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Olly Rowland: “Don’t be afraid to take risks”

I wish I’d learned that if you’re not sure about something, you’re going to be able to find it out. You’re going to be able to figure it out as you go — especially now with the internet. When I was growing up, the internet was kind of fairly new. But you can find out anything now. […]

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I wish I’d learned that if you’re not sure about something, you’re going to be able to find it out. You’re going to be able to figure it out as you go — especially now with the internet. When I was growing up, the internet was kind of fairly new. But you can find out anything now. You don’t need to get a specific education in an area. There’s a lot of degrees in the university that I feel are totally unnecessary. A lot of it is about your personality and your willingness to kind of learn on the fly. You don’t need to go and get a degree in artist management, for example. I don’t think that’s necessary. I think if you work your way up properly, and you do different aspects of the industry, you start learning all that stuff pretty quick. Not to say, a degree isn’t useful, it’s a great foot in the door. However it doesn’t need to make or break your career aspirations.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Olly Rowland of Rage Touring.

With an extensive background in the entertainment industry, Olly Rowland knows the ins and outs of the field. Rowland got his start as a professional stuntman and department coordinator on major motion pictures including Captain America, HBO’s Game of Thrones, Guardians of the Galaxy, Snow White and the Huntsman, Thor: The Dark World and many more. Rowland has previously worked as a tour and production manager and booking agents for artists including Matt Goss, Bros, Kovic, McFly, The Hunna and more and launched his own tour management and production company, Rage Touring in May 2016.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was working as a stunt man in the film industry in the UK for the better part of 10 years. I had a little break after finishing work on season four of Game of Thrones, and one of my friend’s bands was going on tour. He said if I wanted to come along, I could. So, I went along and drove the van and helped them with their equipment. Soon, it became kind of apparent that they weren’t very good at getting places on time. So I naturally stepped into the tour manager position, before I even knew what a tour manager was. I just started naturally doing it. I really enjoyed it and I enjoyed organizing things and doing itineraries, budgets, and so I kind of went into it a bit further.

Can you explain a few of the hardships you faced when you first started out?

Mainly, I was making it up as I went to begin with, kind of on the fly. If the artist I was working with would start talking to me about something, I would manage to show him I knew what I was talking about. Then, I had to go and furiously google what I just did to make sure it was accurate. And that always seemed to work when I first started out. Everyone was always happy with the job I did, but that was funny. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m always learning. Something difficult for me is that I like to lead from the front if you will, so I’m always trying to start getting help from everyone with all aspects. And it was hard for me. I’d take a step back and realize I didn’t need to micromanage everyone and I could let them do their thing. So that was something that took a while to get used to, just trusting everyone to do their jobs, and I didn’t need to be on top of everyone the whole time.

Where’d you find the drive to continue even though things might have gotten a little hard?

For me, after the most difficult day ever and you could be so tired, but when you see a show go up and go live, and you finally can stand in the back of the arena and just see everything come together that you’ve helped organize and arrange, that feeling is awesome. I love it. It makes me so happy seeing an artist I’m working with go on stage, do their thing, and the light show is amazing and the audio sounds great and the production’s fantastic. It’s a really nice feeling to see that all come together. When the artist comes off stage and they’re happy and high-fiving after a great show, that’s what I love. That feeling is just awesome.

How are things going today, how did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Yes. I mean, I’ve had lots of ups and downs throughout my career, especially in the music industry and [inaudible] industry. I’ve been, kind of, stabbed in the back by people who were working with me. I’ve had clients stolen through lies and things like that. And you just, kind of, have to keep going. You have to, kind of, learn where to cut the poison out and be familiar with — I was always terrible for holding a grudge. And so a big thing for me was learning to just know when to let things go. Don’t dwell and the negatives and just look at what the next thing is, what you’re going to do, and try not to let yourself get overcome with any negative things that pop up or any setbacks. And try and forget about them and just keep moving forwards and learn lessons for next time. I now know a lot of things I wish I’d know a year ago and two years ago and three years ago. I’ve learned a lot and I’ll know what mistakes to not make again.

