Lotje Horvers: Tour Manager
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hi! I’m Lotje, I am a tour manager based in Amsterdam. My recent clients include M83, the Knife, Röyksopp, Robyn, Fever Ray and ionnalee.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I really wanted to be a tour manager, but I had no network and no experience. So 20 years ago I started at the bottom, and worked voluntary shifts as a stagehand at my local venue. I also worked with local bands and drove them to shows, helped load gear, sold shirts, settled shows. I took a college course in music management and did my internship at the Agency Group, who at the time had an Amsterdam office. After the internship I asked to be on one of the tours I had advanced, and was hired on my first real TM gig! I loved it immediately, but sadly after those 6 weeks were over, I had no clue how to get another tour. The Amsterdam office I had interned at had closed down, and I had not really had any interaction with anyone at the London office. The band I had just toured with did not have a label or a management, and neither did the touring support. The other tour crew had just done that tour as a one-off, and went back to their day-jobs. I had not met anyone to extend my network, so I went back to volunteering as a stagehand, and got promoted to stagemanager. I met lots of tour crew there, and it occurred to me that for them to want to recommend me for tours, I had to stop saying: “I want to be a tourmanager”, but instead should be saying “I AM a tour manager”!
It took about 6 months to get the call. I left for tour 2 days later. I met several people on that tour, and the next one didn’t take so long to come along. Before I knew it, I was passing down tours to other people, and the tours I was hired on got bigger (and so did my day rate!).
From my first tour it took about 2 years until I could quit my other job and make a living just from touring.
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”?
Actually, yes there was! At 16 I organized a rock festival in my high school auditorium. I grew up in a very small town in the south of the Netherlands, and there were no shows to go to. So I organized one myself. I put a team together, we made a budget, booked bands, sold tickets, rented audio and light systems, and a bar (in 1997 the drinking age in NL was 16, so yes there was beer!), marketed the event, staffed the festival and cooked dinner for bands and crew. When the headliner was on stage, and my school had been successfully transformed into a rock festival, I looked down from the auditorium balcony and thought: “I did this! This is the best thing ever, this is what I want to do!”
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
I have always struggled with the work-life balance of being away from family and friends for long periods of time. I have missed out on countless birthdays, weddings, babies being born, and when you get back after tour, you have to remind your friends that you are in town or else you won’t get invited to anything, because they just assume you won’t be around anyway.
What is one thing you think people should understand more about tour management?
When I tell people from outside the industry that I am a tour manager, they think it means I book the tours. It is the agent who books the tour, but the tour manager builds the tour. I get sent a list of dates, and from that I create a budget, figure out logistics, book hotels, liaise with promoters and vendors, make time schedules etc. etc.
What people ín our industry could understand more about tour management.. hmm maybe that we are never off the clock. When we cross the border in the middle of the night, I wake up and am immediately in charge of getting everyone up, get passports ready, possibly deal with importing and exporting gear on a carnet etc. I’ve also had to deal with emergencies in the middle of the night on the bus: bus on fire, driver with heart problems and needed an ambulance, bus broken down or passenger left behind at a gas station.
Do you see yourself dipping your toes in other areas of the industry besides tour management?
Not really, tour management really is my one true passion. But now that it isn’t possible to tour, I am working on developing a really cool project for which I am the producer. I can’t tell you much more, but follow me on Linked In or Instagram to follow the progress in the future!
What is the best part of your job? Why?
There are so many good things about working on tour. I have a network of crew whom I hire over and over again, because they are very skilled at their jobs, and also great mates to spend all that time with on the road.
I also love the shows, it is incredibly rewarding to have this climax of energy at the end of your working day.
And seeing the world. It is such a massive bonus to my job. I get to see and experience the most diverse things. I have had private tours from an astronaut at NASA HQ in Houston, gone on snow scooter tours on Svalbard, saw the northern lights in Iceland, and ate fresh hummus in Jerusalem.
But most of all I love actually doing my job. I get a kick out of finding great deals on flights, choosing beautiful hotels, nailing a budget, and finding creative solutions to all kinds of problems, big and small.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
In my early years an extremely talented tour manager called Gigsy helped me out a lot. He sent me gigs he was unable to cover, and answered any questions I had.
These days I often call on my business partner Peter Hamilton when I need advice. We have toured together a lot the last 6 years, as a PM/TM pair, and we have started a production company together. Of course I can handle situations on my own, but it is definitely nice to consult with someone, especially if you are in production office together.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
Do it! Keep at it even though it's hard to break into the industry, it’s super worth it. Call people up and explain what you want and how you got their number, and ask them out for a cup of coffee to pick their brain. Let them know you’re keen to get experience and follow up from time to time (not too often!). And definitely read Claire Murphy’s book “Girl on the Road, How to Break into Touring from a Female Perspective”. It is excellent.
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?
