Mr. Warren has been a loyal Master Tour user longer than most of us can remember. Way back in the early 2000’s, John mastered the original FileMaker based “MTD”, and was (and still is) instrumental in helping us iron out bugs and figure out new features. We caught up with Mr. Warren as he guides the Lumineers around Europe. Here are this thoughts...
Is there anyone you'd like to work with someday before you retire from TM'ing?
Honestly, I have been very fortunate to have already worked with so many artists and support people that I have admired and respected my entire life, that if I retired tomorrow I would be very content and happy. I guess if had to chose one .... it would be "Spinal Tap" .. I mean, come on ... who would ever turn that down!!!
What do you do when you're off the road?
I am not sure I understand that question ... what is this "Off the road" you speak of????!!!!
Do you have any GO-TO food places while touring?
I am always a fan of seeking out the local culture and neighborhood "Local" hangs. I like to go wandering and find the place that "Smells Good" and has a good vibe, I do keep a database of good finds for future reference. (Note to Master Tour… Might want to add restaurant database … just say’in)
Of course, Starbucks around the globe is always a comforting "Home" beacon to find especially when you are abroad, I know its not the best coffee / tea out there but's always a nice connection when you get home sick.
How long have you been a tour manager? How did you get your start?
Hmmm ... I guess 20+ years now. I started as a Keyboard Tech in the late 70's. I just paid attention, asked a lot of questions and learned by watching and by example from my peers. I eventually started Stage Managing, and then graduated to Production Management and Road & Tour Management. Since most TM jobs entail settling shows and tour accounting, I learned that too, starting on the club level and working my way up-wards.
Who have you worked with in the past?
As I said Above I have been very lucky to have worked with some of the greatest people in this business: Currently: The Lumineers, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, The Dead & their Various side projects (Furthur, Phil and Friends, Ratdog), Lady Gaga, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Carole King, Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills & Nash, The String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams, Keb Mo, Taj Mahal, and many others going way back. I affectionately call it the "Granola Circuit" .. well except Lady Gaga ... LOL! It has been so very good to me all these years. I was a Crew Member with most, not all, of these artists and worked my up in their organizations.
What's the best venue to play in?
Coming from a Tour Accountant point of View .. any one that's Sold Out!!! Settlements are always more fun when the seats are full. From a Fan point of view I would have to jump on the collective Band Wagon and say Red Rocks, it's like a second home to me.
What's the best city to have a day off in, besides Chicago of course?
I do love Chicago .... Great Food and Great People ... All in All though I would have to Say Tokyo is # 1.
What the best advice you can give to a tour manager just starting out?
- Don't be afraid to ask ask questions ( I am still learning out here)
- Always own your mistakes and learn from them.
- Learn to separate your personal emotions from your on tour ones, I have been yelled at by more than one artist, it's a hard life out here for everyone and you need to be the calm voice of reason in it all. It's a tough skill to learn, but all of the best TM's have it and that's what makes them the best.
- Get on top of your accounting game. Most TM's are expected to settle shows these days, learn about foreign tax, develop a strong relationship with your business management.
- A Great Travel Agent is your best weapon, one that understands your Artists needs and quirks.
- If you haven't come up from the crew realm ... get a good handle on the basics of production, this way you know and understand the needs of your crew. Listen to them.
- TAKE CARE OF YOUR CREW!!! Don't forget your Bus and Truck drivers .... Those folks are the backbone of your tour and your support. (Remember where you came from) This is where things like Mast Tour Mobile are essential to today's touring. You can now keep your people informed 24/7. No more paper day sheets to get lost or tour books that we find under bus cushion or jammed in a workbox. My Tours are all now 100% paperless and 100% Master Tour driven when it comes to information distribution.
- And of course always have Master Tour open on your desktop 24/7
Who's your mentor in the business?
There really isn't just one for me, I learned from all of my TM's as a crew member, I was surrounded by the best of the best in my formative years, Chris Littleton, Tim Bernet, Bernie Boyle, Mike "Coach" Sexton, Chris and Tim Lamb, these were all guys that I looked up to growing up in this business and they all were wonderful examples of how to, get it all done and treat people well out there on the not so easy Road. Today I still reach out to and rely on my Tour & Production Manager brethren, Philip “KY” Cabot, Richard Glasgow, Robbie Taylor & Chris Charucki, for advice, love and support.
What was the first tour that you used Master Tour on?
Well I AM user # 8 .... I was 1st introduced to MTD (as it was called then) back in 2003 when I started as the PM for the String Cheese Incident, I have been a user and believer ever since. Paul and the team were so supportive right from the start and so willing to listen to input from all of us out here using it and implementing our ideas and change requests as they could. Master Tour is really OUR application built by those of us out here in the trenches. I have put every single tour I have worked on since then on it if they weren't already.
What feature do you use the most on Master Tour?
E-Itineraries, E - Day Sheets, Venue Sheets (Yes, I still print these) and of course the best thing to ever happen to an iPhone: Master Tour Mobile.
How is the touring business now, compared to 10 years ago?
It's more of a "business" that's for sure. Bands need to make a living touring these days since music is essentially free now. It used to be the other way around. We toured to sell records. Now most bands grind it out for more days on the road to make a living, which puts a lot more on the shoulders of crews and management.
Without naming names… what’s the most unreasonable task you’ve been instructed to perform as a Tour Manager?
I don't think I have ever been asked anything all that unreasonable, but I have had to pull some rabbit's out of my hat on many occasions. i.e. Checking 85 pieces of Luggage twice a week around the world, with only 7 or 8 passengers on the flight (That’s a load of laughs ..!!) I have had to have furniture rearranged in hotels etc., dealt with artists pets on the road, whacko fans, whacko girlfriends .. You know, the usual day in a TM's life. It it makes your artist's life on the road better and more comfortable then, all the better for you and the tour.
Besides the obvious, cell phones, internet, laptops, how has technology effected the way you tour since you started?
Obviously, for the better, I I think this is where I am supposed to say that Master Tour has changed my life ... Well it has made my job way easier.
Have the responsibilities of a tour manager changed from when you started?
Not really, shifted a bit maybe. In these days of fickle economy's I think we have all been asked at one point or another to double up on responsibilities, especially on smaller tours.