Could you share a story about your funniest mistake and what you’ve learned from it?

Well, probably early on in my career when I was trying tour managing, I was kind of doubling up on jobs because I wanted to make sure I was coming in under budget and things. I assumed that being a video guy was fairly easy, and I’d wrongly assumed that. So I turned up at a show just with a laptop and a projector and figured it was all good. And then I, kind of, plug everything in. I just couldn’t get it working for the life of me. And I’m profusely sweating, stressing out. I’ve got an artist coming in to rehearse for their show and I couldn’t get the projector to work. I spent about three hours on the phone with a video chat, talking me through it so I could get it set-up right. The artist came in, and I still wasn’t there. They kind of start panicking and it was all a bit on edge. Then, I finally got it running with the help of this guy over the phone and it was all a big massive relief. The artists jokingly made a joke out of it and I learned my lesson to never try and do that on my own. So from then on, I always hired a video guy! And that’s the most funny.

My second one is quite different. One of my other careers, I was a venture cameraman, and I was filming this boat race out in Zanzibar. I would jump off of my camera boat to then, kind of, roll onto the racing boat, then start the interview and interview the guys racing. I did it in what was known as a very busy bull shark breeding ground area where it was highly recommended you don’t get in the water, and no one told me about it. I just kind of jumped off my boat without mentioning. Then I heard everyone shouting on the boat behind. It it really was fine, but the minute they told me after just what I’d done, yeah, that was definitely a mistake, something I wish I hadn’t done.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

When I started my touring and production company, Rage Touring, in the UK, I wanted to make it a reliable tour management company, which was something I found didn’t really exist. I wanted to make a touring company where you knew as an artist or as artist’s management, that you were in good hands, no matter who got sent. You may not know them, you may not have worked with them before, or you may have done, but you knew whoever turned up was going to kind of follow the same protocols, and run everything perfectly. Everything would be scheduled perfectly. Your artists would be looked after. Your artists would have everything they wanted right away. They’d be made to feel safe, and confident, and know there’d be no issues from anything else so they could just concentrate on their job in hand, which is getting up and singing, or getting up and doing their talk, or their comedy. And it worked.

What tips would you recommend to your colleagues to help them thrive and not burn out?

Something I was guilty of was trying to do too much and do every job oftentimes to save money. I was chasing coffee with Red Bull and starting my days at 4:00 AM and finishing shows at midnight, and then I’d often drive myself, or some crew to the next location instead of hiring a driver. And I realized fairly quickly one human can’t keep doing that, you’re going to end up killing yourself. Although you could save a couple hundred dollars in your pocket, you’re actually better off spending that on a driver or an assistant, or whatever you might need, to take a bit of the pressure off yourself. You can’t do everything and you’ll end up running yourself into the ground and hurting yourself.

Is there a particular person who you would say you’re grateful towards that helped you get where you are?

