Touring as a musician on a shoestring budget is hard enough, but things really get tough when you have to return home from tour with no steady job lined up. After all, the chances of you finding a job that allows you to come and go as you please for the purpose of touring is slim. Thankfully, visionaries like Real RocknRoll Movers CEO and Owner Scott Quist are creating flexible employment opportunities that couldn’t be more inviting to musicians who need to be out on the road multiple times a year. Continue reading to learn more about RRnR’s business model, how their scheduling works, what other music industry employees besides musicians RRnR is a good fit for, what Scott foresees in RRnR’s future and much more! You’ll even learn what kind of skinny jeans are best for moving…
Indie Ambassador: Is this project a product of your background? Were you a touring musician who needed flexible employment once upon a time or did you just want to help those who did?
Scott Quist: Absolutely a product of my background. It started off as a means to support myself and my band mate at the time, Ronnie James. We started doing this back in '06 on a very part-time basis. I was playing drums in a band called The Shocker which featured ex L7 bassist Jennifer Finch. It was her foray into fronting a band. The music was amped up, tongue in cheek, Punk RocknRoll, heavily inspired by Turbo Negro. We toured constantly for 2 years, mostly in Europe and it was a blast. The tough part was coming home to no money and no work. The typical touring musician story. I would advertise myself on Craigslist as "The Hardworking Helper", offering whatever needed done. I mostly helped with moving. I worked as a contractor's assistant for a summer but realized that wasn't my forte.
Ronnie James was the guitar player in The Shocker. He had a pick-up truck and trailer. I told him we should start offering moving help to people to make extra cash when we were off the road. I started advertising ourselves on Craigslist as RocknRoll Movers, but there were some other guys on there, also advertising as RocknRoll Movers. They were just a bunch of dudes, not musicians. I was telling Ronnie about it one day and we were saying "Fuck That! We're the REAL RocknRoll Movers!" and the name stuck. From there it just built up. Having other musician friends helping, acquiring more trucks and getting better and better at what we did. Eventually I decided to take it seriously and get right with "The Man". I re-launched it in 2010 as a fully licensed, insured, incorporated moving company with the goal of employing hard working musicians. It just keeps getting bigger. I'm really proud of it.
Indie Ambassador: Was it difficult to build a network of musicians to start working or did they come flocking? Do you ever have to turn anyway because you’re full?
SQ: It's not hard to find movers but it can be hard to find the right movers. There's no shortage of broke musicians who need work. The guys on our crew are really motivated and really care about what they do. On top of it they're really nice guys. Because we show the respect to their schedules with touring, studio work, rehearsals, etc, they in turn show respect to the company, AND our customers. One thing that has helped us tremendously is Yelp. We were reviewed on there back in '09 and since then it has blown up. We have over 135 five star reviews. We are one of the top moving companies on that site in Los Angeles. The guys work really hard to blow people away and as I say, "put on a good show". After working with us, the customer feels inspired to leave a killer review. It helps us tremendously.
It's a really great culture here and the guys take a lot of pride in it. They are constantly wearing their RRnR Mover T-shirts on stage or wearing their trucker caps with our Skull and Crossed dollies logo around town. They will pass out cards to people, just to help spread the word. I really love our crew and respect the shit out of them. The music business is really tough, and I want to help those who want to give it a real shot in whatever way that I can.
Indie Ambassador: Is there a minimum time period employees can work before leaving? And they’re welcome back any time?
SQ: If they are hardworking, cool to be around, and make it easy to schedule them, they are welcome back whenever they are available. We have guys that leave for 6 months and come back and work. There's always room for responsible, hardworking musicians here. We do have slow periods and the toughest part about the moving business is the "feast or famine" aspect to the work load. There are weeks where we will have several slow days in a row, where we only need 2-4 guys on a day, and then there will be a day where we get slammed with moves and need 14 guys. That's the balance we have to maintain and it's honestly one of the toughest parts about running a business like this.
Summer is our busy season, so we always need more guys during that time. It's really difficult because summer is also the touring season. The last few years, the guys who have been home during the summer have worked a lot, probably even more than they would prefer. But that's the time to make the money so it's not all bad. There isn't a minimum amount of time you have to work here to be able to leave per se, but I'm not going to bring someone on that is going to leave right away for 2 months. There's no point. If they click with us, then we'll just bring them on when they get back.
Indie Ambassador: Does your employee base consist strictly of musicians or are other members of the music industry with flexible employment like tour managers and engineers involved too? Are there any other industries that you work with?
SQ: We have mostly musicians, but we also have had sound engineers and tour managers on the crew. The guy we had in the office for most of last year is a studio engineer. He was recently brought on as an engineer at Rick Rubin's studio, which was great for him. The only bummer was that he was a really funny dude and we knew we would miss him in the office. We have had an actor and comedian on the crew as well. Our new Office person/Booking Agent (as we call it) is a writer. She's rad and cares a lot about what we do. It just depends on if they can fit into the culture. There's a mentality that artists have that is pretty specific. They identify themselves differently than the general population. The great thing is that you can throw 3 guys in the truck together, and even if they don't know each other, there's a bond right off the bat: the common ground of pursuing your art. Swapping tour stories about sleeping on couches and the van breaking down. It really helps gel the team together.
Indie Ambassador: We have to ask, do musicians make good movers? I feel like it’s hard to do heavy lifting in skinny jeans.