Yes I have. I have been turned down for several tours. I was always told that it was because the bands’ girlfriends were jealous of other women on the tour. What can you do? I don’t want to force myself on a tour. On the other hand, I have also been hired for tour because I am a woman. Lots of artists prefer a female TM. The Knife in 2013 even hired an all-female crew.
I have definitely also not been taken seriously in my role. Especially when I was just starting out. I didn’t have much experience and lacked confidence. Sometimes I confronted the person about it, sometimes I did nothing. Nowadays I don’t feel it happens to me much anymore. I know what I’m doing, and maybe it had more to do with confidence all along than me being a female.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
I love all the artists I work with dearly so I don’t prefer anyone over the others. They are all lovely people and creative geniuses. I will say that Karin Dreijer (The Knife, Fever Ray) stands out because she really goes the extra mile to take care of her band and crew, and I am a big supporter of her feminist message and her treating everyone equally on tour.
What is something you can't live without?
Sleep! I need to get enough sleep to function, especially now that I am a bit older. I have definitely had to pull all-nighters, or do shows on very little sleep but then I do need to catch up on my next day off. Thankfully the management I often work with makes sure there is always plenty of rest time for band and crew between shows, they realize this is vital to the mental and physical health of everyone on tour and check with me on this before confirming routing.
Obviously, COVID has put a stop to live events in the industry, what have you been doing since? Have you picked up any new hobbies?
I have been following online courses, I have spoken at webinars, have been invited to podcasts and interviews (like this one) and have done one-on-one mentoring with women aspiring to be tour managers. I have baked cookies (and then played with the idea of starting a cookie dough business) and helped my parents with gardening.
I have been working on a very exciting new project that I mentioned earlier. I also did a whole lot of nothing, taking baths, giving myself pedicures, reading magazines, solving jigsaw puzzles and watching Netflix. I went on hikes and did a two week ‘shred’ challenge by Chloe Ting.
Since two months I have a new job as an expat relocator, finding homes in Amsterdam for people moving here and getting them settled.
Pre – COVID, what were some of your favorite past time activities when not working?
Honestly, life during Covid has been a lot like my life between tours. I spend time with my sister, my boyfriend, my friends, I do household chores, I work out, I do yoga, I answer emails.
I suppose the things I can’t do anymore are kickboxing and going to gigs and the theatre. Oh and I miss going to flea markets. And hugging my friends and family.
Go-to Karaoke song?
"Ich bin wie du" by Marianne Rosenberg. Just makes me so happy!
I never did karaoke until I found out about karaoke booths at Monster Ronsons Ichiban Karaoke. It is nextdoor to the Michelberger hotel in Berlin, and is open really late. So after a show one night on the Knife tour in 2013, we all ended up there. As mentioned they have booths, so you’re not singing in front of strangers, which makes it a lot less scary and a lot more fun!
Tea or Coffee?
I only really drink herbal tea. I love ginger tea and green tea, and am mindful of brands that use biodegradable bags. I have never had a cup of coffee in my life, it doesn’t appeal to me and I don’t seem to need it!
First concert you went to?
My first concert was Silverchair at Paradiso in 1997. I had seen several local bands near my hometown before this but I count this one as my first concert. I didn’t live in Amsterdam at the time, it was a 2.5 hour drive from home but it was the best night of my life at that point. My dad drove my friend and me and waited outside. I was a devout Silverchair fan and I had been counting down the days to that show.
What’s something that you always have on you?
Besides the obvious key items like my phone or ID, I typically always have some sort of snack on me. This is usually a healthy snack, so that I won’t be tempted to buy junk food when traveling for example, but I also go through less nutritionally responsible periods of time, haha!
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
I have never had this. The music of the artist you tour with isn’t what makes the tour great, it’s the people. And I have lucked out on that! Although in the early days of my career I have also had some rougher tours where the artist was quite hard to deal with, heavy drug users or getting into fights.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Before the tour starts I organize it from start to finish—including budgeting, visas, travel plans, hiring staff, and pre-production. My days on the road are spent getting everyone from city to city, from hotel to venue, then looking after the smooth running of the show—like making sure the technical side is covered, getting everyone fed, collecting payment for the band, and organizing the guest list.
I’m the first one in the door and the last one out. A big part of my day I am in production office answering emails and updating accounting and travel spreadsheets.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Probably still tour managing!
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
I just hope our industry can start up again soon! I would also like to see more women on the floor across the board, in all touring positions and on house crews. I would also like to see more women featured in industry articles, podcasts etc and not only when the subject is ‘women in the industry’.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of myself starting at the bottom and working myself up, even though it took a long time and it was hard work. I’m also proud of myself when I successfully deal with difficult situations, and when I reconcile a budget and find that the original budget was very accurate.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. It is how I kept myself motivated whenever my goals seemed distant. I’m so glad I stuck with it, a career in live music is so much fun and so rewarding.