Aoife Ahern: Tour Manager & More!
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hi, my name is Aoife Ahern, I am from Sunny Cork in the South of Ireland. I currently work as the Tour Manager for Tame Impala and I work with Live Nation, doing VIP on their big Stadium Tours worldwide. I am also freelance, so I also do lots of different roles with lots of different artists and promoters. I have produced Digital Marketing Campaigns worldwide, produced Tech & Music conferences, advanced 80,000 capacity Festivals, worked in Film and TV, been a Talent Booker & I consult. Basically, I like having my fingers in many pies and understanding the bigger picture and I love to work.
I am actually working on a local based streaming platform for Live Entertainment called Streamseat.io…. it’s very exciting but I can’t give too much away yet. Stay tuned….
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry? Who are some artists you work (or worked) with?
I started when I was 15, so it’s 24 years! wow…My friend Andrea got the flu, and she had called me and asked me to cover her doing flyers, within 6 months, I was booking international talent, arranging events. Cork had an amazing music scene, Sweat at Sir Henrys, Mor Disco in Zoes, The Southern Soul & Disco Festival,Telefunken….and lots of big Stadium Shows. So, music has always been in my life. I have a big family , & I’m the baby so all music was handed down, by age 12, I could have been listening to NWA, Frankie Knuckles or Blue Oyster Cult. My father, Mike was in the show bands and played with the likes of Johnny Cash, every Christmas he would get us tickets for all the shows, so I seen Prince, Michael Jackson, U2, The Eagles etc when I was a kid. Little did I know years later, I would end up working alongside Tame Impala , Prince, Madonna, Beyonce, Jay-Z, U2, Arcade Fire, One Direction, BTS, Fleetwood Mac, Daft Punk , Radiohead, Michelle Obama - there have been so many artists, and I have been so lucky.
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
I never knew or thought I would work in music, but all my life it happened organically, and I actually didn’t know that I was carving my path. After my mum died, I decided to quit everything , find a “real “ job. I was 28…and it was really then, that I realized , this is home and what I love to do. I have never looked at a clock or think I don’t want to be here…. I love it, I love the pace, the people, the energy, the craic, always learning , the hilariousness of what goes on & how you deal with it. Now, it’s hardcore at times, being away for months on end with very few days off, and I am constantly fighting exhaustion. But I’m like child in a candy shop, I am so grateful , for my extra ordinary life. There is no where else I would rather be.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
No, I have a very positive outlook and sunny disposition. I have faced many challenges, but generally the people who work on the road, in this bizarre way of life, are the absolute best, the dreamers of dreams. It’s probably the most important element, that you work with amazing people. They are your family when you are on the road and you are with them constantly, they will lift you and carry you when you need it, and make you roar with laughter . Always remember, don’t take shit from people, life is way to short , find your happiness, and enjoy the ride.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
Oh wow, what a question. All of it. While I love advancing, and I have done that for over 20 years so it feels like my ground zero, there is something about being on Tour, that is so special. Watching a band deliver an incredible performance and the happiness in the air from the audience…there is nothing quite like it. The nervousness, excitement, joy……it’s amazing feeling to be part of something epic.
I love working with Tame Impala, from Spinning Top MGMT, to Kevin and the band , everyone is so lovely & so much fun, and the crew all take care of each other. It’s a dream act to work alongside and I call those people my friends.
You’ve had many different roles (tour manager, VIP manager, production coordinator, consultant, etc.). Which position do you find drawn to the most?
I Love them all, because essentially it is all part of the big music wheel and I love the fact I constantly change roles & I am always learning. The more you know, the better you are.
The role I actually love the most, and strange, because in a bizarre way, it’s the toughest and least thanked, is being a Production Coordinator. While you are not the TM or PM, you are essentially responsible for keeping all the balls in the air within Tour Management , as well as being responsible for a happy crew, while working day and night. It’s a real challenge and I am always so appreciative when I work alongside them, because I know how hard they work. Alice Fraser who you interviewed, is Tame Impala Production Coordinator, and we all love her because she takes such good care of all the crew and has such a big heart. It takes a very strong caring person, to always smile and make time for everyone while doing 1,000 jobs a minute.
What is it like touring and working with some of the most well-known artists in the world?
I am so grateful, I have travelled the world, met the most amazing people, and roared with laughter, every day of my working life is different. I realize how lucky I am in this life. Don’t get me wrong there are horrific days where everything goes wrong, but you fix it and move on. I love all the artists and crew I have met and worked with, It is why I am always happy, and of course, the touring family I have created around the world.
