Name: Hannah Smuda
Bands worked with: Rainey Qualley (currently), Plumb
FEMMUSIC: How did you become a tour manager?
HS: Live music is the love of my life. I loved live music from the minute I started attending concerts and music festivals in middle school. I realized at a young age people exist who produce concerts for a career and I knew I could be passionate about this being my life, even on the harder days. My first job out of college was with the music festival I grew up going to based in the greater Boston area “The Soul Fest”. I had previously met the owner Dan Russell, who is a phenomenal human and believed in me from the start. I volunteered at the festival in high school/college and kept in touch so he hired me as soon as I graduated. He also manages a few artists, including, at the time Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, so I got to dabble in a few areas. More doors opened. I started my career working for concert promoters and moved into tour management in the last few years. It was just a process of me slowly realizing what I loved more of. The positions I’ve worked in are all very similar, I’ve just worked on both sides of the equation which actually is a huge advantage as a tour manager to know how promoters think. I like tour managing best thus far cause I love the teamwork and camaraderie. Artists are such beautiful humans and who need to be valued and cared for. Caring for artists is an important part of the process for them to be able to share their beautiful gifts with the world.
FEMMUSIC: What are the biggest challenges of being a tour manager?
HS: It’s not a 9-5 job. You have to make a lot of personal sacrifices. To be good at the job, you need to have a servant’s heart. I LOVE this about tour managing but you are always bottom of the totem pole for your needs being met. You got to be strong and know how to rest and care for yourself during your down time. It took me too long to learn this, my drive was to always be working. I had to learn to develop healthy rhythms of rest during my down time. I call a few of the best tour managers in the business my friends and mentors and their wisdom in this helps hold me accountable to care for me. In general, I have the best community ever and they help me stay healthy in all areas. Good community is crucial.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges does being a woman tour manager present?
HS: Here’s the deal, I’m a Little Person (achondroplasia dwarf) and female tour manager. I grew up in this beautiful tough Polish family that taught me from the get go, I’m strong, capable of anything I set my mind to, to work hard, to be stubborn, to laugh anything off, I’m awesome, funny, beautiful, talented, and good things will come if I work hard. I have always in life chosen not to focus on the hardships or potential hardships. You get to choose what you focus on! Life is always hard and always good. You always have advantages and challenges. My style of tour managing and motto in life is best said by one of my role models Stevie Nicks “Your graciousness is what carries you. It isn’t how old you are, how young you are, how beautiful you are. What it is, is what comes out of your heart. If you are gracious, you have won the game.” A gracious woman can sometimes appear even more gracious than a gracious man and that is one of Hannah Smuda’s many hidden super powers.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?
HS: My answer is in continuation to the last question. My family always taught me the few times I was treated rude in life, it was not my problem. It is always something wrong with the other person, something in them that is hurt or not healthy to treat others poorly. I don’t think about this or worry about it. Yes, it may take me more inquiries to find a gig. I’m sure I have been passed over gigs based on my gender and probably the fact I’m a Little Person though no one has said so to my face. It doesn’t bother me. I want the teams who believe in me and who see my graciousness and strength to be the ones who choose me. I also grew up in a family with more men than women, all of who are incredibly kind, good men and this has helped me to believe the best about men. It’s helped me to be even better at working with and relating to men. Both Rainey and Plumb have predominantly male band and crews, all of whom I have the most respect for. They have treated me with immeasurable kindness and respect even when it has included helping me to do small things I can’t do on my own. This in turn makes me want to advocate for them the best I can. Trust is important. I want my team to believe Hannah Smuda is awesome and the best (or one of the best) tour managers they could have to fill the position for their unique needs and personalities. The rest I will not waste my time and precious energy worrying over. I’m so unbelievably grateful and blessed to be able to spend my career thus far for the past almost 10 years playing a role in doing something I believe changes people for a few hours which in turn can change the world…I only have time to focus on the gratitude and good. The best is yet to come!
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry itself?
HS: This is a hard question! Change the ticketing process to eliminate ticket scalpers. Anything to build up and value independent musicians more. I’m not sure how that would be brought about or what in more detail I would change but I love independent artists and championing them.