Logistics expert to the stars
Sebastian Duellmann is a man with many jobs. When big bands go on tour, he acts as tour manager, production manager and stage manager, with a bit of bookkeeping on the side too. For 17 years, he has travelled with artists from Scooter to Tom Jones and managed shows all over Europe and Russia. We speak to him about plan C and the challenges of tour logistics.
Sebastian, be honest: how many plan Bs do you need to take with you on tour?
I always have a plan B. And another one just in case. I often find that the first plan B doesn’t really work, because the situation on the ground is completely different to what I expected.
How many months of work go into a four-week tour?
That depends on the size and the complexity of the stage show. The location also plays a role of course. There are some places where you know in advance that it is not going to be easy. I’m currently preparing a European tour for the winter of 2018 that will last seven and a half weeks solid. We held the first meeting in April 2017. From that point, I plan a little bit more every day so that I’ve done everything possible to prepare. The rest happens on site.
How does it feel when the lights go out and everyone goes crazy for the star, but not for those who made it all possible behind the scenes?
As long as they are still cheering for the star after the show, we know we’ve done a good job. We are service providers. Our job is to make sure that everything runs smoothly behind the scenes. Only then can the artist put on a good show.
What is the best moment: When everything is ready? Or when everything is disassembled again?
It’s always a good feeling when a show works in real life and not just on paper.
Today Munich, tomorrow Milan. It’s not just a different audience that awaits the artist, but also different technical conditions. How do you go from thinking about one show to the next?
You have to try to turn the stage show that the artist has in mind into different ones: one full-size version and one smaller one. Of course, you also need to keep on top of costs here. It takes a certain amount of knowledge and experience. This doesn’t just come overnight.
When was the last time something went badly wrong?
About two weeks ago, one of our trucks was on its way to Bulgaria when smoke started pouring out of the cab’s engine. That was no fun at all, seeing as it was going directly to a major show. Try finding a mechanic in the middle of the night in Bulgaria. It might make you feel kind of queasy.
If there’s one thing that can put a real spanner in the works, what is it? The equipment? The logistics? Or human error?
All three. If the crew don’t work well together, the trucks don’t arrive on time or the equipment breaks down, it has a domino effect throughout the entire process. But that’s all part of life on tour. You have to handle it, but not everyone can. We are after all talking about a tour group of up to a hundred people, plus a few trucks and buses. It’s a lot of work.