The following article attempts to shine a light on what many consider to be a rather niche and unique aspect of security protection. Using the format of a question and answer session, Miguel DeCoste will venture to answer ‘what is tour security’ and how does it differ from other forms of security provision.
For many in the field of Executive Protection, the job traditionally consists of assignments with a single client in a locale with which they are already well acquainted. For others, a day may consist of working with a multi-person Detail that involves domestic and in some cases international travel in the government or corporate sector. But what happens when the assignment takes the form of providing protective services for not one individual, but an entire musical tour, headlined by one of the best selling artists of the year? Welcome to the challenging world of Tour Security.
In 2015, one of the year’s biggest sellers in the music industry embarked on a world tour divided into three segments. The last segment would bring the tour back home to the United States where the headliner would be joined in a support capacity with 4 other well-known acts, performing at Amphitheater styled venues around America.
- Sam Alicea (Detail Leader),
- Derion Williams (Front of House security, artist liaison),
- Kevin Lockhard (Back of House security/Transportation coordination)
- John Roche (Security Driver)
First off, did you have any daily processes or checklists?
Sam Alicea: When I first got the call for the job, I looked over the tour dates and the locations. Using those, I was able to begin my pre-advance: developing checklists based on the individual locations. Obviously, they were preliminary because there were plenty of things that I discovered once I arrived onsite. But I had a list of questions for each venue and a daily checklist as well: everything from event personnel onsite to routes to hospitals.
Derion Williams: My process depended on the venue: Arena or Outdoor amphitheater? I would arrive in the morning, do my walkthrough, and work my way down my Advance checklist. With Outdoor Venues, the approach would be a little different, because we had to be prepared for the possibility of bad weather.
Kevin Lockhard: My list didn’t really vary. I had to know the size and layout of the area that was restricted to the artist, invited guest and crew. This included the configuration of the parking spaces, entries, exits, and access points to Back of House and the Stage.
John Roche: For me it was straightforward: Vehicle cleaned and fueled, looking up or double-checking routes, and checking where the Client might need to travel after the show.
John, what type of vehicle did you use and how did you manage to transport both the Team and the Client?
I drove a custom Sprinter van for both the client and our Team, which might be a little difficult to understand at first, however for a touring client their primary method of transportation is a Tour Bus which allowed me the ability to move the team when not assigned to the client’s moment. The team would wait for me to deal with the client, always. I would drop them at the venue in the morning or leave them at the venue post-show, transport the client, and then come back for the team.
Did the team security have briefings on a daily basis? And to what extent did you interact with other security teams or venue management?
SA: We usually gather in the morning at breakfast and went over some things from the previous venue and say, “Let’s pay attention to this or that or let’s try something a little different next time.” And we’d run through the day in the evenings. I absolutely talked to the Security Director at each venue and conducted a briefing with the venue security team every night.
DW: We also had individual meetings during the day to address team members concerns. And since we interacted with the Personal Security Teams of other artists on the tour we were always in contact with them.
KL: Venue management and venue staff were some of my ongoing contacts. They would offer suggestions as to how to handle venue-related issues based off of past experience. They knew the area of operation and how to work it, I just had to configure (or reconfigure) the environment to our needs.
I understand outside of your core team, you used local resources in the cities the tour travelled to. What was your vetting process? How did you decide who to use? Considering there was such a huge learning curve, how did these individuals fit in?
SA: For the most part we used individuals who had gone through the same training program that we all had (ICON), so a big portion of the vetting was already done. Since we knew they were trained up, we just had to fit the right person for the right task. Our process consisted of meetings asking them questions about specific aspects of the job we needed them to do. Their answers pretty much let us know how well-versed they were in the positions we needed to fill. These individuals were here to supplement our existing framework so I worked with their knowledge base. Some would be on escort duty, others, the performance pit – which is the area between the stage and the audience, and others “halls and walls.” Every position was important.
As individuals, what would you say were your biggest challenges on this tour?
DW: I think it was working as “one” as a team. Trying to make sure we had one direction. If we were able to not only meet but beat our goals, those were the times we are always working smoothly as a team.