There were definitely a few people. My best friend Mark and his brother Ben to start. They were in a band together and I started out driving their tour van and booking tours for them, we’ve been best mates since we were 12. They were always very supportive and I could call them and ask them for help if I needed something. My parents as well, have always been incredibly supportive of me. A lot of parents would laugh at or not want you to be a stuntman, adventure cameraman or tour manager. They’re all slightly weird jobs and my parents have always been so supportive of that. Even if it was dangerous jobs like swimming with bull sharks or throwing yourself off a building or whatever it was stunt wise, they were always really supportive and helped me a lot with just that drive behind me. More recently, my girlfriend Charlotte has helped me through some stressful and tough times, she’s been a driving force of positivity behind me and kept me going whenever I felt down and couldn’t necessarily see the light through the trees.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve always tried to support any kind of charity events that I can. There was a big charity event a few years back for a management team that I did a lot of work for. The mother of one of the managers there was building a school in Africa so we were raising funds for that. I covered all of the production costs and called in some favors to send my own guys there and paid them out of my pocket to run the show. Separate to that, I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, and have been since I was 17. After I started my many careers I started a kind of online blog called the Diabetic Adventurer. I would tour around hospitals in the UK, and go to the diabetic children’s wards to give presentations and talk to the young kids who had diabetes, and their parents. I’d give them real-life advice that you don’t get from a doctor. It’s coming from someone who has diabetes. Just to tell these kids and these young adults that I’ve done all this crazy adventure stuff — I’ve been on film sets and toured arenas with big artists and encourage them that they can do the same. The kids would then come up to me afterwards and be excited. It really seemed to inspire them and that’s something I always want to continue doing. I work with JDRF, it’s a big diabetes charity, internationally in the UK and the US, and I go do talks with them whenever possible.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. To not be greedy and to spend a little bit more money for my own health. You know, my own mental health, my own sanity.
  2. I wish I would have been told, it’s not all about work. I went through a while of having a very unbalanced work life and because of that, relationships suffered and friendships suffered and it was impossible to do both. I didn’t need to be working 18 hours a day, 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, which I did do, and then I lost friendships because of it. So I wish I could tell myself, take a step back, now. Give yourself some time, even if it’s two or three hours on a Sunday, or whatever it is, to keep in touch and just reach out to some of your friends.
  3. Don’t be afraid to take risks. I think that was a big one for me. To begin with, although I would say yes to a lot, it took me a while before I felt confident enough to start a company. It was always intimidating in my head, and actually, after I did it, there was no reason for it to be. I wish I’d done it earlier instead I’d probably worked on my own, for a year or two before I started it, and I wish I had demonstrated that. It was a very intimidating concept because of accounting and employment laws, and all that kind of stuff but wish I had done that a lot earlier.
  4. I wish I’d learned that if you’re not sure about something, you’re going to be able to find it out. You’re going to be able to figure it out as you go — especially now with the internet. When I was growing up, the internet was kind of fairly new. But you can find out anything now. You don’t need to get a specific education in an area. There’s a lot of degrees in the university that I feel are totally unnecessary. A lot of it is about your personality and your willingness to kind of learn on the fly. You don’t need to go and get a degree in artist management, for example. I don’t think that’s necessary. I think if you work your way up properly, and you do different aspects of the industry, you start learning all that stuff pretty quick. Not to say, a degree isn’t useful, it’s a great foot in the door. However it doesn’t need to make or break your career aspirations.
  5. I wish someone had told me to take time to eat. That was something I stopped doing for a while. I was so busy and so frantic trying to cram all of these meetings in. I’d be grabbing a coffee on the go or an energy drink, and all of a sudden, a month or two months later, I’d lost a ton of weight. It wasn’t until my friends started to comment, “You lost an unhealthy amount of weight. You need to eat a sandwich or something.” I realized I needed to make just a little bit of time for myself during the day just to grab some food.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

Oh, wow. That’s a great question. Well, just everyone being kind to each other, it’s something that I’ve noticed in a comparison between London and the U.S. A lot of people just say, “Hello,” “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and they’re friendly toward total strangers. And in comparison to my experience from London and England, everyone’s very much keeping to themselves and keeping their heads down. I mean, it was so much more pleasant to know that as you stop and say, “good morning,” or “hello,” you’ll get a nice response back. Just talking to people and being pleasant and not looking at your phone the whole time, I think it really seems to make people happy. And you can change someone’s day just by a nice smile and a, “hello.” You can make someone who’s having a bad day cheer up. I think that would be a good start in the world we’re in, just making people smile and taking their minds off the news and the things you’re kind of having to see and hear a lot of at the moment. Trying to make people smile and make their day that little bit better, I think would be a huge difference today around the world.


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