Going on tour means spending loads amount of time with the same crew, often running through the same routines without a lot of room for headspace and quality alone time.
Even with the most tightest travel-parties some conflicts arise, and there are various ways how different groups deal with problems like that. Often, there´s a tour manager at hand, trying hard to cool down the mood if things get hot-headed.
Many DIY musicians though, possibly going on tour for the first time, don´t have a mediator in the team yet – and have to solve these problems on their own.
To help you deal with the complicated setting of group dynamics, I wrote up a couple of pointers that can help you deal with conflicts between musicians, within a travel-party and on tour.
So let´s go:
Main goal – the show
Most conflicts on tour develop to a point where different parties fight against each-other, without trying to invest some energy into empathy and really understanding the other side of the argument.
One of the first steps of mediation should be making clear that all musicians and crew-members on tour share a common goal – the show.
Of course every individual has a number of sub-goals, like setting up a great stage-sound, light, backing-track set-up etc. And sometimes, these goals are thrown into an arena, and people starting getting into arguments and creating hierarchies of sub-goals, brawling over which task is the most important etc.
This is where a mediator should step in and make very clear that every conflict, no matter how small, has to be solved to the benefit of the show. Nothing should be driven by ego.
Having a healthy culture of discourse is incredibly important – equally as making clear that everyone is acting on the same page and working towards the same goal.
There´s a time and place for everything
Knowing when to start an argument and when to stay in work-mode is vital when working in a travel-party. Some people are completely defensive right before shows, and some right after shows, so the person stating the argument should be aware of the current context.
If you want to make a point and actually change the situation to the benefit of the show, select the right moment and be sensible concerning how the overall mood is.
Obviously, this takes a lot of patience, especially if it´s something entirely nerv-wrecking. Again, your critique will have the most impact and chance of actually having some positive effect if you´re able to choose the right moment and timing.
Internal / External communication
Be aware of the fact that external people have no idea how your internal dynamics and arguments work. Some little argument between a drummer and singer might seem minor to you, but to an outsider this can convey a serious sign of a frustrated overall-vibe.
Have a little talk with the travel-party prior to starting the tour or arriving at the venue, especially if there are conflicts prone to arise, and communicate that you don´t want to undermine the discussion, but that you want to present a positive image to everyone involved, especially people working with you.
Technicians talk to venue owners and they talk to promoters. You don´t want to be that band or group that delivers more negative vibes than musical excitement.
Be aware of baggage
If you´re working with people or friends and have a long history of shared musical activity, always keep in mind that there might be some emotional baggage that can effect the tour in certain situations.
Especially when moments arise where definite hierarchies are needed, for example the MD setting certain rules or plans, the risk is high that old baggage can cause frustration and conflict.
In this case it´s even harder to sort out problems in a pragmatical way, because there´s always a problem hidden underneath the issue at hand.
If you sense the rise of certain conflicts mainly due to old mannerisms and habits, try to sort out the problems on a side-bar, not with the whole travel-party involved. Especially personal issues demand personal confrontations, working on some form of closure, without full-blown band-discussions and argumentative flag-waving.
If you want to dig into some more insights on DIY musicianship and live music, check out the ForTunes Blog and leave some feedback!0 be the first one to show some appreciation for this!