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Tour accountant for Robbie Williams, Radiohead and Nick Cave reflects on year without live music

From the side of the stage to stuck on the sofa, the past 12 months have been somewhat alien for Ade Bullock.

Having spent nearly two decades on the road with star-studded clients like Radiohead, The Arctic Monkeys and Nick Cave, the tour accountant and director from Rochester is impatient to get back on the open road.

Ade set up Bullocks in 1999 and has been working with bands ever since
Ade set up Bullocks in 1999 and has been working with bands ever since

It's been a career of unforgettable moments - including an appearance on stage in front of thousands of fans, wearing nothing but Robbie Williams' y-fronts and a gigantic model of his head.

The 53-year-old said: "They made these big fibreglass Robbie heads for the main tour, and me and tour manager Jackie were more of the portly size so we were co-opted into it.

"We got paid 20 euros a night cash in hand and a beer, so it was well worth doing - we just had to go on stage and do just dance around for a couple minutes and go off, which was fine.

"But on the last show of the tour in Auckland, management decided it would be more fun if Jackie and I were dressed differently, and we were given these medium-sized Robbie pants and had to do our bit on stage.

Ade on stage during a Robbie Williams Auckland show - style icon? You decide...
Ade on stage during a Robbie Williams Auckland show - style icon? You decide...

"Yeah...not the greatest moment."

Aside from the fun that comes with touring, Ade would routinely be hard at work negotiating contracts, working with promoters and sifting through various piles of paperwork to ensure each mammoth operation is financially sound.

Playing venues across the world is one of the few ways bands can make a decent living these days - with streaming platforms such as Spotify paying around $.003 per listen, the bulk of the money lies in the gig tickets and merchandise.

Since setting up his tour management company Bullocks in 1999, Ade has made it his business to make the experience as painless as possible for his clients.

But the industry was effectively shut down 12 months ago when the world went into sudden meltdown.

Arctic Monkeys performing in 2013
Arctic Monkeys performing in 2013

Ade was in Melbourne for the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, where client Robbie Williams was due to play to motorsport fans and adoring crowds alike.

But just a day before the gig, governing body Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) cancelled the race as Covid-19 swept through the team paddocks and threatened widespread transmission.

No fans meant no concert, and Ade was forced to fly back to the UK and return to Medway.

He said: "A lot of us stay in touch - all the touring crews - but it's been very weird and difficult.

"A lot of people missed out on furlough schemes thanks to the nature of self-employment and the way people work in the industry. So a lot of people have taken delivery driver jobs, BT engineers, you name it."

Ade has been fortunate to travel all over the world with his superstar clients
Ade has been fortunate to travel all over the world with his superstar clients

Ade has been in the fortunate position to spend more time at home and live off of money he had accumulated from past jobs and tours.

"We all say 'save for a rainy day' and it's been ******* it down for a year now...it's been great to spend some time at home, but also it's been unusual."

The winds of change are starting to pick up though - summer festivals across the country have begun announcing a return following the government's steady roadmap out of lockdown, bringing back memories of cold beer, balmy afternoons and the odd torrential downpour.

Black Deer festival in Eridge Park, near Tunbridge Wells, announced earlier this year that the Country and Americana extravaganza will be going ahead on June 25-27.

Other UK festivals have followed suit and revealed their line ups - Victorious in Portsmouth and TRNSMT in Glasgow have announced artists like Liam Gallagher, Courteeners and Primal Scream for their summer events.

Robbie Williams is one of his main clients
Robbie Williams is one of his main clients

But despite this glimmer of hope for the live music scene, Ade believes global tours could still be another year away.

He said: "Realistically, I don't see international touring happening until next year - possibly bits and bobs, a show in France here, a show in Germany there maybe.

"Everyone now feels that vaccination is the answer, so we need to get that rolled out across the globe."

Some of the artists he works with have decided to hold their tours until 2023 because so many bands - Covid spikes permitting - will be fighting it out to book venues in 2022.

And the pandemic has not been the only issue the touring expert is now faced with.

"Realistically, I don't see international touring happening until next year..."

Following Britain's exit from the EU, there are now a slew of complications involved with bands touring across the world.

Elton John, Sting and Bob Geldof branded the government 'shameful' in February, following a rejection of a waiver scheme that would allow British musicians to tour the EU without the need for visas.

When touring is able to resume again, Ade is going to have a good few logistical headaches to try and soothe.

He said: "Brexit is completely going under the radar at the moment because of the smoke screen that is Covid - I'm very worried about it.

"People are always asking 'what's happening with work permits and stuff?' And I say, look, I've got an email sent last year which is what the rules are as of today for the 27 countries, which says potentially for every single country we've got to do different things.

"Why have we done this to ourselves? It's completely insane. But we'll see what happens."

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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