BY MARK WORKMAN
One for the Road
How to Be a Music Tour Manager
“Workman has provided priceless insight with his book which should be studied top-to-bottom by anyone looking to make their living in the business.” –Blabbermouth.net
“A witty and inspiring power punch.” –CHUCK BILLY, TESTAMENT
“Mark Workman lays out such a comprehensive strategy to becoming a working tour manager that if one has the will, Workman provides the way.” –PITTSBURGH MUSIC MAGAZINE
“What makes this book valuable is that Workman has limited his war stories in favor of practical advice, things that an aspiring tour manager needs to know.” –EXAMINER.COM
“I cannot fathom a single nugget of information that was left out of this book. Itʼs like a graduate level course in the summer semester. Youʼre going to learn a lot and learn it fast!” –NATIONAL ROCK REVIEW
One for the Road: How to Be a Music Tour Manager includes an insightful foreword by virtuoso lead guitarist of Testament–and author of his memoir Geek To Guitar Hero–Alex Skolnick.
by Alex Skolnick
Take a very close look at any band that has achieved international recognition, and you’ll find someone who has been an integral part of that band’s development from offstage. For example, producer George Martin—as well as manager Brian Epstein, keyboardist Billy Preston and others— each earned the nickname “The Fifth Beatle.” Led Zeppelin’s longtime manager, Peter Grant, was considered an unofficial offstage band member.
The individuals mentioned above happen to be household names to any serious rock fan. But in most cases, a band’s crucial team member is someone who is less widely known, especially in the genre of thrash metal, where compared to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, the audience is, to quote from the mock rock documentary This Is Spinal Tap: “More selective.” Yet whatever thrash metal may lack in terms of mainstream popularity—especially when compared to timeless rock royalty—it more than makes up for in terms of fan dedication. And if there is one name that should be better known to fans of this genre—or for that matter, any music fan interested in what takes place behind the scenes—it is Mark Workman.
As you read this, there may be thousands out there working on behalf of bands—emailing, calling, negotiating, and rousting them out of bed, etc.…but scant few, if any, have had the insight, knowledge, humor, and intellect to write about this process effectively, until now. One for the Road is the perfect title for this series, and Mark Workman is the perfect author to create it.
A seasoned veteran of many a metal tour (a short list of credits includes Testament, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, Machine Head, Danzig, Dio, and Mudvayne), Mark has long been the instigator of many repeated tour quotes and anecdotes. My own band, Testament, never had the good fortune of finding the right producer or manager early on—both positions would change hands several times. But in 1988, as touring began for our second album, The New Order, we found Mark, who’d become our first long-term trusted team member. He’d only signed on to that tour as LD (lighting director) and came across as an inconspicuous crew guy. But when our tour manager suddenly jumped ship, it was Mark who grabbed the reigns and took over the job as TM, while continuing as LD.
As I write this, my own memoir, Geek to Guitar Hero, is being published. I mention this not in the interest of self-promotion, but because it directly relates to this book. Mark Workman is the sole person who has an entire chapter devoted to him, based on our original nickname for him: Sergeant Slaughter.
“Without a doubt, the most memorable and dominant personality in the history of the band is Mark Workman. It pretty much started on the day he took over as tour manager. With a fierce directness, strict work ethic and leadership skills to match, Mark was the only one able to get us checked in and out of hotels, to interviews, or wherever else we needed to be on time. As our first lighting director (LD), his demeanor had been that of an unassuming crewmember who kept to himself. But as tour manager, he transformed us from an out-of-control nursery school to an army barracks.”
From the day he hopped on board that bus in 1988 till the time of my own departure in the early 90’s, from the reunion shows of the mid-00’s to the 2012 release, Dark Roots of Earth (our first to crack the Billboard top 15) and several points in between, Mark has been a part of the soul of our band’s organization. He has helped get the live show where it needs to be, both on a visual and organizational level, and helped guide us through that crucial early period when things easily could have gone sour. Sure, there’d be times where he and the band would drift apart (as is true of my own situation with the band). There’d be times when his demons would get the better of him (as detailed near the end of the book). But Mark has always come back, like a prizefighter that refuses to go down for the count.
