If you think a life of music and national (possibly international) travel would be ideal, there’s good news. The career of a roadie is profitable and with the right bit of luck attainable. The Wall Street Journal reported that average annual pay for many concert technician jobs is around $60,000 and can extend into six figures for roadies with big-time acts.
Harley Zinker, a sound engineer who has toured with Interpol, The Strokes, The Killers and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, recommends focusing on a local venue with whatever skill you have, with most opportunities as a lighting, audio, stage or instrument technician. That’s how he got started. A New Yorker, he worked at Brownies, a 200-person venue, doing work with the audio and lighting systems three to four nights a week for six years.
“Go down to a local club, and you’re not going to get a job at first but maybe they’ll let you shadow someone,” Zinker says. “If you’re polite and ask the right questions, hopefully you can be in the position where if they need somebody you get the call.”
Zinker met Interpol at Brownies and was friendly with the band’s drummer, Sam Fogarino. The band asked him to do some shows in New York or nearby cities and then once asked him to join on a tour in London.
Rick “Chainsaw” LaPointe, a guitar technician who has toured for 30-plus years with Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, first worked for a company that did lighting and trucking for bands. He worked late nights, building cases for lighting equipment. Once, the company asked him to go on the road with the band Cheap Trick. He’s been touring since, making connections and then finding a spot with Billy Joel after his guitar technician left.
“(You need to) be flexible and be available to do whatever,” LaPointe says, “and have the absolute attitude where you just refuse to fail at what you do.”