The term "roadie" is a nickname for "road crew." This person is a technician who travels on tour with a band, and the term can refer to a wide variety of job titles. Guitar techs, bass techs, drum techs, lighting techs, and stage managers, among others, are all part of the category. The roadie serves an essential purpose, and does his or her job to ensure that the band will be able to play at the venue with proper sound and lighting.
A roadie who deals with instruments is generally a musician as well. In some cases, an individual will work on the road crew for a band, while also serving as the main band's opening act. In some cases, he or she may go on to become a successful musician in his own right. This was the case for Noel Gallagher, who was a roadie for the band Inspiral Carpets before rising to fame in Oasis.
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Most people get a job touring with a band either by being a friend of the band's, or by gaining experience working behind the scenes at a theater company or with a production company. People can also gain experience by getting a low-level job at a music venue, and working their way up.
Though many people think that the life of a roadie is glamorous because he or she is touring with a well-known band, the job generally consists of a lot of hard work, and, in many cases, the band members never directly talk to the crew. The road crew generally travels in a separate tour bus from the band members. However, in some cases, roadies become friends with band members, and are acknowledged in CD liner notes and elsewhere.
In 1980, the singer Meat Loaf starred in a movie called Roadie, in which he played a roadie from Texas on tour with a rock band. A former crew member named Karl Kuenning, who has worked with more than 200 bands, including Elvis Costello, BB King, and the Talking Heads, has published a book called Roadie: A True Story (At Least the Parts I Remember), which features his confessions of living on the road.