‘I’m deflated about how the industry has returned to work’ – TPG Chair, Wob Roberts

The Touring Production Group’s Chair, issues a rallying cry to futureproof the live touring sector.

The Tour Production Group (TPG) was formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal to return to post-pandemic touring in a more educated mindset. Our initial goal was to create COVID-safe working guidance, and we were the first touring industry association to do so. The goal since has been for the concert touring industry to learn best practice, survive and ultimately thrive in a more realistic and sustainable way.

I fear that unless we keep delivering a clear message on the issues we face – from lack of diversity to ill mental health and our carbon footprint – then the industry, the people we love and our planet will suffer irreparable damage for future generations and for new touring crew.

Our ‘world’ is realising that the impact of jetting around the planet – while it might be the sole source of income – is problematic. The ultimate achievement of our work is to provide entertainment and experiences to the public, yet air pollution is having a negative effect on global survival. We must act now to offset our trace and look after each other along the way.

I’m pretty deflated at present about the way the industry has returned to work. People that we heard ‘buying in’ to the goals we set ourselves during the pandemic have returned to tighter schedules, crazier routings and no regard for the discussions and statements of intent made during the past 18 months.

The excuse I hear, from both those creating the schedules and those accepting the work, is that they need the work, money or job, and once things are ‘back to normal’ then they will address the discussions we’ve had.

Yet we really shouldn’t be slipping back into old habits. For example, the need to address the lack of diversity and opportunity that is apparent in the live music business cannot be underestimated. While most people you speak to in the industry will say there are no barriers to doing our jobs, and most of us have worked alongside people from different backgrounds, the balance of colour, ethnicity, gender, gender non-conforming and social economic backgrounds in the touring sector is way off balance. People certainly do face barriers and this is what TPG has been learning. We are still, far too often, camps of all white cis men. Changing this norm – specifically within touring – will take determination and consistent education. The TPG aims to assist the industry with both.

One tangible, positive step we have seen develop is the Addiction and Recovery Awareness Course, which was brought to fruition by TPG’s Mental Welfare and Personal Wellbeing Group. The course is delivered through the industry charity Music Support and is available now for backstage music workers. This course is a great example of how members of the TPG are seeking to best support both themselves and their peers when it comes to substance misuse on the road. It’s another small step in future-proofing our industry.

An obstacle we’re facing now is that as touring crews return to the road, it’s difficult to find time for a full TPG committee meeting and we’re currently looking at dates for an online meeting for all members. The date will be announced on our website soon, so if these topics interest you, please stay tuned. We need your help create a more conscious, informed and inclusive industry.

This article originally appeared in issue #265 of TPi, which you can read here.