JR: For me – as a driver – it was the in-city routing and navigation. This was a NATION-WIDE tour. So that meant arriving in a new city – almost every day – not knowing where I was could at times be frustrating, particularly because the client expects you to know. Other than that it was the physical aspect for sure, it was a constant grind and sleep was a limited luxury.
KL: Getting to know the layout of the venues and figuring out the access points was difficult while working under a rapidly ticking clock. Figuring out who could or could not go to different areas of the backstage area, and handling groups of people so they wouldn’t congregate next to the green room, stage, dressing rooms. At first, it was hard to get into a “rhythm” on the transportation side. Coordinating arrivals and drop-offs in terms of importance, especially when VIP’s of different levels of importance arrive at different times! It could get stressful.
SA: Sleep deprivation was the worst part. You need to get a grip on that. It catches up to you very quickly and can affect everything from reaction time to team cohesion, especially when you are doing shows back to back to back.
Derion, you have quite a bit of experience working close protection with a number of A-List Celebrities. Did you see taking on this assignment for tour security as a step backwards for you?
DW: I’m used to working by myself so there were definitely some adjustments that I had to make with the team. More than anything it made me realize some things that I had to work on to be more of a team player. But it definitely was not a step back, there’s more to Executive Protection than just standing next to the Principal.
Sleep deprivation. Stress. Constant travel. What did you do to keep yourself motivated during the long run of shows?
DW: It was challenging, no doubt, but we had the attitude of “New show, new day.” Prove yourself every day.
KL: For me personally, I do a lot of praying. I talk to God and during the trip, I talked to my fiancé, that process always gave me peace of mind.
JR: The major thing for me was to not let anyone down: myself, the team, the client, my family. The drive not to fail pushed me through. That and I knew I had a vacation waiting on the back end!
SA: It was all about keeping a positive outlook on everything. That was really the key. Guys are stressed, guys are tired, guys are worried about their performance. I just had to tell them, “Don’t worry, things are good. Keep working hard.”’
Sam, you obviously handled a lot of the Administrative tasks. Why do you think you were chosen for this role?
SA: I have a background in business and I’m familiar with a lot of the tasks that go along with it. That definitely helped to do the job and probably lead to the decision to have me lead the team.
Along those lines, did you ever feel you were “missing out on the action” when others were involved with “all the action” and you were typing reports?
SA: Not at all. I actually ended up doing pretty much an equal share of both administration and protection. Once I had my paperwork done or the show started, I was fully involved in the security process. So for me, that broke up the monotony of the paperwork and I really enjoyed the multitasking aspect of it.
Ultimately, you are working as a team, which can have its pros and cons. What was the hardest part of being part of a team for an extended period of time?
KL: The city to city driving, going from place to place, trying to sleep AND being jammed in a small space made it tough. The luxury accommodations are for the Protectee, the team made the best of the resources we were given. You just have to be professional and work through it.
JR: Sleep was actually the biggest challenge for me. My goal was to try and get as much rest as possible, that way I could drive the Client and the rest of the team when needed.
DW: Dealing with different personalities, levels of experiences, and work styles. For people used to working on their own, being part of a team means putting a lot of your expectations aside. Different people work in different ways and you have to get used to that.
SA: Understanding personalities and how to handle them, no doubt. Like any other team, you need to start gelling; you need to get to know each other. At the beginning, everything is great; everyone is excited. As the time passes and the different personalities come to fruition, you’ve got to find some commonality and understanding of people. You really have to take that into consideration as you are with each other around the clock. Understanding personalities and how to handle them is key.
How did you resolve or minimize conflicts on the road?
JR: You have to realize that none of it is personal. People get frustrated. I tried to think about situations before speaking to them. And that allowed me to bring it up when things were calmer and we could hash it out.
John, you were the “new” guy on the team. Was there any hazing that went on?
JR: I think there were expectations that I should know or would know things that I didn’t know. So if things didn’t go the way the guys expected, there was some tension that was created. But no hazing, nothing like that.
To carry that point forward, as the new guy, was there ever a point at which you said, “This isn’t for me”?
JR: There were some points where there was tension, but it never made me not want to do the job or walk away. Some of the frustrations and arguments made me say, “I’m not here for this”, but never, “I’m leaving because I can’t do the job.” I would never want to let down the team or our employer. But there were definitely points when I said, “Why am I dealing this ridiculous stuff?”