You were an event producer for many musicians (Fleetwood Mac, BTS, plus more), but also with Michelle Obama. What was it like going from musicians to Michelle Obama?
That was a very proud moment, Michelle Obama is truly iconic, she is a gorgeous, strong, caring lady who epitomizes style, grace and dignity. That tour wasn’t scripted , which made me love her more. I loved that tour. The advance was normal in terms of touring and arranging all logistics to deliver a great tour. DPS who produced it, I had worked with on Beyonce & Jay-Z, so I knew them and they are great people to work alongside. Dealing with the secret service was hilarious and mind blowing, but they were all lovely and so professional, so it was absolute dream tour and I worked on behalf of the most inspiring woman - Mrs. Obama…. I mean she is just so cool. So, I was so chuffed to be asked to do it.
Do you notice any major differences from working with artists in such difference genres (i.e. Fleetwood Mac vs. Beyonce + Jay – Z)?
When you work at that level of artists, it is the best of the best. They are always so professional. Also, so approachable. I always find it amazing and reassuring that the biggest acts in the world are so normal and lovely. I think people forget they are just people like you & I (with extra ordinary talent !!!!). I guess Everyone has to brush their teeth and go to the toilet…….
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
I have several, I have worked with incredible peeps from Tres Thomas to Cecile Le Doux…. I have been very fortunate to work alongside great people who really care. I have always had mentors , from the early in MCD with Duchess, to the likes of Ciaran Flannery who was an amazing leader on my first Beyonce tour, Tim McWillams LNGT, who gives me advice and mentors me. I am very very grateful, because no person knows everything and I will learning till the day I die, so having these people , who you can call to ask for advice is a god send.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
Communication – if you want to work in this industry , find the necessary person, such as Artist, Promoter , Promoter Rep, Tour Manager , Production Manager, Booker, Agent, Crew Boss…what ever it is you want to do , find the person who works in what ever role you want and tell them, start a conversation…….it literally is that simple. You can’t expect to get hired , if people don’t know you want to work. I promise if you just talk to people in the industry, one day the phone will ring ….and remember be your beautiful, fabulous, wonderful self and they will love you! Anything you want to do; you can do it!
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
I have been lucky, but I also kind of commanded their respect by working hard, it levels the playing field and nor participating. It has changed so much over the past 20 years, a few years ago , I had an experience where I was referred to as “ little girl “, but within one min I had turned that around and he spent the rest of the day on his best behavior. These challenges still exist but I think the tables have started to turn, we have so many amazing women with amazing positions all across the board in this industry, in this day and age, no one should have to tolerate that type of bullshit behavior, so don’t.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)?
Sleep, sleep and more sleep. It is my favorite thing. I love my bed.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
Tough question – I don’t actually have a favorite, I couldn’t choose just one, my life is full of mixtapes and playlists…. but my top artist I ever worked for was Prince. He broke every rule and never conformed. Toughest tours I ever did, but I learned so much and every night watching him perform was breath taking. I see him when I was 7 years of age dancing on a white piano singing “Kiss” and I was also with him on his last tour, when he died. I feel very privileged to have been part of his touring family and to have experienced that level of talent. Genius. I love working with Beyonce, she is so hard working and such a creative, she also has a huge female team of absolute legends, who I love and adore. Those women are game changers.
What is something you can't live without?
Iced expresso……. god dammit I love coffee, followed by hugs, free hugs daily is my motto.
Go-to Karaoke song?
Get into the Grove by Madonna with the “exact” dance moves
Tea or Coffee?
Coffee - till the day I die
First concert you went to.
U2 – age 5
What’s something that you always have on you?
Unfortunately - My iPhone – it is physically attached to my hand.
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
Stevie Nicks or Joni Mitchell……….I adore them both.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Seriously….this could be a very very long answer…..and no two days have ever been the same. From advancing all touring logistics such as flights, hotels , ground transport, visas, accreditation, catering, for band and crew. On every show , it’s all about load in, load out, H&S, Settlements, Pds,Riders, more Catering, everything that happens basically…as well as making sure artist & crew are happy. Dealing with the venue, promoter, daily chats with management, agent…it never ends…
If it is VIP, then it’s hiring assistants, djs. Building vip areas, dressing them, catering , drinks , packages, checking sightlines, early entry , meet&greets, backstage tours, vip parties, 1000s of guests…….
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
Covid – please find a vaccine, so we can all get back to work, I feel for all the crew worldwide, its insanely tough for those of us who are waiting, Please hang in there. I know it’s a total nightmare, but remember it’s only paused, not gone. Other than that , fair pay – we are all equal.
What are you most proud of?
The fact I am always smiling and happy
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road