A day in the life of… a Tour Manager

Harley Moon is the founder of Lunartron – a boutique artist management and event organisation agency – and is best known for being Sasha’s Tour Manager. We asked him to shed some light on life working as a Tour Manager, what the ups and downs are and how he made it in the music industry.

So, please tell us what a Tour Manager actually does?

Well, it does vary according to an artist’s needs but I work with DJs, bands and vocalists, so everyone is different. Generally, I do things such as advancing shows (arranging all the logistic details of the events), booking travel and accommodation for the entire tour party, liaising with event organisers, soundchecking, and making sure the artists and crew make all their travel connections on time.

Essentially, I have to make sure that everything on the road runs smoothly, that the artists are happy, and that the gigs happen in the smoothest possible way. There is also dragging artists by the ankles out of bed in the morning and feeding them vodka and water throughout the night…

Tell us about a typical working day…

On weekdays, I am usually glued to my laptop. There are lots of emails that are going back and forth between me, the artist’s management, the booking agent, travel agents, the actual artists, and so on.  This takes up a large part of my week – especially when we are all working from different time zones.

On the weekends, it’s usually an early rise before heading to Heathrow with my artists and travelling to somewhere… around two to four different countries every weekend. When I arrive at the destination, I usually go straight to the venue to soundcheck for an hour or so, then back to the hotel for a couple hours to eat and wash. Then it’s back to the venue with the artist for the performance.

While the show is happening, I sit on the side of the stage making sure the sound is right, that photographers behave, lighting is right, artists are watered and the crowd is happy. After the gig, it’s back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all over again the next day.

What do you like most about the job?

Honestly, the best thing about my job is the abundance of international food I get to eat and experience – it’s turned me into quite a foodie over the years. Of course, the travelling – seeing all corners of the world. Then there’s meeting lots of brilliant and inspiring people, and to top it all off, hearing amazing music.

More than anything, getting one million air miles and free Haribo added to the rider – that keeps me happy on the inside.

 Do you do it for the love of music or is it just a job?

I absolutely do this job for the love of the music, and I only work with artists that I really admire.

The job has its ups and downs, of course, and there are some long days of travel with very little sleep, but when the gigs run perfectly and everyone is happy, it makes it all worthwhile.

How did you get started in the music industry and how did you get to where you are now?

I worked in nightclubs for years growing up. I did pretty much anything they would let me do – busboy, barman, cloakroom, flyering, and hosting. Then one year, I got dragged to Ibiza and my whole life was turned upside down. I saw this whole new culture of free spirited electronic music and it was full of passionate people that loved the music intensely.

I was so inspired that I stayed there for seven years, in which I spent a lot of time working with DJs and running PR teams. Then on the back of the strong relationships I’d built over the years, I decided to start working more directly with the artists.

DJ Sasha was one of the first artists I started working with. We spent a lot of time partying and working together over the years before he actually approached me to work for him. When I finally received that call from him, I did a few laps around the house screaming with my shirt over my head. Hard to believe that was about eight years ago.

Then off the back of that, I have grown relationships with many other management companies and agencies, which has flourished into working with different artists.

What’s been the highlight of your career?

There have been so many highlights, like working on big events like Glastonbury, Exit festival in Serbia, the Sahara stage at Coachella, Good Vibrations festival in Australia, Future music festival, Sunrise at Warung in Brazil, Womb in Tokyo… more than a few times a year I have to pinch myself.

One event that is always special is Sasha’s yacht party in Miami for the Winter Music Conference, because watching the sunset with a crowd of 200 like-minded free spirits always makes me realize that I have one hell of a life.

 In your opinion, what makes a good Tour Manager?

Stamina! The hours are very long with sometimes very little sleep and you’re the one that everyone is relying on, so you have to be 100% on your game at all times. One small mistake can snowball into a disaster really quickly.

Attention to every little detail is also essential, and foreseeing problems before they occur is something you’ll ultimately learn. Also, all the usual stuff like communication and patience is vital, because musicians tend to be mostly unaware of this force of nature called ‘time’.

 What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in the music industry?

In my experience, if you work your butt off people will notice. Stay passionate and never become complacent. No matter what part of the music industry you work in, you should always go above the call of duty. Always find ways to make things better and think outside the box.

I was willing to do any job in clubs and PR because I just loved working with the music, and wanted to learn every facet of the industry that I could… and even now, I am always craving to learn more. It’s a fact of this industry, that you will have to work for very little money when you’re starting out, but work your way up and make yourself invaluable to the company and only then can you name your price.

Are there any bands you’d particularly like to work with at some point in your career?

I’m really loving London Grammar at the moment, also Disclosure are making some really inspiring music – but the dream bands would be Radiohead or The XX… I really admire forward thinking music.

And finally, are bands really that unpredictable and difficult to work with?

In my experience, most bands have been pretty cool. As long as the band gets on well with each other, then you’ll be fine.

Remember though, I handpick the artists I work with and there are certainly a few bands that I would never work with just because of their bad reputation. I’ve definitely met some DJs that act like small children, but by spending time with the artists, you can get to know them before you work with them! It really helps because you learn to deal with different people in different way. It’s like any relationship, you have to work on it… awwwwww – you also want to kill each other sometimes!