Being A Rock Roadie Isn’t As Glamorous As You Imagine


This Sunday, Roadies, the first TV series from filmmaker Cameron Crowe, is set to premiere on Showtime. Set in the world of rock ‘n’ roll (of course), Roadies focuses on a crew of technicians, drivers, and managers rather than the band. The unsung heroes of the music industry, members of the road crew are the ones that travel from city-to-city, working tirelessly to get everything set up in time for the show, before it’s dismantled and loaded back up before you leave.

While there’s a good chance that Crowe’s own real-life rock ‘n’ roll history will play a part in his new series, there’s a lot about working on the road that lacks a certain dramatic element, and wouldn’t exactly lend itself to worthwhile storytelling. It’s mind-numbingly boring most of the time, is what I’m getting at. While the band gets all the glory, the crew gets the job done. Here’s a rundown of some of the duller moments on the road that you probably won’t be seeing that much of during Roadies’ run.

The Late-Night Check-Ins


For touring to really work financially, you need to have money coming in as many nights as possible. That’s usually not a problem as far as Friday and Saturday nights go, but the rest of the week, not so much. When’s the last time you paid cover to go to a show at a bar on a Monday or Tuesday night? Try as you might to find a solid week’s worth of gigs, the reality is that your schedule will end up being full of holes. This results in nights where you don’t have a gig, a room, or any real place to go.

For these nights off, you generally want to avoid staying at hotels inside a city. Chances of a break-in are much lower out in the middle-of-nowhere, and no one likes to deal with a bunch of stolen gear (or worse) when you’re out on tour. So, on these nights without a gig, you head out into the great unknown in search of a cheap hotel. Trying to get a couple of rooms in the dead of night usually means you’ll end up bargaining with the clerk in the front lobby. When you only need a place to crash for a couple hours and you can’t get a good rate, a lot of times you just head back down the road in search of a better deal at the next place. Or sleep in the van.

Band ‘Meals’


Meals might be a guarantee in the band’s rider, but what constitutes a meal varies greatly from venue to venue. Sometimes you can expect a nice, delicious meal free from any sort of restrictions. Other times you’re given a special band menu, which is like a kid’s menu, but without the variety. There’s also the option of getting a buyout, which means everyone gets handed $10 or $15 to subsidize whatever you end up spending on food that night. Of course, with all that time you spend driving trying to keep your schedule, you can’t always count on a whole lot of down time to savor a sit down meal, so there’s a good chance you’ll end up standing in line at the closest fast food joint.

Getting Everyone Paid


This is what it all comes down to: getting paid. Just how much will vary greatly night to night, but if the venue’s had a good night, that means the band’s had a good night, and everyone’s happy. Of course, if it hasn’t been a good night, you’ve still got to get whatever your guarantee was from the venue, and that’s when things can start to get awkward.

You’re also going to want to pay attention to the crowd, considering that the band’s pay depends entirely on how much the venue takes in at the door. You see, not all venues are 100 percent up front about how many people paid the cover, and for places like that, you’ll want to keep a tally counter of your own — just in case you wanted to make that end of the night meeting even more awkward.

If that wasn’t enough, as an added bonus, sometimes the venue expects a percentage of what you sold in merchandise. In cases like that, you learn to keep two sets of receipts: the real one, and the one you show to the venue before you give them their cut.

Seriously, So Much Driving


There’s a reason they call it “life on the road,” and if that hasn’t been made clear by now, it’s because you spend the majority of your time in a van just trying to make it from one place to the next. Granted, there’s a certain romanticism that’s been woven into the idea of touring with a band for a living, one that’s perceived as a kind of whimsical, bohemian experience.

What it really means is sitting in traffic for hours on end, rushing to get to the next soundcheck on time, eating bad food, and sleeping in seedy motel rooms in the middle of nowhere, all so the band can play a couple hours of music while you stand around on the sidelines selling T-shirts, keeping a headcount of the room, and hoping whoever you settle up with doesn’t want a cut of your merchandise.

Basically, it is the exact opposite of this: