What is a Production Manager?
A production manager is the person on the tour that is responsible for overseeing all the crew on a tour. The production manager is a more specialized version of the tour manager, and the two often work very closely and collaborate on tasks to make sure everything gets done day-to-day on the road.
Skills required to be a Production Manager
A huge part of being a successful production manager is being able to problem-solve. Although a lot of work goes advancing the tour, things fall through the cracks and issues are constantly arising. Trying to always be prepared for those situations so they can be dealt with efficiently is key. There are a million things that go into making a tour great, so the production manager has to be very detail-oriented to keep track of all the moving parts. It’s necessary to be organized, and a good leader because the decisions made on the road can affect the entire tour. It’s also important to be very self-disciplined because there isn’t really anyone checking in to make sure things are happening correctly and on time.
Working with crew vs. working with artist
In general, jobs that specify that they’re directly related to the “tour” center around the artist. In contrast, jobs that specifically use the terms “coordinator” or “production” are more focused on the crew. It can be challenging to determine who’s doing what job on any given tour because of all the people that fall under the “production” umbrella. Usually, when tours are large enough to require this many specialized people, everyone just plays to their strengths to get the job done.
Daily tasks of a Production Manager
The production manager works hand in hand with the tour manager to make sure the tour runs smoothly every day. Depending on the size of the tour, it’s possible for one person to do both these jobs but for bigger tours, it’s easier to bring in another person to help split up the tasks.
A lot of the jobs overlap, and depending on the tour the day-to-day tasks could be different for a production manager but there are some specific things they would be responsible for. Since they’re the ones overseeing the technical aspects of the tour, they’re basically in charge of all the crew. The things the tour manager does for the artist are the same things the production manager handles for everyone else, like travel arrangements. When the tour first arrives at the venue, the production manager is also responsible for helping park busses and trucks and sending the drivers to their hotels to sleep.
As one of the first people awake, the production manager will often do a venue walkthrough with the tour manager and get introduced to key house staff to help their day go smoothly. The production manager will often handle things like security briefings, meet and greets and dealing with the venue’s runners. Once all the day sheets are hung and load-in begins, the production manager watches overload in and puts out any necessary fires during the process. The goal is to have the sage totally show-ready by soundcheck.
On bigger tours, it’s the responsibility of the headliner’s crew to take care of everyone else on the tour package. So as the production manager of the headlining band, it’s not uncommon to check in on the opening bands’ soundcheck or make sure their gear is all in order. A little bit of stage management can come into play when making sure the openers don’t go over their set times or making sure that they have a smooth changeover to keep the show moving.
During the show, the production manager will work with the venue staff and the tour manager to settle the show. This is when the venue or the promoter sit down with all their receipts and discuss the costs with the touring staff. This time is spent negotiating and double-checking all the numbers so the tour can get paid.
Once this is done and the show is over, it’s time to strike the stage and load up the trucks. The production manager is responsible for making sure the load-out goes just as smoothly as the load-in and that the tour is on time to make it to the next venue. They’re responsible for feeding the drivers, making sure they have the directions to the next city, and moving the tour out to do it all again the next day.
Production Manager Tips
- Understanding music jargon is everything. Learn the language as soon as possible to make contracts and communicating with crew easier
- You’re the leader of the crew so you need to be able to handle that
- Save the band money and you’re more likely to get rehired
- Don’t post your laminate or satin online ever
- You’re usually only required to problem solve when things are wrong, so if things are all right and you hear nothing from anyone it’s a good day
- Having crew you trust is key because you physically can’t be in a million places at once
- Be present for important things that you need to make sure go smoothly (doors)