It’s summertime and I’m already thinking about the holidays.

I hope you are doing fine this Saturday! It is hot hot hot in New York City, and all I can say is FINALLY! I’ve been missing the feeling of being able to slip into a dress and flip flops and head out the door. There’s a freedom that comes with not have to wear layers and coats.

As an assistant, I continuously have to think ahead for my clients. They are busy CEO’s of their own companies, trying to run their career, run their personal lives and on top of that, keep on creating. A lot happens daily for them, so as their assistant, it’s my job to plan ahead and foresee “disaster”. I remember when I was starting out, I spoke with an assistant to a HUGE name (think Grammy and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame kind of name) and she said to me, “We’re such worriers. It’s what we do.” And it’s true!

While we aren’t worriers in the typical sense of sitting on the coach with a frown, we learn about what our clients are doing and when planning, try to think of everything that they will need to know about to make it as seamless as possible.

It’s not easy to think of everything that might go wrong or what you will need during your next project, but that’s why CEO’s hire assistants so that they can free their valuable time to more important, revenue making tasks and leave the planning to us.

You might remember that last December, I went on the road for the first time as tour manager for a nationwide Christmas show tour, with a tour bus and all. As you probably know, that didn’t just come together a few weeks beforehand. It took MONTHS of communication and planning.

Which is why, I’m making June the first official month to start planning the tour. Sure, we’ve secured the performers in January right after the last tour was over, and the management has been booking dates since 2013. However, some slight changes and confirmations to the band personnel means its onwards to start organizing everything we will need for the tour.

What I start out with is very basic – but EXTREMELY essential if you are planning out a tour of your own with a band.



Once you’ve confirmed availability and talent (and if you want to work with them) with your band, here’s what you should have documented to make the beginning stages of planning the tour go smoothly and quickly.

1) Full Name, exactly as on their ID. (for flights and payments)
2) Scan of the front and back of their ID. (if you or some of the band members are driving a tour van, you’re going to need scans of their drivers license to rent the van.)
3) Birthday. (for flights, and maybe their birthday is during the tour. Hello, cake on the bus!)
4) Departure City – (When booking flights, where are they flying from for the first show?)
5) Returning City – (Where are they headed to after the last show?)
6) W9 – assuming you, the lead, are paying your band members more than $600 for the tour, you’ll need their mailing address / social security number, so get both with a W9 Form.
7) Frequent Flyer Miles numbers. (Especially if they are flying. Saves the hassle of them going into the reservation and adding it afterwards!)

These six important information points can be organized and ‘stored’ in a spreadsheet for you to reference when making reservations, planning routing and make things go quickly without having to constantly email and track down the band members.

So, now that June is around the corner, what future tours, launches or projects are you looking forward to plan for in 2014? What are you going to do to take one step closer to preparing for that said tour, launch or project?

Comment below and put it out in the universe and make it happen!

Enjoy the last day of May, friends!

5 Things I learned on the road.

Wow, what a month it has been. I got home last Thursday evening, exhausted, worn out but genuinely sad to have the tour end. I spent the next day catching up with mail ( a pile was waiting for me), with the boy who treated me to a great meal, and with a good night’s sleep! I didn’t know how tired I was! Ha!I hope you have enjoyed my photos and stories while on the road – what I did share was only the sprinkles on the sundae to say the least. I learned so much about musicians, touring, concerts and myself. Today, I want to share with you the things that stuck with me – the 5 things I learned while on the road.

1) Pack light.
I consider myself good at packing just enough for any trip. For a 3 week trip, I packed enough for each day. Just a few days in my trip, I realized I could have probably brough only HALF of what I did. Why? A big reason is because most of the venues had laundry facilities. With load in times 4 hours before a show and have a few extra hours before (and during) the show, I could have easily done a couple loads of laundry. Some of the hotels also offered laundry facilities, but most of the band waited to grab a convenient free wash at a venue – something that was new to me!