KL: As for difficulties on the road, we had moments where we talked as a team and sometimes we’d have a one on one conversation to sort it out. You’re not going to get along with everyone, no matter what type of job you have but you figure out ways to make it work. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person for the betterment of the team
DW: You have to talk it out. Riding with each other, eating with each other, being around each other so much, you have to talk through any problems. Discuss things at an appropriate time was part of the process. We may disagree but never in public, we just hash it out at the appropriate time.
SA: In a close setting, sooner or later personalities are going to clash. You just have to be honest and move forward. We would get together and hash it out as a group. We’re not all the same and we handle issues differently, so you have to talk it out.
Were there any issues, lets’ say ego clashes, working alongside the other protective teams that were on the tour, be they the Headliners Personal Security, the other act’s Protectors or visiting VIP’s security Details?
DW: Not really. I think everybody got along for the most part as far as personalities. We did come across any issues, and one of the benefits was that we had previously trained with or knew the majority of the Close Protection teams for the artist. We were all there for one reason, the safety and security of the tour and the individuals on the tour.
Being on the road for an extended period of time takes you away from family and loved ones. What was the hardest part of leaving them behind and how did you reconcile that?
KL: The distance. Everybody can’t handle that distance. Having been in the military and being deployed for long periods of time helped me a lot. You have to have a strong person in your corner, who understands what you do for a living.
DW: It wasn’t tough for me. It’s just part of the job. You deal with it and keep going.
SA: Being married and have a teenage daughter, it’s hard to be away. You have to try and communicate as much as possible. And you have to keep in mind that it is difficult for your family as well.
JR: I haven’t been that far away from home, for that long, for a very long time. It’s necessary to keep a positive interaction with the people back home. And having them remind you of the end goal absolutely helps.
You all seemed to handle internal conflicts, high stress, and lack of sleep as just another day on the job. Tell me about the personal end. How did you deal with things like diet, exercise, and most importantly…laundry?
JR: I did my laundry at the venue or at the hotel, but I will freely admit that there were days when there were some back-to-back wardrobe repeats. Finding an opportunity to exercise was challenging because of a lack of time and locations to train, so not as much of that as I had originally planned. Eating right was not as difficult as I thought. There was a catering service that provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so it was a matter of remaining disciplined and eating the right foods.
DW: I’ll be honest: eating I failed at. And exercise was difficult because of the timing of the workday. If you only have a few hours free, are you going to workout, or sleep? If we got somewhere early, I would do laundry at the hotel or I tried to squeeze it in wherever I could.
SA: When you’re on a tour bus or a van for weeks at a time, getting regular exercise and food is really hard. There is a lot of food provided by catering, but lack of exercise will take its toll no matter how well you eat. You definitely have to watch what foods you’re grabbing. As far as laundry, there is always an option at the venue. Personally, I would use hotel laundry when I could.
KL: Whether it’s food, sleep, or exercise, you just don’t have the choices that you want like you do when you are at home. I grabbed what food I could when I could. The only real constant was breakfast. And exercise? Every now and then, but usually if you had extra time you wanted to sleep! Or do laundry. I did most of mine at the venue.
Looking back on your weeks on the road, do you have any takeaways from the experience?
DW: Everybody does not have the same level of training or attitude or way of doing things that you do. How can I make things work when dealing with people who have different approaches?
JR: You can’t try to be everything to everybody. Do your job and do it well. You need to be yourself, but be a part of the bigger picture. You have to know how to come across as a professional every day.
KL: You have a huge responsibility when you are on a team and working on a tour. There is more ground to cover and a lot of moving parts that you don’t see if you work solo with a client. I would absolutely learn how to manage my sleep better. This leads to improvement in other areas, so that’s a new focus of mine.
SA: On tour, you have to constantly deal with a lot of different moving parts: from administration and paperwork to venue security to stage crew and production staff. It was a bit of a surprise to me the number of different entities that I had to deal with on a regular basis. If you don’t communicate with all of those key personnel, you won’t be successful. Every day is like your first day. Every day.
FINAL TOUR STATISTICS
Days on the road: 45
Miles travelled: 18, 390
Tickets sold: 575,000
Gross ticket sales: 20 Million
By: Miguel DeCoste