Profiles: Intl. Tour Management with Ben Gram and Ben Hoffman

Written by Aidan Rush Posted in: Profiles on April 04, 2012

All you IAtv die-hards out there will remember Ben Hoffman from September 2010's TrueDIY Episode 3 (whoa!), where we talked about general tour management. We decided to expand the scope of this Profile to international tour management, and improved the setting from the back of BML’s old car to Foundry24 in Charlestown. Also lending TM advice this time around is Ben Gram, another long-time IA cohort who is now the tour manager for several artists. Both Bens have experience TM-ing in Europe and Canada, so we sat down to pick their brains on a few topics we thought might be helpful to TM's and artists acting as TM's who might find themselves working in these places some day! Covered are subjects like declaring merch at customs, what your financial goals should be for a European tour, securing backline and transportation, paperwork, passports, and more. As always, the video in its entirety can be found above, and the essential info is in the quick tips below.


Quick Tips

  • Make sure the trip is financially worthwhile by dealing with the budget beforehand. Most bands hope to break even on a trip to Europe, though that’s a pretty big goal for a group's maiden voyage into a new, far away market. Also, securing gaurantees for your shows will help with planning ahead of time. 

  • After you’ve determined the trip is worth taking, take care of the simple stuff like reminding people to have their passports updated if need be. If you show up to the airport and someone’s passport is expired or will expire while on the trip, that person is going to face serious issues.

  • It’s good to work with someone locally on your team when in Europe for many reasons, and it’s usually smart to fit that person in as a bus / van driver because they’ll know their way around the continent's comparatively sparse highways better than you will. That person will probably be better at major European languages like German and French than you are. There is a big community of tour bus drivers all throughout Europe who are awesome and aren't hard to find. Many have been in the circuit for years. 

  • Secure a functional backline before you take off across the pond. There are several cool companies that can help you with transportation and backline needs at the same time. 

  • Labels in Europe have loyal followings. If there's any way you can finagle a label or at least a distribution deal in Europe before you tour there, you'll have a much better chance of peple coming out to your shows and thus making the trip worthwhile. 

  • Additionally, those labels can print merchandise in Europe so you won’t have to declare it at customs (and pay taxes on it) when crossing borders. Additionally, they’ll already have a stock of your physical music so you wouldn’t have to worry about declaring it either.

  • Music fans in European countries aren’t that different than music fans in the U.S., but you do have to remember that a 4 hour drive could have you entering another country instead of just another state like in the U.S. Keeping that in mind, be aware of changing customs and etiquette!

  • Not every country in Europe is in the Eurozone (England is a notable exception as their currency is the Pound), so plan in advance when pricing merchandise out for these places.

  • Crossing the border in Canada can be as easy or difficult as the border guard wants it to be. Some may send you on your merry way, but also be prepared to step out of the van and have everything you own searched.

  • When entering Canada, you’ll need a document saying how much the merchandise you’re carrying is worth. You should also count on having proof of the merchandise, like a t-shirt or a CD, readily accessible. 

  • In addition to having this proof of merchandise available, you’ll need document proof that you’re in a band. Ben Gram often shows them the tour book, containing the exact dates of entry and exit into the country. Be prepared to answer the same question over and over again. 

  • Finally, in your paperwork you’ll need a letter from the concert’s promoter inviting you to play and saying how much money you’ll be making. NOTE: Even if your band or the band you’re TM-ing is only playing a string of basement shows for free, you still should just say you’re being paid a small amount because they won’t believe you otherwise.

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