How to Become a Roadie
That season 10 episode of CSI where the band Rascal Flatts were guests, playing themselves serve both as an inspiration and sort of a ghastly warning. In the episode, bassist Jay DeMarcus mysteriously got electrocuted while performing. But the show must go on. The rest of the band membered signaled to a roadie, a technician who joins and helps musicians on their concert tours, to pick up a bass and replace Jay.
Meantime, the electrocution was so severe, Jay suffered minor memory loss, while also seemingly having a slight change in musical taste. CSI swooped in and investigated the case. It was found out that the roadie was responsible for Jay’s electrocution. In his great desire to play with the banned, he wanted to give a minor jolt to Jay so that he could replace him.
College doesn’t seem to be it for you. You want to be in the cockpit of removalist trucks hauling concert gears from Melbourne to Sydney. You want to be around musicians and be a musician yourself. You want to try out to be a roadie. What does it take to become a roadie for a concert touring band?
Here’s what you need to know:
Roadies or road crews are the people who make things happen behind the scenes—setting up guitars, drum kits, keyboards, and other music gears required to blasts the sound of rock and roll to tens of thousands of screaming fans.
While fans are focused on the artist’s performance on stage, hundreds of roadies are making sure that the 50-meter feet backdrop with a multi-media screen and fire-spitting stage are tested and working correctly before each concert performance.
How It Happens
If you love music, why wouldn’t you want to be near all the time with bands like the Stones, Led Zeppelin, or INXS for months on end? If those don’t ring a bell, then think Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons, or One Republic for a more popular flavor.
Bands or concert promoters probably don’t put out an advert that says “Wanted: Roadies.” Getting into a roadie position isn’t like applying for a job at Walmart or in Wallstreet. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind.
- Get knowledgeable about the business of live music. Who’s the promoter? Who are the main sponsors? What are the tour dates like? You need to get a deeper understanding of how live musical performances are organized.
- Where do you fit? There are different road crew jobs. You must know what you want to do, and it’s based on what you can do well. Do you know the ins and outs of plugging electric guitars to an amp and tuning them? You could be a technician. Like setting things on fire? Maybe special effects. Security, sound mixer, or rigger are also parts of a road crew.
- Advance scout. If you manage to get in, then your next agenda is how to be better or be better liked by the band members. Check-in/Phone in early at gig venues and find out where the gears will go. As soon as the band entourage arrives, make sure that you’re the ones hauling the gear.
- Consider an education. If your proclivity is really towards music or even some of the other technical stuff that goes on during concerts, then getting an education will serve you well, especially when there is fierce competition. You need to be prepared for this too.
It’s probably not as hard as getting into NASA to be a resident scientist. But months on the road could be a tough grind. Ready to be a roadie?