Keeping it together on the road
A veteran tour manager reveals how he went from playing the drums to running the shows.
Ace Piva has lived a life in music: First as a drummer, then as a default tour manager for his own bands, now as a professional tour manager for established acts. “Someone needed to be the babysitter,” he says of his early touring days, which included lots of beer and sleeping on beaches. “I had a vehicle and could drive everyone around. From there on, I faked it till I made it.”
Piva—who is also an addictions counsellor and co-founder of Over The Bridge, a non-profit connecting the music industry to mental health and addiction training and support—turned to tour management professionally “when my bands were ready to retire and get real jobs,” he says. His first run was with the British outfit Jim Noir, hitting the likes of South by Southwest in Austin, The Viper Room in Los Angeles, and The Living Room in New York: “They respected me, they didn’t tell me to fuck off.”
Since then he’s been on the road with D.O.A., Serena Ryder, The Trews, and 54•40. Here are some of his tips for successful tour management:
“As a tour manager, if you see one running around losing their shit on the day of the show, he didn’t do his job. He didn’t do his prep work,” says Piva. “All my prep work is done way before—where do we park, what time is load in, sound check. You schedule out your time, your drives, your breaks. For every hour you add 15 minutes to your drive because anything can happen. You just prepare for everything. The day of you’re just walking through everything. And printing out setlists.”
Manage your time
“Give yourself lots of time so you don’t freak out,” he says. “As soon as I get a contract, I advance that show right away, at least start the communication. Here are my questions—when you’re able to sort them out, let me know.”
Young bands might not need a tour manager, but could use a responsible friend
“If you don’t have a responsible person in the band, have a friend come along, and then someone [in the band] needs to be responsible enough to delegate to that friend. If you want a free trip across Canada, you’ve got to do something.”
Learn how to advance shows
As soon as the show is confirmed, reach out to the promoter/venue manager/contact to figure out schedules and needs. When you book a show through Side Door you can easily advance the show through the platform. You can also check out Piva’s advance email template for help.
Written by Tara Thorne
Tara Thorne is a writer, editor, and pop culture critic in Halifax.