Ollie Horner Image

Course Studied: BA (Hons) Music (Business)

Year of Graduation: 2018

BA Music Business graduate Ollie Horner began working in the live music industry aged 14. Since then, his career has flourished and he has worked alongside the likes of Blink-182, Stormzy, All Time Low, Fetty Wap and Good Charlotte. Most recently, Ollie acted as Tour Manager for Busted across the U.K, Chase Atlantic across Europe and The Faim internationally. He also has experience as a promoter’s rep in academies across Europe for Live Nation & MJR.

Ahead of a workshop for Music Business students at Leeds Conservatoire in November, Ollie met with us to provide some useful advice for those wanting to enter the music industry and to outline the key skills required to be a successful tour manager.

When did you first encounter music/when did your interest in the music industry begin?

When I was 13 I went to see my first ever show which was Linkin Park, supported by Biffy Clyro. From that moment, I knew that this was the area that I wanted to work in. A couple of years later, I had to make a decision between studying either music or sports at GCSE level (I was extremely interested in rock climbing at the time) but I decided to study music at school, then on to studying Music Technology at Red Tape Studios. I’ve never looked back since.  

Were you a musician by background/did you grow up studying music? 

At roughly the same age, I was in a band. However, I quickly realised that we weren’t particularly good and that performance perhaps wasn’t for me. At a similar time, my neighbour was running a small festival (with 50 to 100 people attending each year) and I asked if I could get on board to help out. Following my involvement, it quickly grew to around 1,000 festival-goers. It was from that set of experiences and an awareness that I’m not very artistic I realised that I wanted to be in and had a talent for the organisational side of the music industry.

You've already worked in a variety of roles within the music industry (Stage Manager/Artist Liaison/Production Manager/Producer) - could you tell us a little bit more about what these roles have involved?

I started out as a promoter, which involved running events, booking bands, venues and sorting out the promo alongside some production management for the festival I was already involved in.

Around the same period, I was helping out at a studio but I quickly realised that I didn’t have enough artistic expertise to work as a producer. The studio owner suggested that I would be good at management. He called me up (as he was also a front of house engineer) and asked if I could act as assistant tour manager for a tour he was working on. Off the back of that one tour I started to tour manage. Essentially, this role involves everything to do with a tour – once the shows are booked it’s a case of organising all the logistics (bus, van, flights, what equipment is required, hospitality, budgets). At the same time I started working on another role within touring which is working for the promoter as a rep. I now spend on average 9 months of the year away from home combining both roles.

What are the realities of life as a tour manager?

No sleep, long hours and incredibly hard work. It’s definitely not for everyone – it’s hard to maintain a social/family life back home so if you’re not willing to put 100% into it, it probably isn’t for you. It’s also an extremely competitive sector to be in, so there’s always someone there who’s probably willing to undercut you. However, although it’s difficult, I love it and I wouldn’t change it for the world. You go on the road for a couple of weeks and the band members and tour crew quickly become friends. It’s a bit of a family and it’s a great feeling getting to know a bunch of people on tour.

Most people would say that the best thing about tour managing is seeing the world but in absolute honestly you don’t see much above and beyond the inside of a venue. However, for me, there is major self-reward in doing a big show. The first time I did a headline show at Brixton Academy was an incredible moment. If you tour manage successfully you can make it pay really well and can be therefore be financially rewarding too.

What attracted you to the Music Business degree programme at Leeds Conservatoire?

I already knew Leeds pretty well and was aware of its strong music scene. I also had a couple of friends who lived in the city and spoke highly of their experiences in Leeds. With all that taken into account, it seemed like the best option for me.

I knew the Music Business course was relatively new at the time I studied at Leeds Conservatoire so I was interested to see what they had to offer that perhaps didn’t fit into the events management bracket of other courses.

What's the most important lesson you learnt during your time in Leeds?

The most important lesson I learnt was time management. Use every minute you have wisely. I quickly found myself working two jobs and doing the course to fund my studies. One of those jobs I had was working at Eiger Studios, the other was in a games shop. In my third year, the tour stuff started kicking off properly.

In terms of the course, it was really interesting to speak to lecturers on the Music Business degree programme who had experience in touring and large scale music events and learn from their expertise.

Did you get involved in any opportunities outside of your studies whilst you were in Leeds?

In my second year I became involved with Outbreak Festival, a role that has continued to this date. Now, over 2,000 people attend the festival every year. I threw myself into tour management, particularly towards the beginning of my third year and started to email several contacts each day to see whether they needed any support with touring. It all started to snowball from there. It’s a difficult balancing act focusing on your studies and doing work outside of that to boost your chances of entering the industry once you graduate but it’s one you can definitely make work. 

What advice would you give someone wanting to break into the industry? 

You’ve got to put the effort in. There’s no real time to relax and you’ve got to be proactive outside of your studies to carve out a platform. During my time in Leeds I was able to hold down two jobs, email several contacts each day, do some work in tour management and complete a degree. It was this proactive nature and awareness that there’s always more that you can do that has ultimately helped me to thrive in the industry.

I receive quite a few emails per week with people asking how I got into what I currently do and for general advice. They often comment that ‘no-one is giving them a chance’. However, if no-one is providing you with the opportunities, work harder to generate those opportunities yourself.

What do you see as the major current opportunities for the music industry?

I think there’s a real opportunity for women wanting to work in the music industry right now. In the past, it may have unfortunately been a hindrance to your career. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of industry professionals and bands asking for female-identifying tour managers, for all type of acts. Initiatives such as PRS Foundation’s Keychange are definitely helping contribute to that but I think there’s an awareness amongst the sector to improve the underrepresentation of women in all areas. I don’t think we’re there yet but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.

There’s also a lot of work in festivals at the moment as more and more are popping up, particularly in backstage hospitality, local crew work etc. Income from live events is so important for all artists, so it’s an ever-growing area of the industry. Artists are having to come up with different ways of making money, so love it or hate it, areas such as VIP and hospitality are crucial right now.

What key skills do you need to be a successful tour manager?

You need to be extremely patient when working with bands and have extremely good time management skills. It’s your job to make sure the band is everywhere on time, which when dealing with famous musicians is easier said than done, and unfortunately if the artist is late anywhere It’s usually the TM who gets the blame!

Financial skills are also important - you can be working with large sums of money so you have to be good with spreadsheets and keep on top of your records for your accounts. I’ve never had any formal financial training but have learnt organically from doing a range of jobs in the industry and asking others for advice so it is definitely possible to learn (and learn from your mistakes!).

You’ve just got to be constantly on the ball, the job is technically 24 hours a day, if you’ve not thought about every aspect of the tour it’s going to be difficult to run successfully, so attention to detail is a must!

Learn more about our BA (Hons) Music (Business).

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