NOW IS THE TIME FOR CHANGE – NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL!
Editorial This Is Tour Life
It comes down to good leadership, not just in tough times but all times. Don’t waste this time, don’t waste this opportunity to make a better music touring industry and lead us into the future!
By now the current state of affairs has become profusely clear…
The music touring industry has come to a grinding halt with tons of speculation abounding. Panels and Zoom groups popping up, all wondering the same thing…when will it return?
In light of all this speculation, how has the touring industry addressed its own sustainability and vulnerability issues while looking towards this uncertain future? Where is the necessary industry leadership we need going to come from? How is the industry planning on managing expectations with the current and future needs of crew personnel in these unprecedented times? How do we learn from this and how do we grow as an industry to address the issues and lessen any collateral suffering? How do we build more resilience for the future of everyone in this industry? Will it just be lamenting conversations of getting back to ’ business as usual’ or will it be seen as an opportunity for change by those willing to lead us into a brighter future?
The numerous consequences and oversites that have been brought to light over the past couple of years are on full display now:
- The lack of support systems in times of need.
- The lack of comprehensive interventions and direct resources readily available.
- The underwhelming access to benefits and insurance for crew who are employees.
- The roller coaster employment situation for those who are on and off the payroll of the Artists/Bands throughout the long tour cycles.
- The slow dismantling of retainers and per diem rates, now seen as a luxury and not as a standard across the industry.
- The absurd amounts of money thrown around at ‘upping’ production levels at the expense of the crew’s quality of life.
- The unrealistic setup and teardown timelines of some tours with restricted crew sizes that are barely adequate to move those productions- Causing up to 24 hour workdays for some and commonly injuries as a result.
- Core crew on the road without a Human Resource person’s insight or remote availability.
- Workplace law compliance oversight for touring crew.
- Indifferent Payroll companies as crew members “employer-of-record”.
- Poor dissemination of employment information and policies required by all applicable federal, state, and local laws. i.e. Notice of Coverage Options, workplace policy information; Meal and break periods in accordance with federal, state and local laws, Safety and health policies, Employee conduct (such as workplace violence), Business expenses policy and reimbursement.
- Information about eligibility to unemployment insurance in between and at the end of a tour run for those on payroll.
- The low standard of quality nutrition provided on a daily basis, often due to budget cuts.
- The extreme mental and physical health issues accompanied by addiction and substance abuse struggles often correlated with touring.
- Hourly vs. Salary requirements. The FLSA‘s (Fair Labor and Standards Act) minimum salary exemption is $684 per week ($35,568 annually). “One-off’/‘day rates” can not amount to less than the weekly minimum. (flat sum) vs. overtime.
- Misclassification of workers Denies workers of their rights and protections. – Form 1099 being issued does not prove the worker is an Independent Contractor. Crew must satisfy applicable federal and state tests to be classified as such.
Now is the time to organize and prioritize the crew’s quality of life on the road.
To make a plan, create resources and develop systems. To build an infrastructure with easy access to those resources. Made readily available and standard for any touring organization. Now is the time to think about how to adapt a more comprehensive approach on how tours are managed and operated.
We should be taking this moment to look at how the industry often conducts itself, unregulated and unencumbered by the standards and practices implemented by most major industries who have employees. We should not accept that this is just a byproduct of touring. We should look at this from a collective perspective rather than every man/woman for themselves. Personal responsibility is not the only answer here, there is a much bigger picture. Leadership holds a responsibility to the financial, mental and physical health of their crews. Undaunted crews who without question make tours happen at almost any cost, often ignoring their mental and physical wellbeing. What is the actual cost of such a mindset?
These are not difficult questions to address.
For most Non-Touring employees on a W2 payroll this is typically standard. In fact, most organizations with employees must address these issues. Not only for the individuals in their employment but for the health of the organization as a whole. Now is the time to organize, standardize and prioritize the crew’s health and wellness across the board.
When the touring industry rolls back out, as it will, are we all just going to go back to business as usual? Will we address and collectively recognize the incredible lack of sustainability and vulnerability that seems to have been allowed to prevail and go practically unaddressed for decades? We can all work together to find answers to the questions we have ALL been asking. What we need now is not just words, but solutions. Solutions that are followed by Strong actions and Conscientious changes.
This moment in time should be transformative! We should start to focus less on putting bandaids on the current problems and more on finding solutions to the larger issues that have led us to the need of said bandaids. Solutions that bring out the best of our crews and create a more human centric and empathic industry. People being put first.
If you believe in making statements like -“live shows are not possible without the incredibly hard working crew members…” then don’t just provide a bandaid in the moment to get us by. Create and implement the solutions needed for us to thrive.