don’t film sound checks – if you’re in this restricted access environment there’s an unspoken agreement that they can get on with their business without having to wear their public persona
Remember that the artist is your boss, even if they’re one of the delightful ones who is accessible and occasionally takes the crew out for a thank-you dinner. You can certainly have a friendly working relationship, but there’s a difference between being friendly and being friends. Your food is going to be provided for you every day, often to a standard exceeding that of many restaurants. Appreciate this for the privilege that it is and always be lovely to the caterers. (I mean, be lovely to everyone, but be especially lovely to the people who make your food!) Again, clean up after yourself and don’t linger at the table after you’ve finished if it’s busy, because everyone on the crew has a limited time in which they can eat.