Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ’Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’
If you’ve been to a hip hop show in 2019, chances are you were at a show with an artist from one of the hottest labels in rap: Since The 80s — and this includes any Earthgang, 21 Savage, JID, or Njomza shows. Twenty-five-year-old Columbus, South Carolina native Tra’Von Williams has helped every Since The 80s artist with their live shows in some capacity, but it’s his time with Njomza that gives a look into how the label is modeled after one of the storied labels of all time.
“We rode city to city on the same tour sprinter. It was very reminiscent of the old Motown [Records] days,” Williams told REVOLT TV. “Nowadays, artists’ tour parties travel in different vehicles. But, the old Motown [way] is how we structure and build our company.”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Williams explains how Njomza’s fanbase is like a cult, how Since The 80s builds artists into touring acts, and more.
The first tour you worked on was the ‘Rockstar Tour’ with 21 Savage and Post Malone. What did you learn from that experience?
I was there assisting 21 Savage’s side. I was making sure the numbers were right at the end of the night and the merch company did their job — almost like checks and balances. Most of my experience then came from communicating directly with the artist and artist management team in terms of setting up meet-and-greets and VIP packages. That was very interesting because it was a very customer service situation since the fans are the customers. My job was to provide them with an experience of being able to be a VIP ticket holder and meeting 21 Savage.
How important is an artist’s live show or ability to tour to Since the 80s?
Our goal and mission with starting the company was to develop artists. That extends from their music all the way to their performance and touring. I know you’ve probably seen how much [Since The 80s co-founders] Barry [“Hefner” Johnson] and [Zekiel Nicholson] tour the artists they actually manage. EarthGang and JID are constantly on the road several times out of the year going on international runs, domestic runs, and even college runs. Following some of their footsteps and patterns they’ve been working with, you come to the realization that touring is really important. Getting an artist on the road to garner support from fans and new fans is something we’re big on. The only way for an artist to constantly learn how to tour and how to perform is to constantly go at it and practice at it.
One of those Since the 80s artists you’ve helped develop on the road is Njomza. What has she got better at?
I’ve noticed she’s gotten better [at] being comfortable with her show. Her first headlining tour, which was the ‘Vacation Tour’ this year, we did smaller capacity venues. Of course, she practiced day in and day out way before the tour. But, there’s always the first few shows where you ask, ‘How did that go? Maybe we should switch this and add this.’ It’s about rhythm. As she was in the middle of her tour run, she had the rhythm and it was second nature.
Is there a specific show where you felt like she finally figured out the rhythm?
Not one show specifically. Whenever the energy of the show is at an all-time high, that’s when you’ve seen the craziest shows. For me, I’m very particular. So, I’ll notice the small things like her missing a beat. The little things that I notice, no one would ever notice because the energy is so high.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve done with Njomza?
One of the most memorable shows was her hometown show [in Chicago]. L.A. was amazing and most of her shows were sold out. But, she’s from Chicago. So, at the show, you have family, cousins, brothers, high school friends, sisters and all. Her DJ is also from the Chicago area, too.
I‘ve seen fans cry for her at Governor’s Ball this year. Have you seen reactions like that at other shows?
That’s pretty common for Njomza shows and sets. The thing is, Njomza has a cult-like following and these fans have been fans from way back when. There was one show where a fan brought an old tape of hers from when she was a teenager doing this music thing. Her fans are really into her music. When Njomza does her tribute to Mac Miller, you’ll see [fans crying] because a lot of her fans were also Mac Miller fans. Njomza and Mac had a great relationship. She has a ‘remember’ tattoo with the m’s capitalized to symbolize ‘Mac Miller.’ At every show, she makes sure to show tribute to Mac Miller and when that song comes on, you can tell people really feel this shit.
That’s love. What was the rider on the ‘Vacation Tour’?
Of course, they’re singers, so they need the throat coat to prepare her before the show and after the show. Most of the time, it’s just like anyone else. She eats very healthily. There’s a lot of healthy options. But, our favorite drink is Jameson (laughs). The Jameson was for team Njomza.
Touring can be very lonely, but it looked like it was a very family-like vibe on that tour. What are some examples of that?
It was definitely a family vibe. We were all on the same tour bus. We rode city to city on the same tour sprinter. It was very reminiscent of the old Motown [Records] days. Nowadays, artists’ tour parties travel in different vehicles. But, the old Motown [way] is how we structure and build our company. On the ‘Vacation Tour,’ we had a little pass the aux [cable] situation. When someone would get on the aux, they would have to play some of their favorite songs in that city. We would go to D.C. and play some go-go music. When we were in New York, we were playing some Biggie and 50 Cent. We were really getting local. It was a fun little vibe for us.
We were in Philly getting cheesesteaks. We were in New York at the bodega getting chopped cheese. We were getting real local. A big thing for us is to immerse ourselves in these different cities because they’re paying and supporting us.
Out of all the shows that you’ve been to on that tour, what’s the most start-studded backstage area you’ve ever been in?
I believe she had Vince Staples come out in Los Angeles. Even outside of the tour, we did a one-off show in Chicago and I heard Taylor Bennett came. He just came in the crowd as a fan.
How about any other backstages from other artists?
When we were on that ‘Rockstar Tour’ with 21 Savage and Post Malone in L.A. at the Hollywood Bowl Justin Bieber and I was on the side of the stage doing funny dances. At that show, backstage was Beiber, Miguel, Tyga, Swae Lee, Cuban Doll, and so many other people. It was two shows back to back and it was so many artists at each show.
We’re entering a new decade. What can we expect from Since The 80s in regards to touring?
I’m excited to share that Njomza is going on her first international run with Dominic Fike. This is my first international run, as well. We’re going to New Zealand and Australia, as well as all of Europe. Her first show is on October 8. That’s one of the big things we’re working with now. Our artist Ashiahn has a tour coming up, as well. She’s doing some dates with PJ Morton. We have some more signees we’re going to be announcing pretty soon. As it is with the Since The 80s culture, send them on the road.