At 64, Marty Hom is a rock star among tour managers — the people who handle the day-to-day logistics of a tour, from scheduling hotels and transportation to, in some cases, waking up the artists in their hotel rooms for interviews. Since his first job, handling the late Bill Withers’ last road shows in the mid-Eighties, Hom has gone on to road-manage tours by Beyoncé (the Formation tour), Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Barbra Streisand, Shakira, Backstreet Boys, Alicia Keys, and many more.
This year was shaping up to be another busy one for Hom. It started with Shakira’s Super Bowl half-time show. From April through July, Hom was set to work on the Rolling Stones’ U.S. tour, and he would also work some festival shows with Stevie Nicks (she was scheduled to perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Governors Ball, and the BottleRock festival in Napa, California). “I had an incredible year lined up,” Hom says — and then COVID-19 hit. Hom talked with Rolling Stone about what came next.
I was so excited about the Stones tour. It was going to be the first tour I’d ever done with them. We had talked for a long time about it, but for one reason or another I never got the gig; my schedule wasn’t available or they hired someone else. This time it all worked out, and I had to fly to London to interview with Mick Jagger to get the job.
I don’t normally interview with the artists; usually I work with management. But Mick is the kind of guy who wants to look someone in the eye and make sure it’s the right person for him. I can’t remember the specific questions, but it was, “Oh, man, I’m sitting across from Mick Jagger.” I don’t usually get that excited or emotional. That same day, I was hired to do the U.S. tour, from May to July. They call it “logistics coordinator,” but the position is essentially tour manager.
They were going to do the same show they did last year in North America, so we weren’t building any new sets, and they were using the same touring rig. So we were going to go straight into band rehearsals, starting April 16th in Los Angeles. It was my first time working with them, and I heard they make a different set list every night. Copies get distributed each night. Which I thought was pretty cool. I started working on hotels, buses for the crew, and a charter plane for the principals.
Then, about a month ago, I heard they were postponing the tour. You kind of saw it coming. When South by Southwest pulled the plug, you thought, “Oh, my God, what’s going to happen?” Then Coachella canceled. With the Stones, we held out hope we could still go on tour in May, but as things developed so quickly, we knew there was probably no chance.
With Stevie, Governors Ball canceled. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage was supposed to reschedule to October, but now that’s not going to happen. BottleRock was moved back to October as well. Stevie is hunkered down at her place in L.A. She’s not going out.
With the Stones, my responsibility was let everyone know that the tour was being postponed: all the side musicians, security guys, and crew people. We had hired about 150 full-time people. The pay range was $30,000 to probably $150,000 for three months’ pay. I sent them all an email saying, “Sorry for the mass email, but …” And everyone understood. It’s really out of our hands. Everyone was very understanding and sympathetic to what was going on.
“When South by Southwest pulled the plug, you thought, ‘Oh, my God, what’s going to happen?'”
I lost out on probably around $400,000 — maybe a little more depending on what else happened after the Stones this year. Tour managing is really the only thing I know how do to and I’m a little old to start learning a new trade so, for me, it’s pretty much a lost year. I’m an independent contractor, as many of the men and women who work in the touring industry are, so I will not be applying for unemployment.
But look at the magnitude of people it affects: union stagehands who build the show, ushers, ticket takers, security guys. And then there are the sound companies and trucking and bussing companies. With companies like that, the normal model is to have 75 percent of your gear on the road at any given time. Now it’s all sitting in a warehouse, where they don’t have the room to park 125 buses and store all those massive speaker cabinets.
I’ve been able to save some money, but so many of the men and women who rely on this income to get by are living paycheck to paycheck. It will be really difficult and challenging for the people who make their living touring to sustain themselves and make ends meet if this continues for any great length of time. Some will end up draining their savings accounts. I just read an article saying some events may have to wait until the fall of next year, 2021. I thought, “Jesus, if we have to wait that long …” You could lose a lot of good people who would have to go find other opportunities for work.
I’ve been talking to some of the production managers and tour managers I know, people who work for U2 and Def Leppard. We’re all sitting home, saying, “What are we going to do now?” This is the first time this has happened, and it’s harder than after 9/11. That was devastating, needless to say. I was touring with Backstreet Boys at the time. People either postponed a few shows or a couple of weeks but eventually we all went back on the road. It was out of defiance: We’re not going to be stopped by a terrorist act. We were all able to mourn and then show strength. This time, we can’t even do that. You don’t even know when to move forward.
As far as when things will resume, it’s so difficult and challenging. No one really knows. You get so many different opinions about when it’s going to be safe. We could start doing shows in October or November, but the big question is, will anyone want to go? The reality is that no one is going to buy tickets for anything anytime soon.
And when we do resume, do you give the fans a test or take their temperature before they go into the venue? Does a fan have to get there three hours before to get the test? Then there’s the challenge for us on the crew. We live in such close proximity to each other on the road, like the confines of a backstage. We’re with each other 24-7. It’s hard to do social distancing on a 45-foot-long bus with 12 people.
Once this is resolved and people feel it’s safe to go out again, next year is going to be insane in terms of acts who want to go on the road. It’s going to be packed. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next year.