2) Research hotel / venue ahead of time.
For this tour, I was navigating a bus driver to places neither of us have been too. You’d think you could assume each venue and hotel would have bus parking, right? Wrong. I learned very quickly that you need to research where you will be ahead of time and find out exactly where the bus or vehicle of choice should be parked. When arriving in Evans, GA, we couldn’t find a sign for the event space that was apparently in a very small parking lot – FYI, HELL for a big tour bus. I was talking on the phone to a guy not giving clear instructions and trying to voice that to a frustrated bus driver who had just scraped the side of the bus by a tree in this tight parking lot. Turns out, the venue was right behind us IN THE LIBRARY (which had maybe 3-4 signs up). If I had asked or researched this ahead of time and known the venue was in the library, I would have saved minutes of frustration and the driver $100s of repair for his bus. Consider that lesson learned.

3) Get familiar with the space and staff.
5 minutes before arrival, I would call up the presenter and make sure they could meet me by the door. Once the bus stopped, I hopped off and greeted the presenter right away and ask for a tour of the space. “Show me the green room, show me the dressing rooms, show me the stage, show me the front of house, show me where the bathrooms are!” I learned to do this after the first few gigs and once I started, the days got easier knowing where everything was right away – because the band will ask YOU where everything is. Even if you are doing it on your own, get familiar with the space as soon as you can. The next thing? Shake hands with everyone on staff and introduce yourself with a smile. You want to be able to ask favors from these guys for the next few hours- whether its a run to CVS for a case of water or help with loading up the van after the show – and stay on their good side. Giving your CD or a piece of merchandise as a thank you also helps. Leave them on a good note.

4) Treat the band (or yourself) once in a while.
With this tour, I got caught up with making sure where everyone was, checking the itinerary every other 30 minutes, running through what I need to do the next morning, worrying if the driver knows where we’re going…it can get overwhelming. But, the sound engineer (and experienced tour manager) on the tour reminded me that if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. The band is away from friends, family, loved ones and away from their homes. Treat them once in a while. I found a late night pizza after the show delivered to the bus or a bottle of champagne for our last night all together did the trick. Remember that behind the planning and logistics, these are still people and they need to relax and enjoy their time on the road!

5) It’s all about problem solving and staying calm.
A heavy message I learned while being on the road managing 8 other people’s time, is that emotions have to be left at the door with any problems that WILL come your way. And you have to stay calm about it. This tour single handedly taught me that things will be okay and it built my strength and ability to stay calm & problem solve. For example, there was a last minute decision that the lead wanted to come out after the show and speak on music education (he authored his own string teaching method) and then sign CDs, I knew I had to step up and contact presenters as soon as possible to discuss the game plan. When we saw that getting our own mic/speaker to set up in every lobby wasn’t going to work (Guitar Center’s don’t exist everywhere, by the way), I had to chat with every presenter and discuss if the plan would be better carried out on stage, in the lobby, and who would take him to where he needs to go. I could have easily gotten overwhelmed or frustrated when things weren’t exactly how we envisioned, but you learn to work with what you have in order to make the show go on!

I could write pages and pages of my experience and what I learned, but I will leave you with what I can fit in this post.
I can happily say, I’m ready to tackle touring in the future and be more prepared than ever before! What tours are coming up in 2014? Can I come?

Here’s to the next adventure,
Fiona Z

Last Day on the tour

Working my last show tonight for this December tour in Wausau, WI..incredibly bummed that I won’t be going to the west coast with the band to finish out the tour! This has been a priceless experience and I am so thankful I was able to come for the ride! Who’s ready for December 2014? This girl!


Sound check from December 9 in Evans, GA.

