Just Call Me: Improving Comms Between Artist Teams and Road Crew (Production Live! Panel Recap)

Morgan Dentch of Full Stop Management, Lou Taylor of Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, Luis Soto, Angie Warner of Posty Touring and Guitar Monkey Touring and Larry Webman of Wasserman Music at Production Live! on Feb. 6.

Morgan Dentch, Full Stop Management

Lou Taylor, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group
Luis Soto, Tour Manager
Angie Warner, Posty Touring / Guitar Monkey Touring
Larry Webman, Wasserman Music

Coined by author John C. Maxwell more than two decades ago, “teamwork makes the dream work” is a phrase that is overstated yet not said enough, especially in the live entertainment industry. It’s the perfect mantra for everyone on the production side of the touring business who must work together to achieve the goal of a successful show, and the key to fostering an environment promoting such teamwork is simply communication between everyone involved — from artists to managers to agents to crewmembers.

The impartation of information is everything when routing a tour and was underscored during the “Just Call Me: Improving Comms Between Artist Teams and Road Crew” panel at Production Live!, the first day of Pollstar’s three-day conference that took place at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, California, on Feb. 6.

“It’s kind of like saying losing weight,” said the panel’s moderator, Morgan Dentch of Full Stop Management. “I mean, it’s a great idea, but unless you start counting those calories or jump on a treadmill, you’re not necessarily going to get those results. We’re trying to speak about a few things today that have some takeaways, some stuff we can actually action so we can improve communication.”

A line of communication can only be established with trust, and panelist Luis Soto stressed the importance of promoters, managers, agents and production teams getting on the same page early and often to avoid any surprises.

“We’re there to assist management to fulfill the goal of having artists have a successful show,” Soto said. “I think management styles vary, right? But regardless of what they are, I think that communication with them is essential in terms of text messaging, day sheets, or whatever it is that you want to do, letting them know where the artist’s headspace is for that particular day because all sorts of variables could come into play that throw things off. Establishing that at the beginning of a tour is essential.”

Soto added that managers sometimes lose sight of the details because they are focused on the overall picture, and going over the day-to-day budget with the entire team can help account for “the little things.”

Angie Warner of Posty Touring and Guitar Monkey Touring echoed Soto’s comments and added that a lack of consideration of the variables can have a domino effect, which then could cost the artist money and the production team valuable time and resources.

“[Inexperienced managers are] not thinking in terms of how we can make this work so it’s feasible for our crew for everybody involved,” Warner said. “And they don’t understand the limitations with vendors, especially after COVID, as we all know, buses, trucks, everything. And so sometimes, you get a last-minute confirmation instead of having talked beforehand, ‘Can we make this happen?’ It’s, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’ and then you’re stuck trying to piece it together, which always costs more money. Instead of giving a budget, you’re like, here’s your actual cost. I’m not about all that.”

One suggestion Warner had for the audience was to have weekly calls with teams to discuss updates and go over schedules, which can help develop a bond among the workers.

Talking it out isn’t the only thing teams should be doing. Lou Taylor, CEO of Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, underscored the importance of documenting communication to ensure accountability. She provides artists with a summary page that provides detailed estimates of costs.

“A lot of times, the artist is making changes and we kind of call that below the line so that when we actually review the close of the tour, they know what their decisions impacted in that number,” Taylor said. “We never have an artist go out without them signing that document.  They are required to sign it so that they know what’s sticking to them before they ever step foot on a bus or a plane. … You’d be shocked how many artists don’t know how much money they’re making when you go out on the road. It really is shocking.”

Agents also like to be a part of the conversation and often go above and beyond to establish a relationship with the crew working a tour. Larry Webman, a senior vice president at Wasserman who represents Coldplay, MGMT, Dropkick Murphys and Sara Bareilles, said he likes to attend the smaller market shows to build those connections.

“I try to go to every tour in a random place just go get more time with people, and I try to know a lot of the road crew,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of clients for a long time, so over time you get to know these people. When there’s a new member of the team, you try to go out of your way to introduce yourself just so they see you in passing and they know you’re there and paying attention.”

Webman also had a simple tip that generated laughs and applause: “I would say having a very clear subject line [is important]. You got to search for something later.”

In the spirit of sharing and communicating, Taylor passed on some wisdom that was passed on to her by Mercyline “Mike” Bernardo, a trailblazer in the music industry.

“She always used to say, ‘The best thing that you can give is to be a giver.’ and I’ve never forgotten that,” Taylor said. “There are times even for us going out on the road with the production crew, not at the artist’s expense, but if I can take something with me to give — even if it’s a little prize if it’s to buy something locally for a meal that’s not just catering. All of you have an opportunity to give to somebody. … I will tell you single-handedly if you’re young and you’re sitting in this room because I do feel like a lot of this generation is so consumed with themselves that to be a giver really pays in multiples. It’ll be your greatest return on investment for your future.”