A new generation of road warriors is leading the pack and this year’s Production Live! panel moderated by Music Forward Foundation’s Nurit Smith featuring Haley Binder, Loreen Bohannon, Meg Miller, Misty Roberts and Jacki Van Hoose showed just how different this next crop looks.
While COVID shut down the touring industry for a year and a half, Roberts said she spent a lot of time on the phone and in meetings trying to figure out what changes they wanted the industry to look like moving forward. They wanted to improve the scene, giving new-comers more mentorship (especially as many of those who previously held touring positions pivoted to other careers). While they were successful in some aspects – this was an all-female panel, after all – they realized they had missed some important details, such as what the real-world cost of the pandemic would bring.
Inflation costs are still at an all-time high, the “Great Return” was marred by long waits for shipping and a glut of touring that made venues hard to get ahold of. Routing would have tours jump from city to city in inconvenient routes because that’s when they could get a date, but the humans on the other end would suffer from long drives with little down-time.
“There as a shift definitely happening before the pandemic and coming out of it,” Roberts said. “Those younger artists are asking for different things in their crews. The Laney Wilsons, the boygenius’, Phobe Bridgers, Gracie Abrams, they’re trying to build a crew of people that don’t look like what people my age are necessarily used to. I’m’ used to pirate roadies. I noticed it when I started with HAIM, my interview process was a month long. I’ve never had an artist call me once a week for a month to get to know me. They wanted to make sure I was the right vibe for their tour. And we had so many interesting conversations about what they wanted their career to look like. And I had conversations with them in turn about what I wanted, and it’s the first time in my career I’ve ever done that and said, ‘Can we make a promise to each other that we start this tour out and we have 50% females out here?’ And they said, ‘Yeah. Absolutely. We love that.’ You’re looking at a younger generation of artists and there are things that are important to them that are not necessarily important to your legacy artist.”
The panel also pointed out that former green flags in touring are now likely to get a resume turned down while out on the road. While once upon a time it was seen as a positive to have been out on the road for 300 days out of the year, now it’s turned on its head. Teams are wondering what a potential hire might be doing in their spare time, and focusing more on a work/life balance to ensure everyone out on the road is able to do their best.