Morrow, GA

We spent two nights in Atlanta, GA for a matinee show at Clayton State University at the beautiful Spivey Hall on Sunday afternoon. A really great surprise for me to see the magnificent hall. Check out my shots during soundcheck:

Set up and soundcheck went much quicker this time around – the band is jelling and getting more comfortable with the sound they want to create so the process is smoother. We got some delicious Vietnamese food for dinner (first time I had it!). My first lesson was to try and get the restaurant to bag them individually and label them with either their name or order number. This is just to make it easier on the band. They don’t need to be searching for their order in a big sea of orders!

I was able to hang backstage this time as the hall had to control selling merchandise, so it was nice to relax and chat with the band as well as stay on top of them for show time and 5 minute calls.

It was a sold out show and the audience was really warm. The fiddle player in the band said there was a “wow-er” in the audience – after every song, this woman would say, “wow!”. Things like that I found give the band a confidence boost and a little spark of joy, making the concert that much more enjoyable for them!

During intermission, I walked to the box office to make sure merch was doing well and took some shots of the lobby:

I stuck around after the show and sat by the CD signing table. It was so great and rewarding to hear folks talk to the band and tell them stories of how inspiring they are, when they last saw each other, kids being starstruck…it was really nice to see that at the end of the night.

Off to Evans, GA as I type for a show tonight! More stories are still to come, I’m sure. 🙂

Franklin, NC

Our second stop was Franklin, NC. We spent our first night on the bus and I surprisingly slept really well! Each of our bunks have a DVD player and a really comfy pillow and blanket.


I headed to bed fairly early since I had to be up to get the driver a room in the morning – he is only allowed to drive 10 hours before he has to stop and rest. He made a few stops in the night, making him about 1 hour behind schedule – but we definitely had the time.

I woke up a few hours before we were due to arrive and rolled up the windows to view the gorgeous misty mountains from Virginia to North Carolina.

Calling the hotel, they didn’t have the room ready and didn’t think they would. But persistence is key. I called an hour before arrival and called when we got there – boom, a room is open. Telling them that the driver just traveled 10 hours might have helped. 🙂

Getting everyone else checked in was a process and didn’t go smoothly, and i didn’t get the last person in before it was time to load in. Fortunately, the venue had a shower so he was able to clean up, but lesson learned, CALL HOTELS AHEAD OF TIME. Once I was able to check in, I sat down and called everyone to tell them we’re arriving early or we’re arriving late, just to give them a heads up.

After loading in, soundcheck started and took a bit more time, so it was good that we arrived early. Being the beginning of the tour, the band has more patience, the sound is still being figured out and these things take more time.

While they were dealing with that, I started to set up merchandise with the presenter. Our shirts were shipped directly to the venue, so I was worried that they might not be just right..but they look great!!

I was worried because when I got to the first venue, we ordered mugs and the logo on the mug came in the completely wrong color…it was blue on blue, making it impossible to see! A huge bummer, but in the big picture, worse things could have happened.

The evening went really well – the band killed the show, the audience loved it. One woman came up to me after the show to buy a CD and told me that she’s been to the venue 5-6 times, and this was her favorite and in her opinion, the best show she’s seen there. What a compliment!!

Right now, I’m eating waffles and stealing some bagels for lunch from our complimentary breakfast…off to write some more and spend our day off traveling to Atlanta!

Thanks for reading,


Day 2 – 3 – 4…wow.

It’s going by so fast!

Things are moving along quickly with lots of catching up, rehearsals, final plans, meetings – it’s been difficult to keep up with this blog. So first, my apologies. I know now why tour managers tend to take a few days to answer back. Because waking up at 8AM and working till 12:30AM, and having a hotel neighbor talk all night until 4AM, you tend to pick sleep during your free time. 🙂 

On Tuesday, the band set up for a 12-hour rehearsal in a room at the venue. Our opening night is held at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA – have you been there? It’s absolutely breathtaking. I definitely want to plan a weekend here in the near future. It’s about 2 hours away from Manhattan. Pictures of the place below!


