Traveling all over the States and the globe with rockstars in tow, Arlan Hamilton is responsible for more in a day than most of us are in a week – but that’s what keeps her career as a Live Music Tour Production Coordinator fresh and exciting each time she does a new tour. Plus, she was cut out for a life of travel since she was just a young girl. Read on to find out about her obsession with time zones when she was a kid, what concert when she was 13 changed her life, plus – just how much more can Arlan squeeze in with all the touring and travel in her personal life? You’ll see four of the start-ups she’s excited about right now in her role as a Start-Up Consultant, too.
A true world traveler, globetrotter and all-around overachiever, few deserve the title of GlobetrotterGirl of the Month more than our October girl, Arlan Hamilton.
Where are you from?
I was born in Jackson, MS and raised in Dallas, TX.
Where are you currently based and where have you lived?
I’ve very recently relocated to Portland, OR after heading there for a meeting with a start-up I am working with. I have lived in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Columbus OH and Jackson, MS.
You have multiple, parallel careers, but what is your job description(s)?
I am a Live Music Tour Production Coordinator and Director. I am also a freelance consultant to entrepreneurs, investors and startup company teams. I am a lesbian blogger with thousands of awesome readers from around the world and a former magazine publisher.
It seems you have always had wanderlust, starting from your obsession with time zones in 3rd grade. Can you share that story with our audience?
I was kind of a loner as a child and was constantly daydreaming about being somewhere else. Instead of playing on the playground at recess, most days I would sit around and think and imagine.
When I was in the 3rd grade, I wore six watches to school – three on each arm. I was obsessed with the idea of time zones. The fact that it was nighttime somewhere else when it was daytime where I lived was so fascinating to me. So each watch was set to a different time zone. I can’t remember them all, but I remember an African region and Hawaii were two of them. In 4th grade I cut this down to two watches.
Do you think that your wanderlust had an affect on what career path you ultimately chose?
It absolutely did…without a doubt. When I was 13, I went to my first concert. It was Janet Jackson and it changed my life. I had a lawn ticket but was handed a front row ticket by a crew member. I remember looking back at thousands of people of all races, ages, and backgrounds singing along to every word.
It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen and I made a decision that night to find a way to be part of whatever THAT was for the rest of my life. I didn’t know at the time that it would lead to working on tours, but ultimately it did. Today I give out a couple of premium tickets to fans in nosebleed seats at every show I can, to pay it forward.
When I was 21 and bored at work, I came across a tribute song to one of my favorite singers, P!nk. It was so cute and funny, and when I looked into it, I discovered the band was a Norwegian pop-punk band called ‘goldenboy’. I tracked them down online, immediately loved them and then, following my instincts, eventually invited myself to Norway to meet them.
They turned out to be the nicest guys on the planet, so I went a few steps further and invited myself to be their tour booker/manager in order to get them to perform in the States. So I set about teaching myself how to book shows at small clubs around the country to make that happen.
This was a system of trial and error using the Yellow pages, dozens of 411 calls and a filing system in my living room, while trying to convince guys named things like “Snake” and “Bizkit” that I knew what I was talking about.
I got the summer tour in place, put together the itinerary, planned hotel stays, printed and sold merch, drove a ton, dealt with payment at each club every night, kept up with the budget, made sure my guys didn’t go to jail for dancing on top of the van drunk and naked (I guess that’s legal in Norway?), and did whatever else was needed.
It turns out, this was what a “tour manager” was. That’s probably the most fun I have ever had on tour.
What tours have you have worked on?
Tours with goldenboy, Terra Naomi, Courtney Fairchild, CeeLo Green, Goodie Mob, Kirk Franklin, Amanda Palmer, and a few concerts with Eric Benet, Alanis Morissette, Snow Patrol and others.
What is an average day like on tour?
This depends entirely on the artist, the tour size and venue. For instance, CeeLo does mostly fly dates and one-off concerts all over the world. His team flies in from around the US and UK to meet him the night before the show, and I work with his tour manager on travel arrangements, show details for the crew, tour the venue with the local production manager and make sure the artist is comfortable before hitting the stage. Those are always 14-16 hour days whether it is weeks before or the day of the actual concert.
Bus tours require the same long hours and hard work, but are very different. You get into a rhythm – after the show everyone jumps on the bus to hang and unwind. I sleep in a bunk, which has a small TV and DVD players and fairly comfortable. The bus is like a hotel on wheels, but it is very tight quarters and we share with at least 8 and up to 10 other people, waking up in hotel or venue parking lots at 7am to get the day started. I organize local production assistants for the day and show the crew, band and artists around each new venue so they know where everything is located like restrooms, production offices, stage and eating area. Throughout the day, highly skilled technical and creative crew from all departments as well as artists and band members come in and out of the production office with requests and questions. It’s my job to answer what I can or find someone who knows the answer, and keep things moving as efficiently as possible. No two days are the same and its 50% troubleshooting.
