Tour Tales | Chris Patterson on helping Rapsody headline and being torn about Amy Winehouse's hologram
Even if you’ve never heard of 28-year-old Franklin, Virginia native Christopher Patterson, your favorite artist has probably toured with him.
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.’
Even if you’ve never heard of 28-year-old Franklin, Virginia native Christopher Patterson, your favorite artist has probably toured with him. In less than a decade, the Morehouse College graduate has helped as a tour manager for Rapsody, Jidenna, Janelle Monáe, 6Lack, and a number of other artists that have probably found a home in your favorites playlists over the years.
Patterson is delivering a service that is becoming increasingly more integral to the lifespan of a musician’s career. “In a world of streaming, it’s harder to really sell records. So, what are you doing to make sure that your artist can put on a great live show?” Patterson said to REVOLT TV.
That is part of the reason why Patterson started his touring management company, The Big Fantastic, in 2017. For this week’s edition of “Tour Tales,” Patterson explains how he helped Jidenna and Rapsody with their first headlining tours, the healthier side to touring, and why he’s torn about wanting to see an Amy Winehouse hologram on tour.
You worked with Janelle Monáe in the beginning. When did you become a tour manager for Jidenna?
Early 2015. By then, I had taken on a different role in Wondaland. I had joined their management team, once they brought on new artists like Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and St. Beauty. So, what ended up happening is I ended up handling all of the touring for all of the artists outside of Janelle. So, that would be tour management, production management, or both.
What’s your day-to-day like on tour with these artists?
I tell people I have the least fun job. It’s all logistics and everything that keeps things moving, even though people may not see it. There’s a creative that may go out. Now, what does it take to bring that creative to life. What are the logistics behind it? How much does it cost? Where are we sourcing it from? How are we keeping that creative in motion through the whole tour without losing the allure of it? How do you translate the creative to the stage? That’s from the production side. From the tour management side, it’s how do you do that for 60 days straight.
You were with Jidenna before he had many songs. So, what was the first show with Jidenna that showed you he had a big future?
I think it would be on his headlining tour. The show where it all made sense was the one at Howard Theater in D.C. First of all, it was his headlining date. It was a sold out date. It’s a really urban and black city. Actually, I think the AC was broken that show, everybody was sweating their heads out. But, it felt authentic.
You also worked with Jamla and Rapsody. How did that come about?
That was in 2017. I manage this artist [named] Deante Hitchcock. His agent had got him on tour with Rapsody. We were having a few conversations and he ended up on tour with Rhapsody for her headlining tour after Layla’s Wisdom. When we were putting together the shows for him, I saw where I could help in different places with Rapsody and her management team. So, I reached out to 9th Wonder about filling a void, or just giving people that level of service that they may not even know that they’re missing. A lot of people have management, but getting out on the road is a completely different thing.
Rapsody’s live show appears to be a bit understated with just her and her DJ. Is there anything about her live show that maybe we don’t notice that you had a hand in?
She added a band, the Stormtroopers. She’s been doing a lot with them this year, a lot of the festival dates. It’s a large band. The band is larger than most. She’s doing eight pieces. On these festival stages, you have 30 minutes to change over to do a show. So, I have to get eight line pieces ready and [sound]checked to do a show in 30 to 45 minutes. I think that was a big transition for her and we got into a rhythm of being more seamless.
Her tour was domestic and international. Did you see a difference in the reception the crowd had for Rapsody in the states as compared to overseas?
The reception to hip hop is stronger in Europe than it is in the states. They enjoy real music overseas and they are not shy about it. When you go to a concert here in the states, there’s a lot of people on their phones. They want to show that they are a part of the moment. In Europe, they’re fully committed, they’re present in that moment. They’re not trying to prove that they were in that moment. They are lost in those lyrics.
What are on Rapsody and Jidenna’s riders?
Simple, lots of juices (laughs). What’s been happening is a lot of people are starting to be really conscious about their health and what they put into their body. So, a lot of dressing rooms do have the alcohol and the drinks. But, what I’m noticing more are the requests from artists that are more health conscious. They want to preserve their voice and preserve their body.
Your job is to put out fires and be the ultimate decision maker. Is there an example of some decision you made on tour that can illustrate that?
For a run, I did. Our bus was literally giving out on us in between cities. We were getting to different cities late because we were leaving cities late. We were trying to find out what was going on with this bus and making it look like nothing was even happening. I had to put the artist on a plane, sometimes. But, by any means necessary, that show is going to get done.
Do you feel like there is a priority at record labels to develop a touring artist or is it just, let’s go on tour because you have a hit single?
(Laughs) I think a lot of the artist development has fallen in the gap and I think managers have to do more than they’ve ever had to do. Labels are doing less, but they’re trying to pivot and shift, and figure out what their role is going to be. I think it’s up to managers to really manage artist and put the right resources around them, even if the label doesn’t provide. Can your artist sustain themselves? If artists are making most of their money from touring and shows, are you putting them in a position to be able to do that for a long time? Do they have a performance coach? Do they have a vocal coach? Are they practicing to get the reps and the runs that they need to really sustain themselves as a touring act?
In a world of streaming, it’s harder to really sell records. So, what are you doing to make sure that your artist can put on a great live show? So, even if the labels aren’t doing anything, I think the manager and the artist have to be on the same page with developing a great live show. That’s what I’m seeing a lot of. People are understanding touring. In the streaming age, you can get a hit. But, if you don’t have a plan after that, you can fizzle away. The live experience still can’t be defeated, even in the world of streaming, Instagram, likes, and clicks. That’s something you can’t replicate. That’s something you can’t replace.
It’s interesting you say that because a hologram Amy Winehouse will be going on tour. How do you feel about that?
I am torn. The nerd in me wants to see it. The nerd in me is thinking, ‘How are they going to do it? What is it going to sound like? How perfect is it going to sound? How do you make a hologram for an hour and a half?’ So, the nerd in me wants to see that. But, the music purist and human in me is like, if you saw [her] when she was alive, then you saw [her]. If you didn’t, then that’s the point of stories, folklore, history, and video. That’s what carries on a legacy. I wouldn’t want to see a hologram.
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