From touring with legendary acts such as The Offspring and Death Cab For Cutie to working alongside Fever 333, Wallows, and The Tallest Man On Earth, Jess has left an indelible mark on the live music scene. In the buzzing world of live music, where fans gather in anticipation and artists come alive on stage, there exists a crucial yet often overlooked role: the touring merchandiser. Today, we have the privilege of diving into the world of touring merchandise with the exceptionally talented Jess Lomas.
As a touring merchandiser, you've had the opportunity to work with a wide range of artists. Can you share a memorable experience or story that stands out from your time on the road?
So many memories come to mind. I still can’t believe my job takes me around the world. I have seen so many amazing places and seen so many good shows and I’m very grateful for that. I have had a lot of personal highlights but the people you share those moments with usually make the difference. Recently I got my mother to come to spend the day with me at Forest National in Brussels. I was born in Brussels and grew up there. My mom took me to see my first concert at Forest National when I was just 5. She had never stepped on a stage or seen the backstage so getting to show it all to her was a real full circle and beautiful moment.
Touring can be demanding, both physically and emotionally. What strategies do you employ to maintain your energy and focus while on the road, especially during long stretches of touring?
I try to keep as healthy as I can and I try and rest as much as I can when I get a day off. I used to want to see everything and party when I’d have a day off which would make me more tired than I would be if it had been a show day. These days I try to go to the gym and find a nice quiet spot to read a book/listen to some music. I love socializing and I’ll still party a bit some days but I find that a few hours to myself to just relax really helps. I try to eat as healthily as I can and thankfully being vegan means I have to say no to all the pizza and cakes you can find backstage. Also, coffee is love.
Merch has evolved beyond traditional t-shirts and posters, with artists exploring innovative and unique items to offer their fans. Can you give us a glimpse into some of the most interesting and unconventional merchandise you’ve worked with?
I have worked as a local merch seller at the Manchester Arena so I’ve seen a lot of weird items over there! From bathrobes to hot sauces or wigs, there’s been quite a few. I do like it when bands try and innovate and have something out of the ordinary that not everyone will get or understand but their fans will love.
Beyond the immediate gratification of a successful tour, how do you measure the impact of your work as a merchandiser? Are there any specific moments or feedback that have made you realize the significance of what you do?
I think everyone has started to realize that merchandise sales are becoming the main source of revenue on tours. With the costs of touring rising, especially since covid and Brexit, bands don’t make much out of ticket sales as it all goes out to pay for the production, crew, busses, and all of the costs that come with touring. I have definitely heard a few “This will definitely help to pay for the tour” or “We count on merch sales to at least break even today” a few times. I know that good sales will keep the boat afloat and hopefully the band will be able to keep on touring without being in the red.
Beyond touring merchandise, you are also a musician and photographer. How do these creative pursuits intersect with your merchandising work, and how do they contribute to your overall artistic fulfillment?
I don’t have much time to play or take pictures these days as I’ve been so busy being on tour doing other roles but I think it definitely helps. Playing in a band, even if it’s at a much smaller level, I know how great it feels to be on stage and play for people. I’m in this industry because I love music, it’s always been a passion of mine and all I dreamt of was to be in a venue every day. It helps to be selling something that you understand. As for photography, I think having an eye for colour, light, and symmetry can definitely help with how to display merchandise for it to be as effective as possible.