Roadies Flourish During Record Industry’s Decline
As music fans buy fewer albums and bands increasingly turn to concert revenue to make a living, one largely unseen sector of the industry is enjoying enhanced job security: roadies.
As a new Wall Street Journal report points out, the 21st century rise of the roadie reflects an overall shift in the industry that's wiping out "cultural middlemen" like label executives while rewarding those with the skills to be "technical middlemen" between artists and their audience. It isn't the flashiest type of employment, and for some — like managers and promoters — there can be a fair amount of risk involved, but the opportunities are definitely still there.
Citing reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Berklee College of Music, the WSJ places roadies — or "concert technicians," as they're increasingly known — in a fairly broad economic spectrum that can average between $57,000 and $175,000 a year, depending on one's position. As an example, the article points to 40-year vet Tom Weber, who got his start filling in for a no-show crew member at a Kiss concert and is now an in-demand guitar tech who numbers Eddie Van Halen and Lyle Lovett among his clients.
While Weber's one case of a tech near the top of his field, there are plenty of opportunities on the ground floor — and as the article notes, "few roadie jobs require formal credentials, so candidates with limited skills or experience can apply." It adds up to a flourishing subset of a business that's often portrayed as being on the continual verge of collapse.
"Employment opportunities in the live-music industry have never been better," insisted Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni in the WSJ's report. "While record-company jobs have nearly disappeared, road- and tech-production-crew gigs continue to grow."
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