“Money, get away. Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay.” ((c) Roger Waters/Pink Floyd)
So, what is the best part about driving in the music industry?
The majority of tours either come off the road by Mid December in preparation for the holidays, or head for warmer climes (South of the Equator) over the winter. This leaves the transportation side of the North American business and it’s associated drivers with down time.
Down time is a good thing for both the equipment and the drivers. The equipment stays booked pretty much non-stop through the heat of tour season (February-December) and this down time allows the fleet maintenance guys the time they need to get the equipment back to perfect condition in order to meet the needs of our customers.
This maintenance team at our shop deserves the mention. Under seemingly extreme conditions they keep our fleet of over 80 buses rolling. Our company has an eight person fleet maintenance operation that consists of our Fleet Manager, Don Strait; our parts manager and go-to guy for replacement parts while you are on the road Jason; our two certified diesel mechanics, Buddy and Russell; our lube and oil technician Scott: our interior systems WIZARD Timmy; and lastly and certainly not least the folks that get the buses turned around with interior cleaning, and exterior washes Carol, Mona, Jennifer and Chris.
I mention these folks because they are the lifeblood of keeping your assigned coach on the road. Don has the inglorious job of getting the zero dark thirty wake up call when a coach goes down in the midst of an overnight drive to a scheduled show. He has the ability to find you somebody that can come to your rescue in the middle of nowhere on a Saturday night during a three day holiday weekend.
Timmy has the uncanny ability to pin point any interior system problem that you may have and can probably fix it blindfolded if necessary. Our coaches, I would venture to say, probably have a mile or more of wiring added by our conversion shop when they build out an empty shell and turn it into a rock star hotel on wheels. Everything from DC interior lighting, Satellite television distribution systems with no less than 16 televisions on board, HVAC systems, refrigerators, on-board water and sewer systems and power generation systems to name but a few of the things he is responsible for.
I give an appreciative hat off to all the folks in our shop!
The flip side of that coin is the DRIVER down time! This is the time for you, as a driver in the entertainment world, to sit back, relax, re-group and prepare for next season.
Touring is stressful work and is sometimes made more difficult by having to “deal” with difficult situations. I enjoy my job, but I am looking forward to semi-retirement and the day that I get to pick and choose how much time, if any, I want to be out on the road.
A lot of this being able to relax during the down season coincides with my previous blog post regarding taking care of your personal finances and saving money. I personally try to end my season with a minimum of $10,000.00 in my checking account. I do this because Tennessee will only pay a pre-tax, weekly un-employment compensation of $275.00 REGARDLESS of what your income was prior to filing.
If you have no money set aside, you will quickly go from being well paid, to being paid below the poverty level. And to add to that slap in the face, if you live in Tennessee like me, you will also experience the INCREDIBLE frustration associated with simply trying to APPLY for un-employment in a State that has a history of issues with both it’s website (and you thought Healthcare.gov was screwed up!!) and it’s phone system. It took me TWO WEEKS just to file this year.
Now for the good news of having absolutely NO work for a month and a half! I am writing this from the living room of my fifth wheel camper, with the windows open and an outdoor temperature of 71 degrees (current weather in Nashville is 40 degrees) on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain at Fountainbleau State park in Mandeville, LA.
I have been on “vacay” since leaving Nashville on Christmas Eve and I will leave here in a few days and head for the beaches of the Florida panhandle for the remainder of January.
Planning and proper management of your finances can allow you to do this. I cannot reiterate enough how properly managing your finances and saving money are the keys to your well-being and peace of mind.
Until next time… Motor on