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BROGAN WILSON

We had the pleasure of chatting with freelance merch manager, Brogan Wilson, who shares a bit about his journey in the industry and why he couldn't imagine doing anything else.


With years of experience working with artists across various genres (including One Ok Rock and Sabrina Carpenter), as well as a background in hospitality and event production, Brogan brings a unique blend of creativity, business acumen, and logistical expertise to the table.


Brogan Wilson on stage at One Ok Rock show

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in the industry, as well as what prompted you to pursue tour and merch management as a career?

 

I always knew that my life and career needed to be surrounded by music and diverse experiences outside of the ‘norm’, it’s why any of us work in this industry! I grew up as a guitarist, drummer and always enjoyed singing too. I still dabble, but not as much as I’d like.

 

I studied Music Management at UoG and after graduating, met a mutual friend who was a TM that I worked remotely for, advancing and logistics and the like. Eventually, I went out with one of his artists as a spare pair of hands, then merch, then more clients came along!

 

I’m very lucky to say I absolutely love my job and have met some incredible friends and peers, long may that continue. No one knows what’s to come, that’s one of my favourite things about it.

 

You’ve worked on some pretty big tours, including artists such as 50 Cent and Sabrina Carpenter. What has been one of your all-time favourite tours you’ve ever worked on and what made this one stand out?

 

This is a seriously hard question - I think I’ve been very lucky to have some incredible tours and very minimal negative experiences, which are just as important for learning.

 

However, three absolute favourites that stick out for me are the Aminé 2022 tour (aptly called The Best Tour Ever Tour), also the One Ok Rock and Sabrina Carpenter tours, which ran concurrently as the Sabrina tour was during a gap for OOR. Each of these runs were full to the brim of high per heads and wonderful people to be around, as well as bus environments and crew that genuinely became a home that was hard to leave.

 

You also have a background in hospitality management and event production, which are roles that can involve high-pressure environments and tight deadlines, much like merch management.  What skills do you find most transferable to managing artist merchandise, and how has your previous work experience impacted how you approach tour and merch management?


The way that I look at it, all three of my career paths facilitate guests/punters/whoever having an unforgettable experience. Whether I’m building a festival site from the ground up, part of a big arena tour or serving a roast on someone’s birthday, it’s all creating memories for them and getting them in and out safely.

 

Cash and budget management is certainly a huge transferable, as well as people management and almost immediate deadlines. I’ve never been good at relaxing, so it keeps me on my toes where I thrive the most.

 

Touring, especially bus touring, sometimes involves solving monumental problems whilst still being mindful that you’re co-existing with a dozen people with their own stress. I think these pressure-cooker environments prepare you to face adversity head on and to always be aware that others have their own shit and need their own space to deal with it as they need to.

 

Brogan Wilson Merch Manager

What future trends do you foresee in the merchandise industry, especially in relation to music and artist branding?

 

I’m very interested to see how AI affects merchandise. I’m sure there’s already a million bullshit tees printed with AI designs that don’t sell (personally I’d rather keep our designers and creatives being paid..), but there certainly is scope for it to grow in a helpful way.

 

I’m loving the emphasis on sustainable and heavier garments/printing solutions, as well as limited higher-ticket items. I think these limited items have a deeper connection with the fans that purchase them and are treasured for longer. Whether it’s a coach jacket, a pendant, vinyl variants, a limited screen print, even I have items from my youth along these lines that I still treasure.

 

Being out on tour can be physically and mentally taxing. How do you keep your mental and physical wellbeing intact while on the road, and how do you like to unwind once a tour has wrapped up?

 

Whilst I’m out, I enjoy exploring cities with my headphones in, whether running or walking. Socialising is important too, as merch can be quite lonely, but I definitely need my solo time. Making sure you get appropriate fuel for the day and don’t just binge on burgers all the time (no shaming whatsoever, I fucking love food and everyone should eat what they want) is definitely up there for the long days.

 

As for after tour, I fucking suck at this bit. I’ve finished tours before and gone to work elsewhere the day after I got home. I learned this the hard way. Going from being busy every waking minute to doing nothing is very difficult for me but I’m getting better at it.

 

Currently, my coming home routine is have two weeks off to catch up with my girlfriend, family and friends, then do part time bits ad-hoc to keep myself feeling productive, as well as being creative at home. Similarly, I walk or run as much as I can and have recently started playing tennis to keep the endorphins coming my way!

 

Essentially, recovery is important but there’s a line between rest and losing proactivity. Your brain is your best friend and worst enemy, keeping it in a positive frame and knowing which methods work for you is deeply important (but no one is perfect at this).

 

What common misconceptions do people have about this career path, and what would people be most surprised to learn about what it actually means to be a merch manager?

 

Brogan Wilson Merch Manager on trolley

I think with merch especially, people are very surprised at how much goes into it. Financials, stock management, managing teams upwards of 20 people you’ve never met before, logistics (especially since Brexit..), security briefings and international financing laws are all exercised almost daily. It’s far from glamorous and far from a holiday.

 

The thing I get often from friends of friends is ‘you must see so many amazing places’ which is true to an extent but then I’ve been to Berlin over 15 times and only had one day off there - and all I did was get ramen, see a few important monuments within an hour and go to bed as I had an early flight to another tour.

 

However, touring is, in my opinion, the best job in the world. It’s hard physically, mentally and personally, but ludicrously fulfilling and you often make friendships with sincere depth due to shared experiences. It also makes you not take your life at home for granted, especially the people that stick around even after months without being able to physically see each other.

 

Is there anything you feel differentiates a successful merch manager from one who won’t make it in the industry, and what advice would you give to someone looking to pursue this career path?

 

I think that attitude is number one in this regard. If you aren’t open to learning or holding your hands up to a mistake, you won’t get far. There are situations that require sternness and standards/boundaries being set, but being a dick will only make people resent you the next time you come around.

 

Patience with others (touring and local crew), owning your shit and being willing to constantly learn will take you far in any industry, in my honest opinion.

 

There’s a phrase that’s along the lines of ‘if you aren’t learning, you’re doing it wrong’ and I try to live my professional and personal lives that way. I think that’s a roundabout way of summing up this question.

 

One last note to new starters is to constantly expand your network and to always be on your toes and never dismissive of others. Job offers will come up that you never expected and keeping these doors open is so important as a freelancer.



Follow Brogan on Instagram here.

Connect with Brogan on LinkedIn here.

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