What Does A Merchandise Manager Do On Tour?

What Is a Merchandise Manager?

The merchandise manager handles the transportation and sales for all the merchandise (aka merch) on tour. They’re responsible for getting the merchandise from the vendor to the venue, loading it in and out, and selling it every night during the concert. They’re also in charge of keeping track of sales, maintaining stock, and all of the associated accounting for the duration of the tour.

Skills Required to Be a Merchandise Manager

The merchandise manager is essentially running a pop-up retail store every night in a new venue. Since most of their job requires them to keep track of inventory and money, strong math skills are crucial. It’s vital as a merchandise manager to be organized, both in the venue and on the truck. Knowing exactly where everything is in the merch booth will help speed up the fans’ purchasing experience and make load-out easier. Keeping tabs on where things are in the trailer makes replenishing the merch booth easier during the show if required.

Knowing the inventory on hand is a critical part of being a merchandise manager. They act as a liaison between the merch production company and the tour for merch shipments. Communicating with office staff to place orders and planning logistics for shipments are key parts of the job. Merchandise managers have to prepare before they even get to the venue for what product will sell based on the previous sales on tour.  People skills are also essential because their entire job involves interacting with people, whether it’s fans buying the merch or the venue staff that help sell it. 

Daily Tasks of a Merchandise Manager

The daily breakdown for a merchandise manager is pretty consistent on a day-to-day basis. Loading in the merch from the truck and finding the area they’ll be setting up shop in is the first step. Having spatial awareness is vital here so there isn’t time wasted bringing in boxes of things that the merch booth might not need. It’s also important to take a look at previous sales numbers to try and estimate the amount of merch you’ll probably need. For example, hometown shows will likely sell more merch than anywhere else, so you need to prepare for that. A merchandise manager sometimes works alone, but depending on the size of a tour, could have a team of people helping them throughout the venue. The bigger the artist, the more merch booths they will have, requiring more people to help sling shirts.

Once they set up the merch booth, the merchandise manager counts in all of the product they’ve brought into the building. As the night goes on and more merch comes in from the trailer, these numbers will change, but it’s good to know how much you’re bringing in for accountability. If the venue is selling the merch themselves, the merchandise manager will go over the counts with them, provide them with pricing information, and then leave them to their own devices. The merch manager will be on standby for the night to grab more product from the trailer if the venue staff needs it. Once the show is over, and all the fans have gone home, the merchandise manager will settle the show with the venue. They double-check all their ending counts for the product brought in, give the venue their cut of the profits if necessary, and pack up the returns back into the trailer to do the same thing again the next day.

Merch Manager Tips

  1. It’s not always about how well you do your job; it’s how willing you are to learn new skills to do better tomorrow.
  2. People skills are everything in this line of work because you’re working with so many other people on a daily basis. Treat every situation with the same respect you want for yourself.
  3. Have your booth display match your organization behind the scenes to make your life easier.
  4. You’re the direct connection between the band and the fans. You can’t be a dick because you’re representing the artist you work for.
  5. You never want to sell it all because you need some for the show tomorrow, but if you can sell it, you should take advantage of that situation.
  6. Always try to be a step ahead of yourself and set yourself up for success. Don’t procrastinate.
  7. If you can do a bus tour, you can do an arena tour.

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