Name: Rachel Demy
Company/Organization: I’m self-employed.
Bands worked with: Neko Case, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Ra Ra Riot, Richard Swift & The Notwist. (Assistant TM for The Shins & St. Vincent).
FEMMUSIC: How did you become a tour manager?
RD: I had been working as a booking agent’s assistant for about 1.5 years when I decided that I wanted to get out from behind a desk and into the world. I had met a number of bands at the agency and cultivated a friendship with many of them. I emailed Richard Swift about a week before his month-long tour in 2007 and said, “Hey, I’m doing this now. Do you need one of me?” – meaning a TM – and he said yes. So I left the next week on my first US tour and I’ve been touring ever since.
FEMMUSIC: What are the biggest challenges of being a tour manager?
RD: The job in and of itself is challenging with all the moving parts but it’s a kind of challenge I really enjoy. The mental gymnastics, the problem-solving, etc. inherent in the machine – that’s the fun part for those who are so inclined. The challenges I really struggled with over time were learning how to be healthy and balanced in my work/home life and how not to burn out. Or how to be a solid rock for a group of people when your whole life is falling apart, as mine did a few times over the years. I’m not saying it isn’t possible but in 9 years of touring, I’ve never been able to figure it out.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges does being a woman tour manager present?
RD: I’ve been very lucky insofar that I’ve toured with mostly indie rock bands and a ton of other women. I’ve definitely not gotten a few jobs because the band had “had problems with women before” (meaning one woman that somehow managed to exemplify all women to this particular group of young men) or “the lead singer’s wife doesn’t want any women on tour” or some such bullshit like that. It’s not common in my genre to hear things like that but the misogyny certainly isn’t as bad as other genres like metal or the Warped Tour circuit. The fact that I’m speaking about relative misogyny is more indicative that it exists everywhere to some degree, including our progressive world of art and music, but that shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone.
I do remember a time I was settling a very large, sold-out show in New York when this older male promoter rep said to me, as he was handing me the check, “You are by far the prettiest tour manager I have ever dealt with.” and I was just kind of stunned. I didn’t say anything because everyone has to pick their battles, but I just couldn’t imagine this guy even paying a male tour manager a compliment, much less commenting on his looks. I was 27. I wasn’t so fighty then. But to be sure, I didn’t take it as a compliment and I didn’t think it worth even acknowledging. I think women have become pretty good (maybe too good) at letting these little things roll off our backs.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?
RD: To be honest, I really can’t be sure. I think I have an advantage in some cases because I’m tall, I have a lower, commanding sort of voice and I don’t have the energy to placate anyone’s feelings but those I’m actually in charge of (the band and crew). Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. I think because I’ve adopted some stereotypically male characteristics, it’s my way of communicating that I refuse to be treated less than. I’m still emotional and I don’t consider myself hard, but these are definitely tools in my toolbox, used for a particular set of problems. I don’t know if these behaviors and characteristics evolved over time from being on tour or if I’ve had them my whole life, but they definitely help dealing with local stagehands or surly roadies.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry itself?
RD: I don’t think there is much about the industry that I would change. Industry is a business and it’s amoral at best. I think industry tends to prey on creative individuals and I know that when pirating/streaming came in, it drained the industry of a lot of money. That has positive and negative ramifications. On the more positive side of things, all the people who were just in the industry for money left when there was no more money. They all moved over to tech or real estate or something. Which means that most people who are still there are in it for the love of music and genuinely care about building something more than a profit. Unfortunately, peoples’ appreciation, thoughts, prayers, etc. don’t pay the rent for those creating the music. The ecosystem is such that if musician’s have no money, they can’t afford to pay their team and people like me are out of a job. So I think if I could change one thing, it’s the expectation that people should be getting music for free. In the same way that I don’t work for free (until you can properly quantify ‘exposure’ and put it on the market as viable currency), I don’t think people should expect musicians to work for free. I’m not sure what the solution is but as it stands, the music industry is still trying to figure out how to make money without selling physical media and it’s not really working. At best, it’s serving the industry only and not the musicians for which the industry is built. I care deeply about the musicians I work with and I think they deserve more than pennies on the dollar for what they create.