Touring with a rock band is on the fantasy list of a good percentage of teenagers. But, as with many fantasies, the reality is that life on the road is demanding, repetitive and often exhausting, and doesn't start with the top-selling acts. Beginning roadies start with smaller bands and venues and work their way up to the larger tours. In addition, roadie jobs aren't limited to rock and roll; some get their start with theatrical productions, television and video location shoots and other types of live events.
The primary job of the roadie is making sure the equipment needed for each performance or event moves safely from one venue to the next. This includes amplifiers, microphones, musical instruments, stage props and scenery. Roadies are responsible for loading all equipment into transport vehicles, driving it to the next location and unloading. Stamina and strength play a large role in a roadie's job description. All roadies need a current driver's license and a safe driving record.
Roadies must be able to read a stage schematic and set up equipment, instruments or sets in exactly the same fashion for each performance, or as dictated by the road manager or artist. This includes the height of the microphones, volume settings on the amplifiers, placement of props and checking the connections to all sound equipment. Some artists incorporate the use of pyrotechnics, wind machines or dry ice during the production and roadies must sometimes set up operate these systems as well.
A working understanding of electronics and basic repair techniques is essential to continuing to gain gigs as a roadie. Amps will break down, guitar pedals will go on the fritz and cable lines will short out. A good roadie fixes these problems efficiently and often carries their own small set of tools to address these types of technical concerns. Special attention should be paid to the preferred guitar strings, drumsticks or other specifics of the artist the roadie works with. Running out before the gig and purchasing supplies at the local music store is also possible.
Many roadies double as music technicians and are required to tune the guitars, other string instruments and drums for the artist before the performance. Roadies must be able to work with tuning equipment, have a good ear and learn the particular styles of tuning of the individual players they work for. They must also handle delicate equipment with caution and ensure the instruments in their care do not get damaged during each trip.
As part of a team, roadies must consistently work well with a group, sometimes for weeks enduring long work days and cramped living conditions. A degree of professional decorum is also expected by remaining discreet and not using their association with rock stars to advance personal popularity. Roadies are expected to keep certain information regarding top artists confidential such as which hotel they are staying at and personal addresses or contact information. Other frowned-upon behaviour includes constantly arranging meet-and-greets for personal friends and family or pestering supervising crew do to so.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Arts, Entertainment And Recreation
- Hey Roadie: Random Stories From The Road
- Maria Callahan; Musician; Portland, Oregon