SQ: It just makes sense. Musicians make great movers. The touring life is spent loading gear in and out of clubs and back into a van or trailer. The Tetris skills that you acquire on the road, getting a 5 piece band, all of their luggage and all of their gear into a mini-van translates very well to packing a truck. Everything has its place and there is nothing like standing back and admiring a well packed truck. I think it must cause flashbacks to the feeling of being on the road. I moved for years in my Black skinny jeans. You just have to make sure they're a spandex/cotton blend so they flex a little when you're bending over to pick up that sleeper sofa.
Indie Ambassador: Do you know of any other temporary employment opportunities like this for musicians?
SQ: Not that has it as part of their business model. Most businesses are not set up to allow their staff to leave for extended periods of time. That is another thing that works with the moving business. It ebbs and flows, so sometimes we don't need as many movers and can work with a smaller sized crew. One of my other jobs that I worked before I started moving was as a grocery delivery driver for a company called Yummy in Hollywood. They had a lot of creative types, mostly actors. It was cool for a while because they would allow me to go away for 6 weeks and come back to a nearly full time schedule. Eventually it wore thin though. I had to use my own car, which got beat to shit from driving all day. I would hate to be doing it now with the gas prices as high as they are. Not that owning a trucking company is easy on the wallet with these gas prices either.
Indie Ambassador: Have any of your employees gone on to be artists or in bands we’ve heard of?
SQ: Most of our guys are in active bands. Some are more local and others tour constantly. We also have a lot of guys that are session players and perform with bigger artists as touring musicians. Our guy Big Dan plays on and off for Billy Ray Cyrus's rock band Brother Clyde. Ronnie James, who I originally started this with, is in a hard touring band called Warner Drive. Chris Black was the drummer in The Dolly Rots, until he left recently. They can be heard constantly on XM and were signed to Joan Jett's label. Our boy Steve spent most of last year touring with Porcelain Black, opening for Little Wayne. Our guy Courtland is the bass player in a band called The Shrine that are doing big things and were just out with Fu Manchu. Our newest guy Chris Vos has a blues band called The Record Company that is getting tons of attention. Our guy Brian Marquis will be out on the Warped this year. During SXSW last month, nearly 3/4 of our staff were down in Austin, so it definitely presented a challenge for covering shifts. We joked that we should have sent some of the guys down in a moving truck and had them do some moves while they were there. It could have been a disaster but it would have made for a great story. Some of the guys do make money on the road, but one of our guys has said that the best advice he got was to always make sure to work when you come home, even you if you have some money saved. You never know what might happen in the crazy touring world.
Indie Ambassador: Great to see you’re helping the needy through furniture donations to organizations like Midnight Mission. Can you tell us any more about that? Any other charitable partnerships on the horizon?
SQ: We were really proud of that and are excited to do it again. The Midnight Mission has a great program where they have apartments that house families in crisis. They are always in need of furniture and other items. That's another cool thing about the moving business. We are constantly being offered perfectly good furniture and other items that people are getting rid of. Some of our movers have been given guitars, amps, beds, couches, Flip video cams....all kinds of stuff. We told our customers around Thanksgiving that we were collecting any unwanted furniture that was in good shape and donating it to the Midnight Mission. Within 3 weeks we had a 24' box truck filled with furniture and other items to donate. We took it all over after the new year and they were so stoked. They asked the guys if they could break out an impromptu Guns N' Roses song. Ironically, our guy Robo had spent last summer on tour with Adler's Appetite, which is a Guns N' Roses tribute band led by the ex drummer, Steven Adler (most recently of "Celebrity Rehab" fame). If Robo had a guitar at the time, he probably would have whipped off some "Sweet Child of Mine" for the Midnight Mission folks.
Indie Ambassador: Any plans to expand beyond LA? Do any other cities have large enough music scenes for your business to be viable?
SQ: The big picture plan is to take this to other musician-friendly cities like Austin or Nashville. Maybe even Portland. I probably wouldn't take it to New York or Chicago. I can't imagine moving in the snow and who wants to be carrying couches up 5th walk-ups. How about trying to drive AND park a moving truck in Manhattan? In many ways we are spoiled here in LA being in the moving business. A few days of rain here and there is the biggest weather challenge we face. Not to say that we're soft. There is something to be said for the sweat stains you get after doing a move up one of the crazy outdoor, Aztec staircases in Echo Park.
Indie Ambassador: What are your plans for 2012? Anything awesome planned for the Hell’s Angels truck stage?
SQ: The Stage truck is going to be bad ass when we can get it up and running. It's a moving truck that was outfitted to turn into a stage. This lawyer/drummer guy that I bought it from had done some "lawyering" for the Hell's Angels and in return they had their expert welders do the work on it. One side of the box comes down on a winch and becomes the stage. It's going to be great but I just haven't had the time to get it going. We are always working really hard to improve what we already do. We've been working on offering additional services such as packing and painting. Those things have been a little more difficult to get off the ground but they are in the works.
My big plan here in LA is to have a REAL RocknRoll compound. It would be a big black building and would house the office of the moving company and whatever other services we develop. It would also have rehearsal spaces, storage, and a retail shop. I've even found a building that would be perfect but it's costly. And building out the rehearsal rooms would be expensive. So that dream may have to be put on hold. Unless there's someone out there who wants to invest in this REAL RocknRoll dream? Hit me up!