Our first ‘bump in the road’ was an issue with the instrument! Our bassist rented a fold up bass, making it easy to transport on the train and plane, but being the first time this bassist is using it, you have to expect something to go wrong.

So, the bass neck comes completely off, strings come off, bridge comes off…it’s quite a spectacle! You can imagine that tuning and set up time is doubled for our bassist, but that wasn’t the only issue coming up.

About 20 seconds into the first song, the bridge comes flying off of the bass! Immediately we all sank and eyes got wide. Is it defective? Is it broken? Are we going to have to get a regular bass? Are we going to have to ship this back?

We all are wondering! But, the bassist calmly picked everything up and said, “No, this should be fine.” He took a second stab at setting it up, had both me and the sound engineer make sure the bridge was straight, and stuck it out! And so did the bass – no more bumps in the road on that one! Whew!

Lessons learned:

1. If you are using a new instrument (or form of instrument), if you can, try it out before the big day. In this case, we had a rehearsal, but imagine if the first set up was on stage and that happened! Be prepared!

Kennett Square, PA

Day 1:

Half of us took the train from New York Penn on Amtrak, while the other half flew in from Chicago, Nashville and Austin! Already loving how touring brings folks together.

Taking the Amtrak is always, well…thrilling. For a Monday afternoon, it was fairly crowded at New York Penn station. Thanksgiving travel, I assumed. One tip I did learn after boarding that plane is when making reservations, is make them separate so you get separate tickets. When they announce the gate number, a herd of people with luggage just crams into the escalator door, making it hard for the 4 of us to go through together. I had to stand back and wait for everyone to get through and tell the impatient ticket man that these 3 guys are with me as they walked through.

I am with musicians who travel and tour for a living, so they knew to go right to the end of our coach class cart so we could find seats and luggage space easily. Done!

The ride was very easy and once we arrived at the train station, the driver was there to greet us. With one SUV for our 6 bags of LARGE luggage, it reminded ME to remind presenters that we are traveling with a lot of luggage and they need to prepare for that.

Once we all checked into the hotel, I planned a little welcome dinner for everyone to meet and catch up, and it was really fun for me to hear their conversations of past gigs, past collaborations, current state of the industry, current opinions of the industry…all of it. Something about being immersed around people who are really ‘doing it’ feels great to be a part of.

First day had some bumps, but nothing that can’t be handled. What I learned from the day:

1. Print out tickets for each person on the trip – take into consideration folks being late and getting lost in lines.

2. Don’t go for the first door on the train, walk down to the end to find a decent seat with luggage space.

3. Tell presenters you will need a large vehicle for transport – with musicians on the road for 3 weeks, that’s a lot of luggage.

4. If there’s time, plan a little meet/greet/catch up event, whether it’s a quick bite at a bar or a relaxed dinner. You are going to be on the road for weeks with these guys, make the effort to get to know each other! And also, hear some juicy stories.

Thanksgiving and Tour Annoucement

I was lucky enough to have 2 Thanksgiving celebrations with friends (my nephew responded with a “no FAIR!” over the phone) and it was days of red cabbage (my favorite side dish), pumpkin pie and of course a few games of Apples to Apples (get this game now if you don’t have it!)

While most might be relaxing and winding down the year, I, on the other hand, am planning a nationwide, 12-city tour for 6 musicians that starts December 2! Whew! Sounds easy, right?

I’m not only planning and coordinating the appearances, I’m also coming along for the ride. For the month of December, I’ll be on a large sleeper tour bus with 6 musicians and a sound engineer to tackle the “road life”. I’m going to learn first hand what it’s like to be a traveling musician and I certainly can’t wait to handle the inevitable hurdles and things that WILL go wrong.

So, to honor this new journey, I’ll be ‘live-blogging’ throughout the weeks with photos and stories! You are going to hear about the good AND the bad (no shame here), because it’s a learning experience. We all deserve to know what really happens on the road!

Let’s get this party started.