Climate Change: Packing, Politics, and Currency on Tour
By Shmem Geddes
Touring the world is undoubtedly cool, or hot, depending on where you will be going. If you end up taking a tour contract, it’s always best to be prepared for the cities or countries to which you will be travelling. If you’re not sure where’s next on the itinerary ask the production company, or at the very least, research online.
On my last tour, I travelled through almost every season (winter through summer in Australia, Singapore and then winter through summer in Japan).
In knowing this information you can pack essentials for every occasion. Lightweight thermals like merino wool are really light & easy to pack and your chilly bones will thank you for it on those sub zero transfers. Good quality waterproofs will keep the wet rot at bay in the rain much better than your work jeans. I always make sure to pack a pair of warm gloves and a hat (usually Thinsulate) too. I grew quite fond of popping a couple of those hand warmer heating pads in my jacket pockets during the winter months. On the flip side, I’m always sure to have a couple of pairs of shorts, tank tops and at least one cap for the hotter places. Sunscreen is an absolute must for this pasty faced Scottish girl but regardless of where you come from, make sure to take care of yourself. In hot environments, even if you don’t think it’s that sunny, apply a bit of the old factor 30 regularly unless you fancy doing a transfer with a sunburn.
Make sure you keep hydrated too.
I’ve seen many techs fall due to heatstroke (myself included). When it’s super hot outside, water simply isn’t enough. I carry hydration tabs in my backpack and my tour bag. You can find these in outdoors type shops or sometimes in good grocery stores. Also, if you’re in the Middle East or Asia you can pick up ion/isotonic drinks for hydration in most convenience stores, drinks like Pocari Sweat, Aquarius, and 100 Plus. I liked to pick up a bottle on my way to work so I started off on the right foot. If you would rather have something less sugary, coconut water is an excellent source of hydration. On a side note, these drinks are also great for hangovers. Be sure to stay healthy!
Another good reason to know where your tour will be visiting is so you can keep an eye on the political climate. I’m all for bringing entertainment to the masses but there are a couple of places where I personally would not opt to travel.
Over the years, several production companies have had similar views. May of us may remember that back in 2016 numerous tours and solo artists alike took North Carolina off their schedules after the HB2 legislation was passed. The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, officially called An Act to Provide for Single-sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations but commonly known as House Bill 2 or HB2. In short, this bill would mandate that people use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate, which would stop transgender people from using the bathroom of their gender identity. There was also a fair amount of media coverage of athletes’ initial protests in regards to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi following Russia’s Anti-Gay Law.
These stands were made, of course, on a matter of principle that many of us in the entertainment industry understood. In other instances, tour dates can be taken off of a schedule due to more pressing matters of clear and present danger.
In 2012 Lady Gaga was forced to cancel her concert in Indonesia amid protests and threats of violence from religious groups.
There was a well-known stage production that recently had dates scheduled in the Middle East but with the threat of terrorism growing some dates were removed as were dates in neighbouring cities/countries, and while the danger was removed, so were those few months of work for the cast and crew. I say none of this in an effort to scare you, but you should go to a project informed and with your eyes open.
Probably the most important consideration is the economic climate.
“Why should I be concerned with this?” I hear you mutter. Well. There are two angles that could have a direct impact on you. Let’s look at the big picture first. During the 2008-2009 recession, entertainment was hit pretty hard and while shows still opened, still toured, and still performed, the number of tickets sold was lower and as such playing weeks were decreased. Going to see a show is considered a luxury and we are one of the first things to be dropped like a hot potato when purse strings get tighter for many people.
Big named productions were relatively safe but smaller and lesser-known ones suffered and as these shows closed, it left many looking for jobs in a time where everyone was holding on to theirs with white knuckles. While we may be over that hill now, it’s something to bear in mind for the future. When I first started on “big girl” shows, I was almost amused by the two weeks notice clause in my contract. Poo-pooing it, thinking, yeah right, like that could actually happen. I now know a scary amount of people who have been given their notices. Some have worked on small productions with very little backing, some have worked with world-renowned companies.
The bottom line is if the show doesn’t sell, or the financial backer sees risks setting in, that’s it, that’s all, ciao-bye!
Always try to keep up to date on your company’s progress and the environment you are in.
On a more personal view, if you go to work for a company that isn’t in your home country you’ll probably be paid in a foreign currency. While it may seem like a good salary, make sure you know exactly how much the exchange will be in your home currency. Also, it is worth noting that exchange rates fluctuate daily and so will how much you take home.
What started out as a good amount might turn out to be a serious low ball. The cost of living can change drastically from country to country and your tour allowances should reflect this. It’s always worth checking with your employer if they have a system in place that alters these amounts to reflect the market you are stationed. Lastly, on a totally boring and grown up subject, know how taxes in the countries you are visiting will affect you. If you have a financial/taxation representative within your company make sure you speak to that person regularly to get all the information you need. If you can’t do that, make sure you are clued in on how much you are being taxed, what you are being taxed for, and most importantly, how much you should get back in rebates!