Name: Emily Bragg
Company/Organization: Alabama Shakes
Bands worked with: Dylan LeBlanc, Cody Chesnutt, Alabama Shakes
FEMMUSIC: How did you become a tour manager?
EB: I started my career in music freelancing for music festivals in the US and Canada. A few years in, I began working at a small artist management office when I was home in Nashville. We mostly worked with songwriters and artists who did not tour. Eventually, we signed a touring act and the transition from the management office and festival circuit to tour manager seemed natural.
FEMMUSIC: What are the biggest challenges of being a tour manager?
EB: In the beginning, the biggest challenge was knowing what it meant to be a tour manager. I really didn’t have much of an idea. I knew I was responsible for making sure we weren’t late for press or shows, that I was available to my artist and the venue for any questions and that I drove the van. Other than that, I had no idea what was expected of me. Eventually, I understood I was the bookkeeper, the merch person, the friend, the mom, the therapist, the support, the guard dog, the messenger, the stagehand, the person who must answer all the questions and the only girl in the van. As I grew with different bands, especially the Shakes, I figured out my specific duties, mostly from trial and error. It’s the best and worst part of the job. In the indie touring industry, no one gives you a job description. No one trains you. It’s rare that you get a ‘thank you’ at the end of the day. You have to be up for the challenge. You have to want to organize and plan and hope that your decisions are the right ones. When things don’t go as planned, which, in some ways, is every day, you have to have the desire to fix them. I love it. That is the pay off for me. The bigger the challenge, the better the pay off. And I’m not the only girl on the bus anymore!
FEMMUSIC: What challenges does being a woman tour manager present?
EB: My initial challenge in being a woman in the touring industry was learning to be assertive. I had to learn to handle the pressure of being in charge of my artist and crew and also had to be assert myself with the house staff. I had to enter the room, shake hands with the production manager, promoter, venue manager, radio personality, interviewer, security team, box office manager, etc., and get right down to business. I consider myself a confident woman and tour manager now, but in the beginning, being assertive was something I had to practice. I knew it would get easier. I had confidence. I knew I could manage the day, make the best decisions and crawl in my bunk at night, knowing it was a great day for all. Its what has driven me to grow and be better for every tour. I had to learn to speak to everyone with firm kindness. On occasion, I meet someone who doesn’t appreciate a woman in charge. It can make the day more difficult, but the best part of the business is the increasing number of women in powerful positions. I know if I’m having a hard time with someone at the venue, there’s probably a woman that is his boss. It isn’t fair, but it certainly makes the women in this industry strong. It’s really about gaining mutual respect, most of the time. People show you respect when you know what is going on and I show respect to others for the same reason. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?
EB: Being a woman, in general, presents moments of discrimination, no matter what your profession. I have certainly been ignored or overlooked because I am a woman in charge. I had a bus driver who resisted every instruction I gave him. He spoke poorly of all the women who had been in his life. He was a very bitter, angry man, but I never treated him poorly. I gave him instruction and he had to follow. That’s it. He had to comply with our plans. We went everywhere we needed to go, regardless of all the bitching from him. The tour was a success. I’ve never had another experience with a sexist bus driver. The others have been extremely respectful. There are even a few ladies who drive buses!
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry itself?
EB: I can’t speak on all areas of the music industry or all genres of the touring industry, but I have to brag on the indie touring industry. I do encounter the occasional sexist grump, but for the most part, everyone is like-minded. Either way, I know lots of men in my industry who are feminists. They not only respect women, but encourage and support them. I hope other areas of music can learn something from the indie touring world.