It’s also my job to make sure 3-4 meals per day for 40+ people are up to standards and are as ordered. It’s important to keep everyone’s spirits high and to keep up with how everyone is feeling if you can. It’s a big family traveling in tight quarters for weeks on end, and so things can get tense. Part of my job is to be someone people feel comfortable coming to with any interpersonal issues so that they don’t get out of hand and start affecting the show. I also have to keep myself in check and try not to spread any sort of negativity.
In addition to all of that I communicate schedule changes to the whole team and field calls from management and record labels. By show time, the crew has been working for 10 hours and we are alert and on call during the show. There’s usually a nice 30 or so minute period right in the middle where I can watch part of the show from the side of the stage or walk around the venue to feel the energy of the crowd.
After the show, I help backstage with family and guests, VIPs and VIP-VIPs, and of course fans trying to sneak back or talk their way back – just like I used to! At the end of the day, I shower at the venue, hop on the bus for a slice of pizza and hopefully that day’s General Hospital episode if the bus gets SoapNet. Then sleep, rinse and repeat!
Which artist would be your dream tour to work on?
I would LOOOOVE to tour with Pink, Melissa Etheridge, Adele, Katy Perry, Janet Jackson, Celine Dion and Patty Griffin during my career.
I only work with startups I absolutely LOVE so that I can be naturally enthusiastic and honest when I promote them to other people. The companies range from 1-20 people in size, but always start-ups.
I am currently working with four start-ups:
- Buskfilms.com is a video on demand website for independent lesbian films. Like having a lesbian film festival in your living room at all times, Buskfilms is run by Andrea Wing and is a company for lesbians, by lesbians.
- Stageit.com lets artists perform anywhere in the world with a laptop and Wi-Fi connection. Your favorite artist could do a 40 minute set from her patio to a crowd who is watching in real time after having bought tickets online. I LOVE the concept!
- Patreon.com helps content creators monetize their content. Many musicians or other YouTubers might only make $200/month on advertising despite 100,000 subscribers. With Patreon, fans can contribute a couple of bucks each month to their favorite YouTube bands, who can now make $500, $1000 per clip. Only 6 months old, the platform is changing lives by allowing artists to make legitimate money in proportion to their fan base.
- Wildfang.com is my current startup crush. This clothing company for tomboys and rebels knows their customer so well – probably because they ARE their own customers. A smart and lean start-up, they can have an idea on Monday and execute it on Friday. Wildfang is the reason I visited Portland and ended up falling in love with the city enough to move here.
How much time do you spend on the road each year?
In 2012, I was home roughly four months out of the year, if you add it all up together. About 90 per cent of that was actually for work both touring and start up related. Whenever I can, I stay in a city for a few extra days to unwind and visit the city, too, but often we run through a ton of cities in a blur. In 2013 I was home roughly six months and traveling for six, but 2014 looks to be shaping up to be about eight months of travel again like 2012 was.
What countries have you traveled to – either for work or for play?
Germany, England, Norway, Australia, Canada several times each, plus Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, United Arab Emirates and Jamaica.
Winning Without Losing by Martin Bjergegaard and anything by Richard Branson.
What quote inspires you?
“I have lived so much that someday they will have to forget me forcibly…My heart was inexhaustible.” – Pablo Neruda
And specifically a travel quote?
I’m not sure if it’s a quote as much as a motto: Half the fun of reaching your destination is getting lost along the way.
Do you have a mentor or life/business coach?
Yes, I’m fortunate enough to have a few! One is Martin Bjergegaard in Denmark. Author of my favorite book, he is also co-founder of a startup factory and one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. Despite being incredibly busy, he takes time to answer questions or introduce me to someone he thinks will influence me positively.
It was through Martin I met Hampus Jakobsson in Sweden. Hampus knows a bit about successful startups, having co-founded a company that sold for $150 million in 2010. He always cuts to the chase, which I appreciate immensely, and helps me with business and investing questions. A third mentor, also in Denmark, has been incredibly supportive of my vision and what I want out of life and has taken me under his wing as well.
What is your best advice for independent travelers?
Make as many memories—if not more–with your camera off as with it on. Put the camera down sometimes and take it all in. Also, be willing to get lost or have your plans change drastically. Go with the flow and see what might happen!
How can people get in touch with you?