While we’re on that subject, Mark’s dedication to the road and metal music mirrors that of his other passion—professional boxing—for which he is a boxing writer with essays posted by BoxingScene, Fox Sports, and others. When a band gets offstage, it’s a bit like the period in between rounds during a boxing match, where the fighter is in the corner, talking to no one but his trainer. The band sits alone in the dressing room, allowing the breathing to return to normal, the sweating to dissipate, and the dizziness of constant movement to subside. No guests and other well-wishers are allowed backstage during this sacred time. Mark is like the trainer—the first non-band member to walk through the door—a welcome presence, letting the band know just how the show went—what worked, what didn’t, if it was a great night or just so-so.
Having shared buses and dressing rooms with Mark since our first tour together in 1988, I’ve long found him to be the rare person who says what he means and does what he says he’s going to do. He will tell a band what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. He’s also a constant source of dark comedy with an acerbic wit and abrasive humor. That spirit shines through in these pages. Faint of heart, take heed: Mark does not mince words.
While he occasionally causes shock and insult, Mark always keeps things from getting boring. His harsh mannerisms, brutal honesty and fierce directness are not for everyone. Those who do not have a thick skin be warned (and while you’re at it, this might be a good time to reconsider a career in the music business). Whether in the Testament camp (bandspeak for organization), or others, Mark is the source of more tour stories than the musicians themselves.
This book, and the eventual companion editions, will no doubt become an invaluable asset to anyone who thinks they have what it takes to run a tight ship on tour. This will be the guide that many tour vets wish they’d had when starting out. Reading it, one can imagine what might have happened if Charles Bukowski or Hunter S. Thompson had been a fight fan who spent his life as a member of the road crew for some of the world’s fastest heavy metal bands and wrote about it. I will not be the least surprised to see One for the Road: How to Be a Music Tour Manager become a must read among road crews for many years to come.
The road is a great equalizer. Not being prepared for its pitfalls, curveballs, “clusterfucks” (a favorite term of Mark’s), and other unpredictable factors has contributed to many a mental breakdown among tour personnel, regardless of age, gender, cultural background, or musical genre. This book will encourage potential tour managers to realize just what they are getting themselves into and come to the tour adequately prepared. Conversely, it will also force those who do not have what it takes to come to their senses and, it is hoped, get out with their dignity still intact.
This is a book for beginners.
I almost quit writing this book three times, but I don’t believe you’re out after three strikes any more than I believe cats only have nine lives—the little bastards live forever. If I believe in nothing else in this life, I believe in resurrection and new beginnings. Trust me; I’m living, pulsing proof of it.
Writing this book became more frustrating with each successive draft, and I simply couldn’t figure out why my middle finger seemed to be constantly pulled against its will to my computer’s delete button like a planchette on a Ouija board.
Captain Howdy, that isn’t very nice!
Is there an exorcist in the house?
Then it struck me like an uppercut from “Iron” Mike Tyson; the problem was clear to a blind man. As I edited each chapter, I wearily waded through a rigid how-to book that highlighted the positives and downplayed the negatives of being a music tour manager. To put it simply: this book was so full of happy horseshit, you needed a manure collector to get rid of it all.
I made up my mind, right then and there, to tell it like it is: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the monstrously horrible. I offer no phony sales pitch; no mysterious insider secrets will be revealed, and no false promises of an exciting new career are guaranteed or your money back. Not that this book ever contained any of those shameful things—it didn’t—but it was stiffer than a crone’s arthritic fingers and had about as much humor as a handbook on autopsy practice.
My book was reborn.
I hope you have a sense of humor. Yes, there is job discrimination in the music business; tour managers born without a thick funny bone need not apply. You won’t last without one.