Q: Most bands don’t seem to like taking girls with them on tour even if they’re there to work. How did you get the opportunities you have had? Do you ever feel like being a girl makes your job harder or like you’re not taken as seriously?
I don’t think being a female has ever hindered my ability to play with the boys and kick ass at what I do. Once upon a time, I let pseudo-“feminist” sentiments brainwash me into believing there was some glass ceiling in this industry that would prevent me from taking my talents to the next level. I was convinced I wouldn’t be granted the opportunities to go on the road or work in situations where it might be a assumed “the fairer sex” couldn’t survive. The reality is, I wasn’t getting those chances before not because of my lady parts, but because I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was too busy griping about how “unfair” it is for women in a male dominated industry, rather than getting out there and busting through that imaginary ceiling.
I can’t say I haven’t ever been discriminated against in the music scene for being a girl, but I try not to let the misogynistic ways of simple-minded men get in the way of me doing my job. While I might experience the occasional asshole bouncer who hassles me under the assumption that I’m a groupie, I remind myself that this industry is full of powerful ladies running the show. While I have yet to personally photograph a girl in a band, the majority of band managers, record label publicists, and publication editors I’ve worked with have been – surprise, surprise – women! So even if it feels exclusive on the surface, there’s lots of girl power going on behind the scenes and I don’t think there’s any reason your gender should stand in the way of you getting in on the action.
My three cents for fellow femme photogs looking to tour:
1 // You don’t tour with bands, you tour with friends.
One of the biggest misconceptions girls who want to get into this scene have is that they’re just going to somehow get a job on a tour with a band they’ve never met before. I wasn’t sent on these tours as hired help for bands I barely knew; I was a friend going on the road with guys I’d grown relationships with over several years. And one of the tours was also made possible because I had developed a relationship with their manager over the course of our 4 years working together. It’s all about creating and maintaining these connections. I don’t know many bands that would be comfortable taking some girl they barely know into such an intimate living situation and having her document all the gross things they do off stage… So start with your local bands on promos and documenting their live shows; make genuine friendships with these guys, and when they start to tour, you might be a name that comes to mind for taking out.
2 // Be a blessing, not a burden.
From my observation, it’s not that bands don’t like bringing girls out on tour; it’s that they don’t want the extra responsibility of taking care of someone who is either inexperienced and/or high-maintenance. Touring sounds oh so fun and glamourous on the outside, but that’s only 10% of it. 90% of being on tour is waiting in a van, then waiting in a venue, then doing it again night after night. You don’t get to decide where to go or what to do. You have to be willing to sacrifice everything you want in order to completely go with the flow of the rest of the group. Not every type of person can handle that. And if you don’t lose your mind from sheer boredom, the living conditions might break you. On my first tour, I went weeks without a shower and sometimes days with only eating greenroom bread and hummus, all the while I was on my period and fighting a sinus infection (yeah, not pretty). But I never complained or asked for special treatment. I just did my job and hung out. In fact, on this last tour, one of the guys made sure to tell me how much my presence was appreciated and that I actually alleviated his stress on the road. Be a blessing not only with your hired talents, but with the personality and atmosphere you bring to the group.
3 // Work your ass off & don’t ever stop.
In my situation, I got lucky that my first tour happened to be on the other side of the globe with one of my favorite bands. There’s no magic formula for making that happen. The best advice I can give is keep working hard at what you do, build up an impressive portfolio that proves you’re worth the money and effort of taking out, make and maintain relationships (and I don’t mean the fake “I’m only keeping in touch with you to get something out of it” kind – people see right through that), and don’t be afraid to go after what you want. Worst case scenario: they say no; best case: they say yes and you get to travel the world.
Got more questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below!