Road rules

Aerosmith "touring technician" Julie Peterson shares trade secrets.

IF CONCERT touring had a personnel manual, these 10 rules would be its policies and procedures. Succeed on the road by acing your job, but get hired again by following the rules that are handed down from roadie to roadie in oral tradition.

1. It's all hustle and who you know.

I quit counting how many people ask me for a tour job—like it's easy to get someone hired by an internationally famous rock 'n' roll god. If you want it, you've got to do more than beam at someone and plead. It takes passion, endless persistence, and a lucky break.

2. It's not your job until you're on the plane.

When you've boarded the plane for the tour's first city, consider yourself employed. Until then, the performer may postpone the start to rehearse one more week or be home for Halloween with his kids.

3. The tour bus is your home.

Yours and 11 of your "closest" friends. When you live on it for six-week stretches, manners and consideration matter. I've watched old road dogs dump young pups out of wrongly claimed middle bunks, groupies sneaked into back lounges, and crew members left behind for being late.

4. The pop star is not your friend.

The pop star is your boss. Star power is seductive, and it's easy to think you've joined the inner circle. They'll tell you they love you, how they could never tour without you, and a few months later forget you ever played on their team.

5. The band's needs come first.

Few dare to tell a pop star no, and you don't want to be the one who does. If they ask for $100 Cuban cigars, sushi in Kansas, or flying pink elephants by show time, you'd best use every resource to turn them up.

6. "Can you get me tickets?"

First question you'll be asked. Would people ask a dentist for a free cleaning or a mechanic for a free tune-up? If you can arrange tickets, it's seldom enough. Next comes the request for a backstage pass, a parking pass, access to the band's hospitality room, and, of course, an autograph.

7. Five hundred people are in line for your job.

Production crew members are dispensable, and your position is never secure (one night the singer fired our sound engineer in the middle of the show). If your demise was planned, your replacement was secretly flown in a day ahead so the tour can move on without pause. You're lucky to receive a plane ticket instead of a bus ticket home.

8. You're only as good as your last show.

You may be the best employee the band ever had, but if you made a mistake at the last show, that's what's remembered. After five great years with one band, I made a bookkeeping error (later rectified), and yet it is the first thing the tour manager mentions when we speak a year later.

9. Getting out is tougher than getting in.

Road life moves at warp speed, and in a blink you've played 22 countries, 1,000 shows, and five years have passed. Leaving an industry that is flush with rare perks, exclusive access, and glory by association is nearly as hard as convincing a conventional employer that touring was a demanding job, not a party.

10. Some things stay on the road.

The extremities and outrageousness of rock 'n' roll tours are all true, but I am bound by the code of the road, and if I want to be hired again, I'll be signing off now.

I'd be remiss not to mention Rule 11: Don't call us roadies—call us touring technicians.

Julie Peterson toured with Aerosmith in 1993. She'll talk about touring with them, KISS, and Metallica at 11 a.m. on Sat., April 13.

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