I started writing this post with the intention of kicking it off with a small history about my introduction into live music as a teenager. As it appears to have opened a huge reminiscing flood gate, I will skip this topic in this particular post and create another interesting story later…
I have been going to and enjoying live music for years. My first experiences were the rock bands (in my early teens) and indie bands (in my late teens) of the 90’s. As a teenager with limited funds, it was rare that any band merchandise was bought. Regardless, we would go over to the merchandise stand after a gig to see what was available. But it was not always the merchandise that fascinated me, I could never help but wonder about the person selling the items. How cool was it to work with a band and go on tour with them, just selling merchandise?
With older years comes more disposable income, so I can now purchase items from the merchandise stand. I love the idea of a band t-shirt, but my style does not often give room for this look. Nevertheless, I will still go over to have a look at the goods on offer and continue to have a twinge of intrigue about the person selling the wares.
Last week I was given the opportunity to actually become this person (well, for one night only). Going to a lot of concerts over the years has led me to meet a lot of fun people along the way (I guess that’s another blog topic…). One of these people was Brett, who I met a few years ago when he was working with The Rakes (2003-2009) as the ‘sound guy’. We kept in touch over the years and he contacted me out of the blue. He is touring with Kate Nash and needed someone to run the merch stand for the first night of her tour, and he thought of me. With the promise of free beer and 60€, I jumped at the chance. It gave me the opportunity to use my professional skills in sales and visual merchandising as well as getting the chance to chat to the fans and to meet Kate herself.
I spent some important time deciding what to wear on the occasion of becoming a Merch Bitch and decided on a comfortable yet glamourous rock chick look of denim shorts and my new fringed jacket from Topshop. I opted out of a suggestion from a friend to wear something low cut in order to sell more, which was fortunate because most of my customers were teenage girls who I am sure had no interest in my cleavage.
On a side note, I actually do not remember how the term “Merch Bitch” was created and made itself at home in my personal dictionary, but I was one now and that was all that mattered.
This is what I saw and experienced in picture form.
The Venue: the beautiful Botanique.
As it was the first night of the tour, I had to unpack and count all the stock.
As the band and crew ate, I created a lovely product display using only duct tape. Kate came over to say hello quickly before her dinner and a memory from the first time I saw her in concert in the very same venue sprung to mind. I was queuing for the bathrooms when a very shy, yet excited fan came up to me “Vous etes Kate Nash??” I was flattered but I had to tell her “non”. Even with the red hair, fringe and the English accent, I very much doubt Kate Nash would be using the public restrooms
Thanks to Miss Tracy Bull for the photo of me in action.
Funnily enough, I was reminded of my teenage years as only 3 of the 20€ t-shirts were sold. I watched many teenage girls (the main fan base for the evening) count out their pennies to see what they could afford. Hence why I mainly sold the affordable rings, stickers, tote bags and signed posters.
I used my sale skills to sell all the signed posters “freshly signed by Kate herself before the gig” and modelled the cuter than cute ring.
The support Band for Kate Nash were The Tuts, a young three piece punk band from London. After their performance they came out to sell and sign their merchandise and have photos taken with fans. They were sweet and excitable bunch who were thrilled to be doing the whole European tour with Kate Nash.
They had the cutest merchandise.
I left the goods in the ‘safe’ hands of the venue security, and went in to watch the main performance. I had seen Kate a few years before but this was a very different performance. Gone were the soft keyboard solos, replaced by a more heavy angrier sound on guitar with a new all girl band. I liked it! Kate engrossed the crowd with her new tougher songs, stories and feminist views. Which for me were culminated by her song “Free My Pussy” which led to a lot of open mouths (my friend Martin) and nervous laughter (me). Before you get a bit confused, the song is inspired by Pussy Riot and the B-side of this single is a song called ‘Free Pussy Riot Now!’ by Kate Nash & The Thin Kids.
After the gig was the main rush of young animated fans, all well-mannered and forming an orderly queue. The more I sold and chatted to the kids the more I realised that my intrigue of the ‘Merch Bitch’ is not just a phenomenon experienced by me. I could sense their interest and anticipation at the thought that I knew Kate Nash and could help them with their autographs, photo ops and gift giving. I had to tell at least 10 fans that unfortunately I did not know Kate personally and that I was just selling the merch. Oh, the look of disappointment in their eyes. There were a small group of diehard fans who asked me if Kate would come out to sign their newly purchased albums or to give her hand made gifts. They waited and waited. I don’t know how long for because I left before they did.
I was told that I did a very good job (well of course – I am committed and professional in all jobs at hand). After a very entertaining gig, 6 free beers (hiccup) and packing up all the stock it was time to go home. Now with the experience of being a ‘merch bitch’.