A little over a year ago, I the Mighty was opening for Enter Shikari. I saw two shows on that tour, one in New York and then a few days later in Boston. I was there for I the Mighty, but at the New York show I watched Enter Shikari from the barricade as well because I figured I should give them a chance. They put on a terrific live show, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled to the point of I would care to watch again.
So in Boston, I opted to hang out at I the Mighty’s merch table instead after their set. This was before they had a merch manager (whose name is Life in case you were curious), so bassist Chris Hinkley was manning the table. At one point he gets up to go socialize or something and turns to me and asks if I’ll watch the table.
Watch it? Nah, I’ll sit down and try to sell stuff.
Unfortunately I don’t think Enter Shikari was the best match for them, as I was unsuccessful the whole night. I think some things sold at the beginning of the night and again at the end, but the entire time I manned the table, the most exciting thing that happened was Chris buying me a drink. The boys all gave me hugs at the end of the night and thanked me for my efforts.
Jump forward to November when the boys are opening for Hands Like Houses (who they are currently on tour with in the UK). This tour I only hit one show, and it was in New York. Rather than even pretend to watch Hands Like Houses, I basically spent the entire night at merch aside from when I was rocking out to their set (and jumping around on stage like an idiot).
Life was around by this point, so I wasn’t needed to actually sell anything. But there were these “mystery bags” for sale and I was doing everything I could not to buy one even though I really wanted to know what was in them. So when a guy comes up and starts talking to me, I dive right into a pitch trying to convince him to buy one.
That guy did buy it, and the bags turned out to have older shirts in them that weren’t hanging up for sale. And that guy turned out to be Biz, who I thank for introducing me to the rest of my Coheed crew from the last tour and Denverender. All because I successfully sold him a shirt.
Up until a few weeks ago, this had been my only experience working merch. Sitting at a table and convincing one person to buy one thing.
But experience is experience, so when a friend texted me saying she had a paid merch gig lined up if I wanted it, I said I was in.
This was not for a band. It was for YouTubers Dan and Phil. And it was a huge venue, not like the Webster Hall Studio or Paradise Rock Club. I’ve been a concertgoer and merch-buyer much more often than I’ve been behind the table, so I could only picture the mobs of people, ultimately getting angry that they haven’t been helped yet when I can’t figure out an order to serve them in. Those are the crowds I’m used to being a part of. Where I wave my money in someone’s face hoping they decide to take it from me. I was not ready to deal with people like me.
Fortunately the crowd for Dan and Phil is largely teenage girls and their parents. If anything, they were on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, which was quite wonderful.
I got to the venue early afternoon and was immediately sent on a Panera run. When I got back, we were sorting through the merch, counting out stacks of 20 tour lanyards, rolling and counting posters, and separating everything between the two merch tables. I got sent upstairs to what I was told would be the less crazy of the two. People would be coming in downstairs and would immediately hit the merch table.
Somehow it didn’t shock me that we were absolutely bombarded as well.
I got warned early in the night that we would most likely sell out of everything. Meaning we would be working almost nonstop as the constant stream of people would not be letting up.
This was legit. Much more so than my pathetic attempts at selling merch in tiny rock venues, where the coolest thing I did was spend a few minutes talking Biz into buying a mystery bag.
I got a square and was taught how to run credit cards through my phone. I had a pouch with cash around my waist that would every once in a while get emptied into one of the supervisor’s backpacks.
The friend who brought me there got sent to the downstairs table unfortunately, but it wasn’t a huge deal because we would’ve been too busy to talk anyway.
Thankfully the crowd wasn’t a mob like I had anticipated. If anything it reminded me of when I worked at Starbucks for a year and a half. There were three of us at the table, and I was at the far end. Security had set up a line coming from the stairs, so it was extremely orderly. So orderly that people behind the first customer didn’t even always notice me at my end of the table dancing and yelling “I CAN HELP YOU OVER HERE!”
I’m not kidding about dancing. I felt like that could get people’s attention better. It didn’t really. But when am I not dancing?
The poor teenage girls were so stressed trying to buy all the things when it was getting close to time for the show. They were super friendly though. Always saying thank you and please. I don’t think I dealt with a single rude person, which was wonderful. I was a little surprised at some of the parents though, who would talk their daughters into buying MORE merch.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything else? How about a t-shirt? Do you want a poster?”
I don’t think my parents would’ve been on board with that. Like at all. They would’ve told me getting there was enough.
One of the girls in charge mentioned though that a lot of the girls at the shows saved up their own money to buy a ticket and merch because that’s how much they love Dan and Phil.
I, however, had never even heard of them. I’m not big on YouTube. But a good majority of the fans had cat faces painted on them. Cute.
There was a bit of a lull once the show started. A few parents snuck out of the venue because they couldn’t deal, so they opted to shop then. But for the most part, I spent showtime charging my practically dead phone and devouring pizza.
Eventually the show ended and the swarms of people came back. By this point we had in fact almost sold out of everything. Signed books were gone, lanyards and bracelets were soon gone, and almost every size of shirt aside from Large and X-Small were gone. I felt so bad having to turn girls away who couldn’t fit in anything that was left.
I felt their pain though. I never buy merch before a show. I hate carrying things, so I always have to try my luck at the end. And I’ve been turned away too. It’s not the best.
Load-out wasn’t bad, mostly because everything was pretty much gone. We kinda sat around downstairs talking about the day. I couldn’t imagine doing this every day, but I would totally do it again whenever I had the chance.
I don’t think I found a new life calling, but hey, it’s a thing to do. It was fun and I made some decent cash.
And my favorite irony of the day: I wore an I the Mighty hoodie, because of course I did, and my supervisor sees it and goes:
“That’s so funny you’re wearing that. I know their merch manager.”
“You know Life?! I the Mighty are my boys.”
More and more every day I’m reminded that somehow everyone in the music industry knows each other.