In “Spiceworld” they had Clifford, in “Almost Famous” they had Dennis, and in “This Is Spinal Tap” they had Ian Faith. What do all these movie characters have in common? They were the band’s manager. They toured with them, they set up their gigs, they talked to record labels and publicists for them–that’s the job of a manager, and tour managing comes with the territory.
It’s not as easy to break into the music business as these movies make it seem, plus the job isn’t all parties and free shit. As the manager you have to keep the band together, and in some cases (like in “Spinal Tap”) that can be very complicated. Musicians are artists, and artists can be temperamental and dramatic, especially if you lock them in a bus for months at a time and expect them to get along.
This career path requires a lot of experiences. Unless you have an in with the musician, you can’t just wake up and decide you want to be a tour manager and then get hired by Beyoncé the next day.
Just ask Keith Anderson. He has a very impressive resume of artists he has tour managed for, and is currently working with Hue Laurie. He’s worked with LCD Soundsystem, David Byrne (front man of The Talking Heads), TV on the Radio, Ween, Jewel, and many other great musicians! However, he wasn’t always working with big timers. When he first started, he was just helping a few of his friends’ bands out who needed a ride. By doing this he was able to find out that he was actually good at it, and kept going.
He admits that he didn’t initially intend to be a tour manager, but that he just fell into the position and he wouldn’t have it any other way! BTRtoday chats with Anderson about traveling, the music business, and adjusting to life on the road—check it out below!
BTRtoday (BTR): So how would you professionally define what you do?
Keith Anderson (KA): I am a tour manager in the music business, working on concert tours and traveling around the world.
BTR: Ugh, that sounds like a dream job! Who are some of the bands and musicians you’ve worked with?
KA: Well, let’s see. I’ve worked with Jewel, David Byrne, Tori Amos, Hugh Laurie, Indigo Girls, Joe Jackson, Natalie Merchant, They Might Be Giants. Ween, TV on the Radio, and… [Pauses to think]
BTR: Well, I remember hearing you set up what was supposed to be LCD Soundsystem’s last show at Madison Square Garden, so didn’t you work with them?
KA: Doh! I was trying to think whom else and forgot about them!! Yes, LCD Soundsystem.
BTR: Nice! That was a huge show! Did you intentionally choose a career that entailed lots of traveling, or did you just kind of fall into it?
KA: Working in the music business was a target I had when I left school, but at that time had not thought it would be in concert touring. I was hoping to find a job at a record company but that didn’t happen. Travel was also very appealing to me, but I had not been thinking about or planning to have a career that involved travel. Now I’ve been doing it for 30 years!
BTR: So how did you end up sticking with tour managing?
KA: I had friends who played in a band, and needed someone who could drive to a gig, set-up gear, then I got involved in the logistics. Aptitude and luck are important in any job. You find you have the skill set, and that enables you to grow into any job. I was working a regular office job at the time. It got to the point where I had to make a choice, so I decided to take a chance and quit my office job to go “on the road.” Luckily for me, I moved pretty quickly into tour management and have been able to make a career of it.
BTR: What have been some ups and downs of your career?
KA: I’d say the up has been being able to continue to find work. The freelance world can be unpredictable. Sometimes a job finishes and you don’t know when the next job will come along. Factor in traveling around the world and it’s hard to think of a down. If any, I’d say being close to an artist who’s head got turned upside down by the demands of success and seeing the personality change. You know there is a good person in there.
BTR: After returning from a lengthy tour, isn’t it difficult to reintegrate back into your normal home routine?
KA: When you are away for any length, two weeks or ten, you work to a schedule, travel to a schedule, and the things you do with any time off are limited to what’s within easy reach around you. So it’s nice to have a few days after a tour where there is no structure and you can do a few things you don’t otherwise get to do.
However, it can be difficult if there is a demand or expectation of your time and attention when you probably want to decompress for a few days.
BTR: What about the musicians you tour with, do they ever have trouble returning from tour?
KA: For sure. There are some tours where everyone gets on so well and has a great time, that some guys feel a little separation anxiety at the end of a tour. It can take a few days to get into the swing of a home routine. Although there are some tours, when you get to enjoy touring with a high profile artist, five-star hotels and private jets, when you get back to your house, it’s nice to do something ordinary like push a trolley around the supermarket buying groceries. It’s a reminder that the “real world” is very different.
BTR: What advice would you give to a musician who has difficulty reintegrating after returning from a lengthy tour?
KA: Maintain a sense of humility on the road. Civility costs nothing. Don’t arrive home with a sense of entitlement just because you had people doing things for you, and you stayed in some nice hotels!