Oct 12, 2021

A quick look at my LinkedIn profile often throws up the same question. How do you go from being a tour manager with international comedians and performers to being a software developer? Where is the natural progression in that?

Understanding the not so glamourous life of a tour manager

To understand the why in my what, it’s necessary to understand a little about the very unglamorous life spent on the road with celebrities.

Comedians tour all the time. When they get enough success, they can invest in a promoter who will take a nice cut of their ticket sales but will send them to much bigger venues. Promoters don’t like comedians touring on their own, as the logistics of getting from A to B and making sure the show looks and sounds great are not where their skills lie. So, people like me get employed to be a tour manager, to deal with the logistics and chauffeur to the comedian.

Once we arrive at the town for that night, I go and set up the show. Sometimes there is a bit of staging…I always have to check the sound, and program the lighting. Sometimes the stage set is a bit bigger and I have to unload a van full of gear and set it up.

An hour or so before the show I go and pick up the comedian, get him or her to do a soundcheck, then make a cup of tea, or snacks or wine, and at the right time, open the show. During the show, there will probably be some video or sound cues to run.

At the end of the show, all the gear goes back in the car or van, and you then take the comedian through the crowds for autographs, and back to the hotel.

The next day, we do it all again. Touring with bands you just multiply that by 10, 20, 30 etc. depending on the size of the tour. Instead of 1 person doing the staging, there might be 20; 3 or 4 sound engineers; lighting, video, catering, tour buses, drivers. Everyone gets to specialise in their area.  You get the picture.

And here’s where the software developer steps in

Nearly every aspect of every tour generates data which needs to be collected, processed and analysed as we go. This used to start with a spreadsheet. Name and dates of tour. Then we slowly added lists of towns and venues. Then these dates had to be copied into a new spreadsheet so that we could add marketing details. Then these needed to be updated once confirmed with further details. Then we’d need another tab or spreadsheet for weekly sales.

And let’s not forget the spreadsheets for the technicians and their equipment and a spreadsheet for any incidents that occurred during the tour with associated paperwork, invoices, receipts, etc. Each tour generating dozens of spreadsheets and each season generating between 30 or 40 tours.

That’s a lot of cumbersome data much of which had to be inputted manually over and over again. It was also a system that was hugely susceptible to error.

Enter stage right

So over 20 years ago, I started to use a software system called FileMaker to help pull together all a tour’s data. I found I could use it for collating and processing year end receipts, and for producing show reports for the promoter which catalogued events in real time, so that with a few clicks I could pull up all the relevant information in respect of any single issue.

At first, I just did this to make my life easier but as I refined my skills, it became obvious that the challenges I face as a tour manager are similar if not the same as the challenges faced by all sorts of businesses across multiple sectors. If it could help me save hours and hours of time, it could help others and by 2012 I was a certified FileMaker developer. In the years since, I’ve developed customised databases and systems for multiple businesses from SMEs and dynamic start-ups to multinationals, revolutionising the way that they do things.

If you’re wondering whether there’s a better way…

Then there almost certainly is. Your software should work the way you want it to work. Enhancing what you do, increasing productivity, reducing errors and doing the boring admin stuff for you. So that you can get up on stage and be the star of your own particular show. FileMaker can make that happen. And I can make FileMaker happen. It’s how I evolved.

If you would like to discuss how we can create more efficient business systems and processes for your business, please give us a call.