We caught up with tour manager, Alex Rivas to discuss what the future of live performances may look like following COVID19. Since her initiation into the touring industry as an assistant video director for Santana in 2013, Alex has continued to evolve while touring with music icons like Ms. Lauryn Hill, Alanis Morissette, Koffee, Jhenè Aiko, Chronixx, Ella Mai, Tinashe, Lizzo, Nick Jonas, Chloe x Halle, and many others.
Unlike most, Alex was thrust into the industry where the lights shine brightest. Working with legends like Santana and Ms. Lauryn Hill, the learning curve is accelerated. A challenge Alex embraced as her roles on the road continued to expand, often per request from the artists.
After 7 years in the industry, Alex is now focusing on the impact she can have on emerging talent. Although opting for smaller stages, her presence, influence, and experience affords opportunity for these artists to grow at a streamlined pace. Under her company magic hr projects, Alex offers services such as tour management, creative management, and artist relations to provide guidance to artists on the rise.
One of the most difficult aspects of the industry for new artists to navigate is touring. Although it's the most profitable, touring is often one of the last pillars an artist tends to while building their foundation or team. We can't express enough, the value someone like Alex brings to the career of an artist, especially in the early stages. She's witnessed what it takes to sell-out arenas while being exposed to several verticals of the industry.
Alex said it best during a recent Zoom panel for Berklee Valencia, "the role of the tour manager is to elevate the show."
It's not only the show Alex is elevating these days. She is also one of the key figures moving the needle in Reggae. Working on creative projects with one of Jamaica's biggest stars, Chronixx, Alex is focused on championing the music coming out of Jamaica. Something we're very excited about.
Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to your first day as a tour manager, what’s one piece of advice you’d give yourself? Do you remember anything about that first day?
Alex: Don’t over plan. I used to be overly on top of things or think getting things done early is always best. Sometimes letting things flow a little more organically end up with the best result of producing shows/tours.
My first day of being a Tour Manager was end of 2014...somewhere in Texas I believe, then Ghana. I remember how supportive the artist, band and crew were of me directing a tour. Surrounding yourself with a crew who can support you and guide you is just as important as me being the tour manager and guiding them.
How long did it take you to realize this?
Was there a specific moment or experience?
Alex: I think each gig teaches me more and more how to prep and steer the team in the right direction. Each experience you work with a new team on the venue/festival side and even if you’re new to working with an artist/client, so there’s always a “first day of school” feeling. I love that.
How has being a tour manager created other opportunities for you to learn multiple roles within the music industry?
How does your career continue to evolve?
Alex: First off, by meeting so many of the key players with each artist/band. We all live together months out of the year. 10 hour bus rides or multiple flights and then the adventure of putting shows on and being in new places together. I’ve either expressed to the artists and management my other skills or organically have done something where they see my other sides in the business: linking up artists in the studio, etc. I have a huge interest in continuing to work with rising musicians and producers in international places, as I’ve been doing in Jamaica for the last few years and bridging that world and my other worlds in Los Angeles & r&b, etc.
Creative projects are something I’ve been active in too. Curating and producing writing camps, education-based residencies, helping build out Chronixx’s label “Soul Circle Music” recently has been a ton of fun.
What do you have to hear in a song for the first time to feel the desire to learn more about that artist or dig into their discography?
Alex: Raw emotion and some good low end! I’m obsessed with late 60’s early 70’s music mostly, so music definitely needs to have a story to it. Good writing.
How do you think people are discovering new music in 2020?
Will COVID19 change how we consume
or experience music in the future?
Alex: I wish I could say crate-digging but that’s just not true really anymore. It’s digital. I think the current situation is going back to things being about good music though. People want to hear real voices, real production.
As far as experiencing music in a live setting, I think concerts will take a while until we can all be shoulder to shoulder enjoying a show in large spaces. It’ll be small venues then go from there. Which is sweet though. It’ll be someone like Adele doing a string of small club shows for a week. Or The Stones in a 500 cap room! Residency vibe.
What should an artist focus on most during their first headline tour?
Alex: Doing great shows and engaging with their fans as much as possible. Also, learning how to tour smart with good habits. Working with rising artists for the past few years has been sort of like a mentoring program for me in a way: Teaching the newer artists what I learned from the GOAT’s of the biz. I try to pass on some solid insight and Instill positive rituals to keep them motivated.
You’re heavily involved in the Jamaican music community.
Tell us about some of the things you’re doing to build that bridge to the U.S. What’s something you want the world to know about the music being created in Jamaica right now?
Alex: I see Jamaica being up there with the LA/NYC music communities. I want to continue being a bridge for artists and industry personnel on both sides. Doing writing camps, workshops with music students and pro’s, A&R and beyond. It’s indigenous music. It deserves to be on the charts with everything else. So I’m building it out with some other friends in my circle. The music being created is expanding into other genres which definitely is needing to happen to move things forward and upward. Jamaican musicians are such fans of all genres. They know music better than anyone I know or work with elsewhere. It’s such a melting pot.
There are a lot of women killing it in R&B at the moment.
You’ve managed tours for Jhenè Aiko, Ella Mai, Ms. Lauryn Hill,
what’s it like to see this new wave of artists?
Who are a few that you’re listening to?
Alex: R&B is home. It’s always been a well oiled machine but I think right now there’s a lot of nostalgia from previous eras. I love it. It’s getting more diverse with Afrobeat and Caribbean sounds. The live shows are growing with great bands and creative design. The artists and their teams are really killing it.
Ella Mai’s tour featured an entirely female crew. Are you also seeing an increase in music industry positions being filled by women?
Alex: All female except our Stage Manager! But mainly female which was a first for me and most on the team. It was a fun experience! More women in leadership roles and more artists, not only female, requesting female Tour Managers, engineers, etc.
It’s also fun seeing the surprised look when we all arrive at a venue or fest and the grumpy male roadies see us ha!
You’ve told me before that you’re interested in breaking into other genres of music. What interests you the most about the idea of managing a country tour?
Alex: I love the challenge. I have to constantly be in new worlds and doing things that are positively challenging. Country/Nashville is at the top of my list to dive deeper in. I’ve only scratched the surface there.
If I stayed in R&B or just Rock I wouldn’t be growing or expanding my network. I have to keep doing both. I love sharing my skills and network with others I’m close with in the industry. It’s important we all weave together.
Shoutout 3 people who are responsible for helping you get to where you’re at now. What part did they play?
Alex: There’s quite a few but I always name the same people when I get asked this. So I’m going to say a few different people this time that need to be mentioned from my life:
Don Musquiz: tour and prod manager for many but I was mentored by him while he was with Natalie Cole until her passing. We later worked together on Alanis Morissette and continue to occasionally.
Sophie Ash: project manager for many. More recently Parkwood Entertainment, Maverick Carter, Nipsey Hussle, etc. Also one of my best friends. She’s taught me a lot about project mgmt and day to day mgmt for artists. Branding as well. She’s a true legend in the industry.
Peter Thea: Manager, label exec for many years. He’s my favorite artist manager to work with! He was at Parkwood Entertainment when we first worked together. He always lets me do my thing on the road with his clients. We do a lot of great work with newer artists.
I also need to shout out the artists I’m fortunate to work with. Each in their own way have helped me in my journey.
By the end of 2020, Alex Rivas will:
Alex: continue living in gratitude no matter what the situation is in the world.