A Globetrotting Tour Manager On Nerf Guns, Dead Phones, 24/7 Hustle

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Stacy Wiseman has devoted her last decade to learning the ins and outs of the live music business. She has managed tours for Lizzo, Hannibal Buress, Iliza Shlesinger, Mallrat, and more.

Rough winds body-slammed Stacy Wiseman’s plane like a head-on collision. 

That’s what the exhausted tour manager assumed, anyway. Fast asleep before nature’s rude awakening, Wiseman needed a moment to realize that volatile air conditions were not, in fact, responsible for the sudden jolt. Those honors belonged to a more cartoonish truth.

“I had my eye mask on, my headphones on, and the plane just violently moved,” she tells us. “I thought we were flying, so I was like, ‘Ah, turbulence,’ and went back to bed. Someone had to wake me up, like, ‘Hey, so, a bus just hit our plane.”

Yes, a bus slammed into her aircraft. Thankfully, the tarmac freak accident left everyone unscathed, but Roadrunner events like these sum up life on the road, where close calls are par for the course. This particular run-in with trouble came during the thick of a four-day, six-flight road stint — probably dizzying to you and me, but light work for Stacy, who’s been there, done that. 

Even though she feels like she's still just getting started, the Colorado-based TM has proudly worn a million different hats: bag carrier, show settler, sidekick, guardian angel, logistical wizard, protector of vibes, ginger shot aficionado, etc. etc. etc. She's accompanied artists on their very first stateside tours and witnessed, side stage, as others became superstars, to say nothing of the 14 months she spent traveling alongside Lizzo as her whirlwind rise hit new heights. Read on for some quick takeaways from her journey to date.

tour manager | san holoSan Holo 2019 tour

Morale powers performance, and TMs protect good vibes at all costs.

“One artist, San Holo, had been traveling all over the world and they needed a tour manager for the last month. So I basically came into this crew as well, not knowing anyone. I went and bought like 12 Nerf guns, and I posted a sign at our Airbnb, like, "You have 30 seconds to drop your shit and grab a Nerf gun." I had my phone on the fireplace so I could see people coming in. I was ready. I got San right in the shoulder. I was like, ‘Great. First time working with this artist,’ but it really broke the ice. A couple times in Toronto, once with Louis the Child and once with Haim, I’ve taken crews to rage rooms to smash stuff. One time with Louis the Child we stopped in Hershey, Pennsylvania and we made candy bars. We were walking around eating marshmallows with melted chocolate. One of the best parts of the job is trying to make these moments that make everyone happy.”

Six words — “Do you need help with that?” — can open many doors.

“While I was still handling box office stuff when I was coming up, I would go into shows a couple hours earlier. If I saw the artist hospitality person, I’d always offer to help, and they’d always respond with a, “Yeah, absolutely.” I’d do that with the people loading in, too. I’d constantly ask my boss if I could learn more about this side of the business and that side of the business. He’s always say yes, but he was so busy he didn’t have time, so that’s what led me to look for opportunities to help and learn elsewhere.” 

Nothing special ever happened in music without a little scrappiness. 

“The first time I got offered a tour manager position, someone from England hit me up like, ‘Hey, we have this artist named jackLNDN, and he’s a house DJ from England, and he's doing his first tour in the US and we would like you to road manage him. Like advance it and get everything ready.’ I didn't even know what advancing was back then, and I was like, ‘Absolutely. I'll do it.’ I was basically calling my friends in every city, like, ‘Hey, this British artist is coming over to do shows. Can he crash on your couch?’”

Details comms between managers & TMs will help future tours, too.

“Manager have more of a say than TMs. Someone might come to a TM and ask, ‘Hey, can I do an interview with your artist?’ Usually, the right thing to do is to ask the manager. It’s a huge no to just say, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ Not your place. I tell management everything they need to know in terms of how things are running. I’ll do summaries every night, like, ‘Hey, this is what this venue is like,’ so if they play that venue again they can return to my notes — things to look out for, things to know, quality of house production, etc. I’m always maintaining different spreadsheets to communicate back to management and the agents, covering settlements, merch sales, and hospitality costs.”

Artists with charged phones will surprise & delight their road crews.

“I jokingly ask the artists I work with if they lose their phone or if their phone’s always at 10%. There’s no in between [Laughs]. So we’ll have venue checks before we load out, or I’ll have lobby calls start earlier. But they have it tough. Artists’ calendars, they’re getting pushed, pulled, and prodded in 20 billion directions. It’s a lot of pressure.”

A couple people (and one email) can shape entire careers.

“I studied the music business for two years at Middle Tennessee State University, and one professor, Richard Barnett, really lit the spark in me to chase this. He focused on live concerts and promotion. That's when it clicked, when I knew I didn't want to work behind a desk. You've got to listen to that. And a bit later, I was working a desk job I knew I had to leave. I had become good friends with an incredible EDM agent, someone I still look up to. I just had an honest talk with him, like, ‘Look, I’ve been doing all of this work with the one goal of getting into tour management, how do I make the jump?’ He was like, ‘Put my name on your resume, let me look over it, and then just blast it out. Hit up every management company, agents, record labels.’ So after all this time I have a small resume and an endorsement. That was a Hail Mary. But it worked.”

tour manager | lizzoLizzo 2018 tour

Music takes life-or-death commitment. So does protecting sanity.

"When you're with an artist like Lizzo who you know is about to blow up, there's an added pressure. Don't fuck up [Laughs]. All eyes are on your team in that scenario, and so many people behind the scenes — management, label, PR — are on the cusp too, sometimes after struggling for years alongside an artist. You have to be ready. We were getting hit up for major gigs three days before the show. Nothing matters more than your job in those moments, but that's also when it's most important to make everyone feel like they're part of the journey. When your bucket list goals are in reach, it's easiest to get burnt out." 

Have more questions about tour management? Stacy's email is open. Reach her via stacytourmanager@gmail.com.

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