My First Experience Doing Merch
Write Up by: Natalie Dickinson
Last week, I mentioned that I would be filling in for my friend Keaton doing merch for the band “Kitten” who were the opener for Paramore on Paramore’s most recent tour. Here’s my step-by-step photo set and description of how the night went, and what I did, and what I learned!
Step 1: Arriving at the Venue
As instructed, I arrived to the House of Blues around 3:30pm the afternoon of the show. Once outside, I met Kitten’s TM, Dan, and he let me inside the venue. By 3:30-4 all of the band’s gear was loaded into the venue, and the guys of Kitten milled about making adjustments to their instruments / hanging out in their dressing room. They were all super friendly and welcomed me to the Kitten gang!
Step 2: Locating the Merch
Amongst all of the band’s gear, there was a box of t-shirts, records, posters and CD’s. Paramore also had a box of Kitten’s merch that would be loaded into the venue a little later. I hung out around the venue and watched Paramore’s soundcheck until that box showed up along with Paramore’s merch guy, Aaron. While I was hanging out, I also downloaded the “square” app for the iphone, and logged into Kitten’s account. I would use square later on while selling merch to be able to make credit and debit transactions.
Step 3: Counting In
Once I had my box of merch from Aaron, along with the initial box, I was ready to count in. Counting in is when you record how much you have of each item, and report those amounts to someone in the venue’s staff. Keaton sent me the numbers that I should have of each thing, but I counted everything again before reporting to the venue just to make sure that I had accurate amounts. Around 5pm, as Aaron and I started to unpack and get organized, the venue staff merch dude came by and took down my numbers, then let me know that he would be back at the end of the night to count me out. The venue records the merch count because at the end of the night, they take a cut of what money was made on merch. There is also a tax on the merch that the venue collects as well. They want to know how much merch comes in before the show, and how much merch goes out after the show so that they can understand how much was sold, and therefore correctly take their cut. (This is my understanding of it!) I have never done merch in a setting where I had to count in and count out with a venue before, so the process was new to me. Thankfully, the guy at the venue who counted me in was very friendly and helpful. He was patient with me, and clarified how things were going to work. I quietly observed as Aaron counted in with the venue staff. He had considerably more merch than me, and even enlisted Boston local, Mike Finn to assist him for the evening. Aaron was super organized, and knew exactly what his numbers were coming into the venue.
Step 4: Setting Up the Display
After counting in, it was time to set up the display. I received a table, table cloth, chair, and two grate racks from the venue. I clipped our shirts to the grates and included a laminated price tag for each item. Below the grates, I laid out the folded t-shirts on our boxes, and organized them by size so that they would be easy to grab. Behind the merch table, I also had a cash box containing two “square” card readers, clips to hang merch, price tags, sharpies (for signings), and my starting cash that I could use for change when people started to buy merch.
One thing Keaton stressed was the importance of me holding onto the cash. I never left the cash in the cash box. I held it on me at all times. You never know when someone could just try to steal something after doors, and if it is just you behind the table, you need to have an eye on everything!
I also brought my iphone charger. We used the square readers to make transactions with credit and debit cards. If my iphone were to die, we wouldn’t be able to make those transactions, so I plugged it in to make sure I had juice all night.
Step 5: Necessities - Food and Bathrooms
Before doors, I made sure to grab dinner at catering. Both bands and crew on the Paramore tour have catering every day. Keaton forewarned me that the food was delicious, and she was right! I ate dinner with Dan, and took the opportunity to get to know him a little more. After eating, I took a bathroom break. Once doors were open, I didn’t want to have to leave my post behind merch!
Step 6: The Show
Once doors were open, I stayed behind merch and observed the crowd. Sales started off slow, but after Kitten played their set, CD sales picked up. Once Paramore reached their last couple of songs, sales started to pick up even more, and by the end of the show, there was a crowd around the merch table. Kitten came back out and signed / took pictures with fans while I sold merch. I tried to keep the signing line off to the side of the table so that people who were potentially trying to buy merch could come to the front and get what they wanted.
Step 7: Counting Out
Once all of the fans left the venue, I recounted all of my merch to find out how much was sold of each item. Those numbers also had to match up with the amount of money we made between cash and credit transactions. These numbers need to be recorded to give to the venue merch guy, and to put on the soundscan sheet which is a sheet with the sales numbers that is signed by the venue merch guy at the end of the night. Once I knew what was sold, and how much money we made, I was also able to calculate the tax and venue cut that would be given to the venue merch dude at the end of the night (the money was given to him in cash). Once the venue merch guy counted me out, he returned to me a hard copy of what we made and what was taken out.
Step 8: Packing Up & Loading out
After counting out around 11:45pm, I carefully put our tshirts (softgoods) and CDs/records (hardgoods) back into their boxes. I also made sure that the cash box contained the original starting cash amount. I gave our profit cash to Dan. I carried the boxes outside to the van, and Luke (Kitten’s drummer) loaded them into the van’s trailer. In some cases, a dolly is used to transport the boxes of merch, but we didn’t have enough to need a dolly. Aaron, however, used one because he had a lot more boxes than me!
Before leaving the venue, I emailed Keaton scans of the paperwork that I received from the merch guy at the venue. If you have an iphone, download the application called, “turboscan”. It is great for making scans on the go.
Once everything was taken care of, I made sure to say bye and thank you to the band and Dan. The band was very nice, and thanked me for helping them out. Overall, the night was a good learning experience, and I had fun.