October 2015

How to Assemble a Guest List

The guest list is a seemingly simple endeavor, but for whatever reason becomes the pitfall of many a tour manager. What’s so hard about writing a bunch of names down? Well, that’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be hard. What’s difficult is going from scrawling 5 names on a bar napkin to finagling a 100+ person list with varied tiers of credentialing. It’s the same basic concept, but for the uninitiated it seems like an insurmountable task.

The first step is to find a better way of collecting your guests. Collecting names via inbox and text message does work, but it is quite time consuming, and greatly increases the risk of a name being left off. I’ve found that using a shared cloud document does a much better job of replacing the previously mentioned method. You still bear the ultimate responsibility of making sure everyone is taken care of, but it removes the step of trying to find the names amongst a cluttered inbox. All of the names are somehow magically there! Albeit, there is some formatting to be done, but goshdernit, they are there!

Some categories to include on this document: last name, first name, who is requesting, what organization they are with, how many tickets, and what (if any) credentials this person may need. Getting people in the habit of using this document will help to streamline your day. If a specific show has parameters or limitations on the guest list, make this information known well in advance. If a deadline is approaching, remind people. It’s your job.

Below is an example of what I’m talking about.

guestlist-templateWait as long as possible to submit your guest list. Without fail, you will receive a guest list addition seconds after you submit your list to the box office. It happens every time. Go ahead and get over it. Now, with that being said, set some clear expectations from the get go.

I like to ask that people submit their guests no later than three hours prior to doors. This allows you ample time to stuff envelopes and deal with all the other stuff that comes up in your day. If someone submits something late, especially a new support band on a tour, let them know they are late. If you don’t, you are going to be dealing with that nonsense all tour long.

Knowing where a guest request is coming from is important. If something changes, or needs attention, you have to know who to contact to pass information along. More importantly it’s for accountability and security, especially if someone has been granted backstage credentials.

Make sure to alphabetize your list. The faster they can find the name, the faster people get into the room. Nothing worse that a slow door. Also make sure to include your contact information at the bottom of the list should any issues arise and things need to get sorted quickly. Worst feeling in the world is when a guest is kept waiting outside, for whatever reason.

New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, London. They are industry hubs, and because of this, the guest lists here tend to be slightly more complicated than elsewhere. Consider coordinating a ticket buy months in advance to avoid anyone being left out in the cold. Capacity issues are a real thing. Nip it in the bud. If you get in the habit of treating every guest list like you would a NYC or LA guest list, soon you won’t be able to tell the difference.

We’ve all received that text at some point. “Hey, buddy.” For whatever on earth could this human I have not heard from in months possible want 10 minutes before doors on a show that’s been sold out for months? I’m always down to help people when I can, but my thought process these days tends to yield closer to the territory of they should know better. Sorry!

One thing I do try to make happen is courtesy for other bands and crew who might be in the neighborhood on a day off. Have a few folks who want to come out to the show and say hello? Of course! I think that’s an important practice, and one that should be honored. Treat others how you would like to be treated. Simple stuff.

If you are dealing with a seated show, you can’t just haphazardly submit names. You need to look at a seating chart, and figure out who needs to sit where. Who wants to show up as a group and then be fractured into a terrible seating arrangement? Bad TM, bad! Beyond groupings of persons, it’s important to think about who is in the room. Would it make sense for person A to know person B? Facilitate that, controller of guest list!

When you do finally submit the guest list, print off two copies. Submit one to the box office. Keep the other one posted in your production office. When an issue arises, you can simply look up and see exactly what you submitted. When you realize you’ve made a doofus mistake, you can own up to it as well. Do not pass blame off to anyone, ever. That person working the box office has a tough job. Make it as easy for them as possible. Earlier I said to include your contact information when submitting the guest list. Don’t forget to get the box office contact as well.

Make sure you let your guests know where to pick up their passes. This is something you don’t want to have to deal with day of show. Club shows are fairly intuitive as far as where to pick up passes, but festivals are the difficult ones because of the sprawling nature of their layout. Include a map and as much helpful information as possible.


Now, as far as credentialing, there are an infinite number of tiers or types of tickets/passes one could include. For the sake of example and simplicity, I’m going to keep things pretty basic here. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what a pass means, ask.

Variations in shape, size, color, and finish are meant to help security differentiate between levels of credentialing. Passes are often checked in low light environments. Keep this in mind when reviewing potential designs for a pass order. Arrange to have a security meeting before doors to go over any outstanding issues, and make sure the house security is on the same page as the tour. Give them a color copied sheet of what each pass means. Also, when putting tickets and passes in envelopes for the door, make sure to seal them. Don’t let your passes go missing.

Cube Passes has some really great examples of what all is possible in this realm. I’ve used them in the past, and I highly recommend them.

All Access (w/ escort) – this is the pass that will allow you to go anywhere, along with being able to escort guests backstage. Maybe the headliners pass has a hologram on it, or is a different color, to denote escort privileges. I never grant escort privileges to support in an effort to keep a clean backstage, and to avoid any security issues. Things always happen when people are escorted back, and suddenly disappear.

All Access (w/ no escort) – See above.

VIP – Sometimes a venue offers a hidden room, a back bar, or a table that is neatly placed with fantastic sight lines and a bit of privacy. Maybe you want to make someone feel extra special? There are lots of options in how a VIP pass can work.

After Show  – This is the pass that will allow guests to come back for an after show meet and greet. This would not allow access to the VIP area. When you submit your guest list, include instructions for where after show guests should meet to be brought backstage.

Photo  – The photo policy for every artist is going to be different. It is up to you to make sure the house knows your photo policy. In my experience, I’ve found that the first three songs with no flash is industry standard for shooting. I typically don’t allow stage or backstage access, unless we are specifically bringing in a known and trusted photographer. Be wary with video, because some venues charge an origination fee for professionally shot material. Put your photo policy on the guest list when you submit it.

Working – Perhaps you have local crew who need to be credentialed for the day. Voila!


Take the ideas here and apply them to your situation. Submit your guest list with confidence. When you don’t hear anything from anyone on a busy list night, you’ve done your job well. Continue to do so. Have feedback? Would love to hear from you.