Generally, drivers work as independent contractors, which means no health benefits, no pension, and no job security. Any effort to unionize or even lobby for pay increases has been thwarted by an overabundance of drivers and an under-abundance of jobs. Pay is typically about $200 a day, but sometimes tour managers insist on hanging around a venue until after midnight so they can trim the number of days the driver’s on the clock. Many tours now refuse to pay drivers a per diem for their expenses, which as Gillis points out, can be a big deal if the band is staying at the Ritz-Carlton and a burger at lunch costs $17. Rogan says he is sometimes asked to work overtime for free.
“We’re the bottom of the barrel, so whenever they’re trying to cut costs, they’re always trying to screw the driver out of money,” says Rogan. “It used to be a little easier. You’d start a tour and they’d give you t-shirts, swag, free tickets. These days, if you ask for tickets, they look at you like, ‘How dare you?’ It’s gotten a lot tighter.”
Something for the weekend: Spin has a fascinating inside-look at the bus drivers who haul around the biggest music stars in the country, and at how dying record sales and less tour support from record companies have affected bus companies and drivers. There’s a lot of interesting tidbits about how certain stars act on the road (Mariah Carey: “She wants what she wants, but she’s sweet”; Creed: “Fuck every minute of that! Those guys thought they were such a big deal.”), as well as a conversation with one of the few female bus drivers on the road, Jenevieve Cosner, who drives the bus for bands like OK GO (“Fun, artistic and energetic”) and They Might Be Giants (“Clean, quiet, and they’d have these really interesting, intellectual conversations”). I salute these drivers—I once rented a U-Haul big enough to fit all the furniture in a 2-bedroom apartment, and I thought I was going to crash or flip over every time I made a turn.