If you want to make a living as an artist, you must tour. Touring puts money in your pocket, connects you with fans, and gives you instant feedback on your music. Touring is the lifeblood of the artist’s career. Yet, until recently, there was no central company handling all the ins and outs—photography, merch, etc.—and truly serving the artist. Enter: TourLife, the premier solution for artists looking to centralize their touring needs.
“A lot of artists and their managers, when they’re building up for a tour, they’ll reach out to around 15 or 20 vendors for all the services you’ll need for tour: merch, artwork, video, vehicles,” explains Harry Parslow, TourLife’s founder. “There’s so many different parts of [tour] and so many companies that specialize in one or two things, but there’s not a company that takes care of everything in-house. TourLife is about making life easier for an artist’s manager, and also saving artists money.”
Parslow, 22, had his passion for music and touring sparked at 14 with the Up in Smoke Tour documentary. The behind-the-scenes footage unlocked a passion in Parslow, which he only further cultivated upon meeting Xzibit backstage at 14. The TourLife dream began when Parslow turned 16, and he has not looked back since.
“We start college earlier over here, and in my first week of college, my tutor said to me: ‘Would you like to borrow any of the equipment to shoot your own stuff?’,” Parslow recalls. “I chose media and film [as a major] because I thought that would be my road to shoot with an artist and tour. I wanted to further what artists do. I wanted to work alongside artists and do a service that adds value to their careers. I went full-time in 2017 with two other members of staff. We had a small office space, one room we rented from the start. We gradually grew TourLife by working with smaller local artists and doing shoots.”
Now, TourLife, based in Europe and expanding into the US, is a full-fledged operation dedicated to helping artists get the most out of touring. Artists, TourLife is here for you.
My full conversation with Parslow, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did you first fall in love with music?
Harry Parslow: When I was growing up, like 14, I saw the documentary for the Up in Smoke Tour. I loved seeing the behind-the-scenes footage and seeing artists backstage, and what went into [a show]. All of that was exciting to me—seeing what goes into getting the artist onto the stage. After I saw that DVD, I saw that Xzibit had a show where I live in Bristol, England. I got tickets for that concert.
[At the show], I recognized his tour manager and his security guard. Being a 14-year-old kid, I went up to [the security guard] and asked: “What is it like being on tour with a rapper?” We had a great conversation. After the show, I tweeted to Xzibit and said, “Can you just thank your security guard?” He told his security guard we could have a little meet-and-greet backstage.
What’s the TourLife elevator pitch?
A lot of artists and their managers, when they’re building up for tour, they’ll reach out to around 15 or 20 vendors for all the services you’ll need for tour: merch, artwork, video, vehicles. There are so many different parts of [touring] and so many companies that specialize in one or two things, but there’s not a company that takes care of everything in-house. TourLife is about making life easier for an artist’s manager and also saving artists money.
Talk to me about the history of TourLife.
We started when I was about 16. We start college earlier over here, and in my first week of college, my tutor said to me: “Would you like to borrow any of the equipment to shoot your own stuff?” I chose media and film [as a major] because I thought that [would] be my road to shoot with an artist and tour. I went home from college, went to the nearest music venue we had, and I waited outside the Mac Miller show with a camera. I didn’t know how it worked [laughs]. I just waited by the tour busses and [looked for] anyone that looked like they worked with the artist and said: “Hey, can I shoot an interview?” That went as well as you thought it would go [laughs].
I waited for the supporting act, that was Rockie Fresh. When Rockie came out, I said, “Hey, Rockie. My name’s Harry; I shoot videos for touring artists. Can I shoot an interview with you?” He was nice about it and let me shoot a small interview. From that day, I learned [about] the different people you need to speak to to get access [to artists].
I built up my contacts while I was working at a supermarket for two years. I went full-time in 2017, with two other members of staff. We had a small office space, one room we rented from the start. We gradually grew TourLife by working with smaller local artists and doing shoots. Increasingly, [we] got bigger [and began] working with more well-known artists.
One year later, I used part of my student loans on flights to LA. That was to try to meet Xzibit and tell him about TourLife. I reached out to everyone in his circle. I got one response from his radio producer. He emailed me back and said, “Hey, I can’t guarantee Xzibit will be at the studio, but I’m happy to show you around the studio we work from.” To me, that was a big deal.
I was just this 17-year-old kid in LA, just hoping to meet Xzibit. As I walked into the studio, he sat there on the sofa. He talked to me about TourLife, and I told him about what I think it could be. I told him there’s a gap in the market for that full service [agency] that takes care of everything for artists. Maybe he saw something in me. He took me to Dr. Dre’s studio and showed me around. From there, he invited me out on tours to do some work with him. It gave me my first taste of working on a tour.
What problems did you see in the industry that inspired you to make TourLife a solution?
There are a lot of companies that don’t provide any credible service, and some of the costs independent artists have are very high. There needs to be a way artists can find a reliable company and can take care of multiple things. For example, when an artist goes on tour, a lot of them have a tour manager, someone who sells merch, and someone who shoots photos and video. All of these people might come from different companies. It is more affordable on the artist’s side when you hire highly skilled people who take on multiple roles and save artists money and time.
When everyone has a cell phone camera to produce behind-the-scenes content, why should an artist invest in TourLife?
I agree with you; some great video gets turned around by artists who are personal on their Instagram and their phones. But the videos that can be produced by someone from TourLife not only increase ticket sales but are profitable. It’s not just there for the sake of showing off. Our team knows how to market the videos they produce, how to edit them and push them across social channels.
What’s the single most important thing TourLife offers?
Other than a company like Live Nation, who mostly caters to the arena artists, we can help independent artists by not taking advantage of the high markup in touring. For us, it’s a more personal thing. We take pride in the work we do; we’re passionate. TourLife is much more than a job to us.
For example, we produce the merchandise for the rapper Dee-1 from New Orleans. He gave us a call saying the merch company let him down for his European tour. We printed his T-shirts the same day and caught a flight out to the Netherlands to deliver his merch. We didn’t make any money, but we were willing to do that. Over-delivering for an artist goes a long way. That’s how you create a lasting business.