A Rock Star In Conversation With A Musician

Artists often don’t get involved with the accounting details of tour management for numerous reasons – such as just not being interested or trusting others to handle it, but that can change.

Jason Squires
– Production Live! Rock Star

“Some artists claim to not care about money until there isn’t any,” Billy Duffy, co-founder and guitarist of The Cult, told the Production Live! Audience alongside tour manager / tour accountant Chuck Randall.

In the UK where the band formed, “Managers used to take your money, they would take your fees and they would pay you what they told you you were due, which i learned was not necessarily ethical when i moved the band to America in the ‘80s where things were done a little differently.”

Needless to say, he’s now very involved, and “watches things like a hawk.”

Duffy was clear that he has a very happy relationship with The Cult’s management, but there are inherent differences of opinion between band and manager when touring.

“My manager will make money even if I go out and lose money. He’s fantastic and that’s never happened … but there’s another side to it,” he said. “Band managers generally stay home. They don’t have to do the mileage. They can say ‘OK, go off and tour, that’ll be nice.’ They manage 10 other acts, who are all out touring at the same time, and they take their cut. It’s up to us.

“I employ Chuck [Randall], my manager doesn’t, to look after our interests. And it’s maybe not always same interests as my manager, hypothetically speaking. That figures into the equation.”

Duffy says when management proposes a tour to The Cult, he wants to see how many miles, border crossings, and flights there are, because it’s not only about dollars and cents, especially as bands get older.

“The reality is that a happy and comfortable performer works better,” said Randall, who has worked with a host of artists including Alice In Chains, Korn, Garbage and many others. “How do you balance bottom line with his comfort? Beyond that, we’re human beings. Let’s not discount what happens out there. We’re seeing each other in our underwear in close quarters. You got problems at home, rent is due, bills, kids are acting up. Life doesn’t stop just because he’s on the road or I’m on the road.”

Duffy says they’re not asking for much, such as hot water for showers, reliable Internet, and “maybe making the food OK.”

But what about artists who want the red-carpet, celebrity treatment and still expect the big paycheck? Randall didn’t flinch on that one.

“I mean, you can be a dick and just say no and shut up,” he said. “Or you can give some explanations or maybe a couple of options. I always say, gentlemen, it’s your money. You want that private jet? OK I’ll book it and we’ll have a great time. Here’s how much it’s going to cost you. It’s your money. At the end of the day it’s about managing expectations.”

Duffy said it’s about value, and that anyone who travels regularly knows you can fly comfortably while reasonably. Good tour planners will put in the extra effort to find good deals that also accommodate the artists.

“I’m blessed to be doing something that I love to do,” Randall added. “But it amazes me that the people at the top, the above-the-line people, don’t understand the dynamic of touring. If you really want to be effective to the artists, get on the bus, don’t just show up at the glamour gigs.”

Because, “unless you’ve been out there, hurtling down the highway in a steel tube sleeping on a shelf and waking up at your next gig,” you don’t know life on the road.

Randall said that being able to anticipate and address an artist’s needs just by walking into the dressing room and reading the body language is what spells success for a touring individual. And putting in that extra effort goes a long way.

The same goes for venues and agents.

“If they don’t care and don’t take care of artist, it’s going to be one hell of a tough settlement, I can tell you,” Randall said, “ We’re going to be there a really long effing time.”