What it's like to tour with a band as a roadie

A day in the life of a concert roadie

Eric Hillman, 37, is a roadie and guitar technician for multiple rock bands that travel across the world.

His responsibilities include running a "bass rig" for P-Nut, the bass player of the band 311, managing the guitar for the band's lead singer/guitarist Nick Hexum and managing sounds from the side of the stage.

He let CNBC Make It have a look inside his life on the road, which made a stop in Philadelphia — one of more than 20 stops on the summer tour.

During our day at The Met in Philadelphia, we had an all-access pass before the rock band 311 hit the stage. Hillman does everything from unloading crates to tuning the guitars and making sure each guitar effect is plugged in and working correctly. He's also responsible for some of the band's social media, posting pictures and videos of the band while on tour and in their studio.

"I wake up in the morning on a tour bus," Hillman said. "Sometimes we'll fly into shows. Wake up in a hotel or something, but get out here to stage and catch cases."

Life on the road may not be for everyone, but Hillman said he sleeps "great" on the buses.

"It's small quarters," he said. "Fifteen years later, we're best buds. Bus bros even. And it's a blast."

Hillman has worked for bands including Dirty Heads, Pepper, Sublime with Rome, Slightly Stoopid and others in their circuit.

"We'll meet on tour. Their guy can't make it, they'll call me," he said.

But Hillman is loyal to 311 because of how close his relationship is to Hexum and P-Nut, he said.

"I'd had this guitar tech for a few years. And right before the tour, he decides, 'Ah, I don't really want to tour anymore. I want to stay home with my girl,'" said lead singer and guitarist of 311, Nick Hexum. "So I was completely in a panic. And our studio manager, Jason, was like, 'You should call Cousin Eric." He quickly emerged as one of the greatest, probably the best roadie we've had."

"But I never knew this job existed until I had it," Hillman said. "And then the first show of their 2007 run was when I joined."

Many of the gigs pay "very well," Hillman said.

"My first tour I came in at a beginner's rate and then was given a raise after my first year," he said. "Making up to $5,000 a week is not unrealistic at all. It's one gig that you can live wherever you want because as long as there's an airport nearby, you can fly to your next gig. Or at least to your next tour."

Of course, the job isn't without its stresses, he said.

"To name everything that could go wrong in a day, you'd have to be with me for a week," he said. "Tube could blow on an amplifier, a wireless frequency for a microphone could get interrupted or just completely drop. Or if you're in a big city or around military bases, their wireless frequencies are totally jammed up. So it's all about diagnosing it quickly and fixing it so you get back to the show."

The hardest part of the job, he said, has "nothing to do with the stage."

"It's being away from people you love," Hillman said. "Being away from family. It never gets easier. It actually gets harder. Man, I send postcards at home all the time. Kind of old school, but people at home appreciate the mailbox love."

And Hillman has some traits that make him well-suited to the job, the band says.

"There's the unspoken thing, which is having a good attitude and being a pleasant person to be around," says Hexum. "If somebody starts to get an attitude, we might call them a 'white glove roadie.' Cousin Eric is the opposite of that."

"Man, I just love being around music and being around rock 'n roll," Hillman said. "The vibe. It's definitely a dream job. It's a job I didn't know was a real thing. But after living it and experiencing it, yeah, it's definitely a dream job."

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook.

make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us