Welcome to our next Merchandiser Spotlight feature with Angelah Betmead, a remarkable merch manager who has worked on various projects with artists such as Enter Shikari, Aly & AJ, The Academy Is, and many more! Angelah has carved a unique career path that blends the excitement of the music industry with the intricacies of retail, tour management, promo, all the way to photography. Today, we have the privilege of delving into the captivating world of concert merchandising and gaining invaluable insights from a true expert in the field.
As a merch roadie, what initially attracted you to this unique career path? Can you share any experiences that solidified your decision to pursue this role?
Having dabbled in a variety of music industry roles I’ve always enjoyed working on the road and being involved in live music the most. Touring with Enter Shikari as their Tour Assistant enabled me to gather more insight into the roles within a larger-scale touring party and I was inspired by the female merch managers we had on that tour. Being a merch roadie encapsulated my passion for live music whilst applying organisation and retail skills, plus it was an opportunity to learn something new which was exciting to me. Now whenever I’m managing merch I get the thrill of enjoying what I do and the job satisfaction of feeling like I do my job well from the feedback I’ve had so far, overall it feels like the perfect fit!
Touring with a band can involve a hectic schedule and numerous logistical challenges. How do you ensure a smooth operation while managing inventory, setting up booths, and handling sales during the tour?
Getting into a routine helps and being prepared for different situations when you’re self-vending as every venue is different. Being an anxious person, I often over-prepare just in case, but worrying about those things in advance ensures I’m prepared to problem solve on the go without stressing out too much on the day. Keeping a checklist of my tasks for a show day comes in handy too so I know I’m keeping on top of my daily tasks or adding in any extras as the tour goes on. Having a great tour manager helps too, I always check Master Tour and plan my day around it. Giving my day structure, ticking off a list, and having the chance to decompress on the bus after a long day all help make sure my role is going as smoothly as it can. Shout out to all the lovely crew members I’ve toured with who always come over to merch to make sure I’m doing okay and am fed and watered!
What has been one of your all-time favourite tours you’ve ever worked on and what made this one stand out?
My favourite tour I’ve worked on was with Aly & AJ. They are a really nostalgic artist for me as Potential Breakup Song came out when I was 9 and they were Disney channel stars when I was growing up. It was my first time as a merch manager and VIP coordinator for an international artist on a UK/EU tour and I got such good feedback from their tour manager that it really solidified that this was the touring role for me, he had no idea it was my first time and was impressed with how competent I was. It was also the first tour that my family got to come to and see what I actually do in the music industry, it was a really good feeling being able to take my dad backstage and show him around. On the whole, the band and entire crew on that tour were so lovely and considerate, it really felt like a family which had a huge positive impact on my mental health whilst on tour.
The fan experience goes beyond the point of purchase. How do you engage with fans and foster a sense of community around the band's merchandise? Are there any innovative initiatives you have implemented to build a strong fanbase?
Absolutely agree with that. I have worked in a lot of customer-facing roles in and out of the music industry and good customer service always goes a long way – even before and after purchases. As a merch roadie, I always take the time to chat with the fans, as after all you become the face of the band when you’re the only member of the crew that is easily accessible to them.
On a tour you often come to recognise and become friendly with the fans who come to multiple shows, it’s important to acknowledge that dedication. My university dissertation was on community marketing actually and I based it on my work with Enter Shikari. At the time I was working on building merch welcome packages for Enter Shikari’s fan club – The Future Historians. Exclusive merchandise and merch discounts were great initiatives to incentivize joining whilst also giving the fans a community to get involved in.
What do you think sets successful merchandise managers apart from those who do not make it in the industry?
I’ve always been told the number one rule in the music industry is don’t be a dick. It sounds really simple, but just being a nice person and being proactive with your role helps a lot. No one wants to tour with someone that isn’t efficient at their job or that doesn’t get on well with the rest of the crew. It can really make a difference going above and beyond your job description, whether that be to do with proactively improving merch sales or checking in on your fellow roadies and getting a round of coffee. In this industry word travels fast and your reputation often precedes you, a lot of the time these days work gets passed onto you by the recommendation from your peers.
It’s been amazing seeing so many female merch managers succeeding in the industry at the moment and I love that everyone has been so supportive and uplifting of fellow women. When I started going to gigs I hardly saw any women at all working as roadies and it’s really encouraging to see that narrative changing. I never imagined I could even be part of a touring crew as I never saw anyone that looked like me in those positions. I still struggle to see that many Asian women in those positions, but the industry can always do with diversifying more and we’re headed in the right direction.
In the world of touring, unforeseen circumstances and emergencies can arise. Can you share a situation where you had to navigate a challenging or unexpected scenario while on tour and how you managed to resolve it without compromising your duties?
Recently I worked with some Eurovision artists who didn’t have a card reader, which in the current climate where people don’t tend to carry cash definitely presented a challenge as they didn’t inform me until the day of. Despite having my own card reader it was one of those situations where they did not have their own account to be able to receive card payments. Liaising with the promoter rep for the show and the venue security we were able to come to an arrangement for them to allow re-entry for customers to use a cash point across the road. I had to get the tour manager to cover the stand whilst I went down the line informing the fans of the payment situation. Luckily for us, their fans were very dedicated and all willing to get cash.
Being on tour can be physically and mentally demanding. How do you maintain your own well-being and manage any personal challenges while juggling the responsibilities of a merch roadie on the road?
It’s important to take some time for yourself on tour especially when you are living on a bus with 15 other people that you’re with all the time, and when you’re running merch you’re constantly facing the public. It’s easy to succumb to the pressure to always be socialising but having some breathing space like going for a walk and finding a good coffee spot is needed sometimes. These days I always bring supplements on tour too in an attempt to fight off any tour flu, there’s nothing worse than being sick on the bus and spreading it to everyone. Additionally having people you can talk to outside of the tour can also be a huge benefit to load off any frustrations you might be having or just talk about your day and keep you feeling grounded.