Hi Mike,

How many people are employed on a large tour like Mariah Carey? What kinds of job opportunities are there on a tour like that? Can you give me an idea of the basic salary range? How do you get started in that line of work?



Hi Stuart,

Typically on a large-scale tour there are about 80 or so people traveling full time to make the tour happen. For this column weíll talk about the C party, over the next couple columns weíll get to the A and B parties. The basic salary range for the crew can be anywhere from $3000 – $6000 per week for department heads, and $1500 to $5000 for other touring personnel. All traveling expenses are taken care of and there is per diem ranging between $35 – $75 per day.

Each tour has a head rigger and a staff of 2 to 4 riggers. They are responsible for hanging the points for the motors in the ceiling that the lighting and sound rigs are flown from. They have to get this job right every night or people can get hurt. The weight limits of what can be safely hung and how it can be hung vary from venue to venue and the riggers have to know the math and physics to get this done safely. The riggers are the first ones in and the last ones out so they work really hard on tour. One thing to keep in mind if youíre on tour, never piss anyone off that hangs several tons of stuff over your headÖ. Be nice to these guys!

Next is the head carpenter and a staff of around 6 touring carpenters. They are responsible for building the stage, and usually help run stage cues during the show as well. In rehearsals theyíll build any custom set pieces that are not fabricated somewhere else, and have helped me with custom keyboard stands that blend in well with the set. They usually build the set at one end of the venue while the riggers; sound and lights crews are working at the other side of the venue. Once the rig is ready to be raised, then the stage rolls into place.

The lighting crew consists of a lighting director and a staff again of about 6 to 8 people.

The sound crew consists of a front of house system engineer, monitor engineer, and a crew of at least 5 traveling personnel that oversee the setup and wiring of the sound system.

The video crew consists of a video director and around 6 or 8 crew. Their jobs are to run the cameras for the video screens, hang and maintain the video screens, and operate the computers that generate content for the video screens. The video director calls the cues during the show for what is actually put up on the screen.

There is an electrician on most big tours that ensure that each department has the power they need safely. Sometimes that entails bringing generators on tour.

Backline techs are the guys that set up and maintain the gear for the musicians on tour. The keyboard tech is responsible for assisting with the programming and wiring of the keyboard playerís rig and sometimes on smaller tours will do digital audio playback. A good knowledge of MIDI and sound design is required. The guitar techs take care of the bass and guitar playerís rigs dealing with the wiring and programming as well. The drum tech takes care of the drummer (duhÖ). It really helps if the backline techs are decent musicians as well for the line check before the band gets there so that the sound guys can get a good start dialing in the mix. But please, if you get a gig doing this, resist the temptation to jam any more than is absolutely required for the sound guys because the rest of the crew has to work and the last thing anyone wants to listen to is a bunch of noise while theyíre trying to get the show set up.

There is a wardrobe department that has a head wardrobe person and at least 2 or 3 full time traveling wardrobe people.

One of the overlooked parts of a big tour is the ìambienceî person. Itís their job to make all of the dressing rooms look nice and make sure theyíre properly stocked with whatever is required. That usually entails hanging some kind of fabric on the walls or bringing furniture so the ìpop starî and band donít feel like theyíre in a locker room, which is usually exactly where they are. They also have to make sure the rider listing all of the items that will be needed for the dressing rooms is properly stocked. Sounds like a small thing, but this can make all the difference in the world when youíre on tour and can have nice rooms to hang out in before the show.

On a large tour there are usually 15 to 25 trucks, and 6 or so tour busses that will require full time drivers. Some of the drivers will assist with running the spot lights and other show related duties if the drives arenít too long between shows.

During the show the stage manager oversees the stage cues, and making sure the pop star is in place.

The production manager oversees getting this ìcircusî from venue to venue. He is the person that makes most of the hiring decisions for crew jobs on tour so you want to be sure to be on their good side. The production manager assistant is the person that makes all the day-to-day stuff either work or not. A good one will make sure the crew is taken care of by making sure thereís a way to get personal laundry taken care of, the busses are properly stocked with food and drink each night, and a myriad of other things that make life on the road more bearable.

In each city the production will hire 20 to 40 local crew that assist in loading the trucks, and any other department that needs help that day.

If youíre interested in getting a job with the ìCî party please check out my website I have several links to websites dedicated to how to get a crew gig, and tips on how to do the best job possible. Briefly, to get a job on the C party I would recommend working at local rehearsal studios, joining the stage hand union or getting on the list of local hands at the major venues in your town.

Please email me if you have any additional questions as itís tough to get everything into one column. Next month weíll talk about the ìBî party. Mike

Mike McKnight Sounds Inc.

34145 Pacific Coast Hwy, Suite #302
Dana Point, CA 92629