Interview: Allison Lanza, Merch Manager

Interview by Yising Kao

Allison is featured in our Music Industry issue and upcoming Photography issue! :

Photo by Chelsea Gresh

Allison has had over 3 years of experience working in various positions in the music industry. Starting out, she created her own music magazine called Beyond the Stage, earned her B.A. degree in Music Business Management, and did freelance work. Some of her past jobs include working as a booking and marketing intern at Live Nation, an accounting assistant for Vans Warped Tour (2017), and more. She has had experience working at Stage AE’s box office and guest services, and has worked as a VIP Assistant for artists such as U2 and Luis Miguel. Additionally, Allison has been a merchandise manager for The Wrecks and is currently working as a merchandise manager for Nothing But Thieves.

What inspired you to want to work in the music industry?

When I was a freshman in high school, I started becoming really interested in a handful of bands. I finally got the chance to go to my first general admission club show and I waited in line for like, seven hours in the rain. The members of the band I went to see all came outside to the line to say hi to my friends and I and after the show we stuck around for a while to chat with them. It was then that I realized that these bands I was so into are made up of the most normal people, and that musicians are really just normal people with cool jobs. It clicked that night that I could also work with music in some capacity, regardless of my lack of musical talent. That night was when my touring dreams were born, though I didn't think they were super realistic as I never really saw female crew members around when I started going to shows. So instead I kind of pushed that to the back of my brain and thought I wanted to work in management or booking. In college, I tried a little bit of everything, from editing a digital music magazine and shooting live photos, to interning for promoters and agents, working at venues, etc. I found that the live sector was where I fit, thinking I would go onto work for an agency post-graduation, but instead an opportunity to do Warped Tour as the Accounting Assistant fell in my lap and the rest is history!

When you worked as a VIP assistant for various artists, what were some important tasks you needed to do each day on tour?

VIP is a job that really varies depending on the tour that you are on. I have only been on one tour as a VIP Coordinator so far, and my day-to-day was preparing merchandise packages, readying the room, checking in guests and assisting with the actual event however necessary. I have a tour coming up as a VIP Representative and it's a lot more advance work, including scoping out locations at the venue, budgeting for catering, and making sure security is familiar with the operation, just to name a few of the many duties. I've done a lot of local VIP Assisting which is different because you are a local assistant brought in to help the Coordinator. As a VIP Rep I get to hire those people for each market and assign them tasks including but not limited to readying the room, checking in guests, and basic customer service.

As a merch manager, can you describe your process of ordering and shipping merch to venues, and how you deal with any issues?

As merchandise manager, one of your main duties is inventory tracking and control, and making sure you have proper inventory for the next shows. The process behind ordering and getting it shipped is really just dependent on the merch company your band uses. As the merchandise manager, you work directly with the merch company and management to make sure your stock remains plentiful so really communication is key.

You’ve worked on multiple tours, so what’s one life lesson that you’ve learned from your experiences that you’d like to share?

One of my biggest life lessons from touring came in the past few months. If you love something, sometimes it’s okay to take a break from it. I started touring immediately after graduating college and my work picked up so quickly in 2018 that I didn't know how to deal with it. I didn't get to ease myself into being on the road all the time, and it really messed me up a little. So I finished my last tour, came home, got a retail job and grounded myself a bit. In that time off I got to take care of myself more- I did tons of self-care exercises and even just finding a hobby in the form of cooking was so clarifying. I realized how much I missed the road and now I'm about to start another busy year of touring in a much better place mentally and even physically. It’s okay to be vulnerable and its okay to need a break, especially in a career that's as fast paced as this one is.

How have you applied the skills you learned through your Music Business Management major to your work? What advice do you want to give to college students who are graduating soon and looking to work in the business side of the music industry?

The best lessons I learned in college weren't actually in my classes at all. My biggest advice for anyone studying Music Business is to take what you're learning and practice it outside of the classroom-pair your learnings with internships, independent projects, etc. Can't find an internship? Create your own opportunities. I learned the art of creating opportunity by starting a music magazine with some friends and then my entire career really just snowballed from there. I carry with me the basics of what I learned in school and I'm glad that I went, but what you do with your time outside of class can often be more valuable than what you're learning in the classroom. And build relationships with your professors!!!! There's a reason they teach what they do. I really hit it off with my professor in my Producing and Touring Live Entertainment class-I was always talking to her about different projects I was working on and would stay after class to ask her questions. This led to her hiring me for my first real tour, which set the stage for the ones thereafter. Network as much as you can, too. If you're in a major city, there are probably networking events for music industry professionals in your city. Take your business card and introduce yourself to people. If there's one thing I've learned, it’s that most jobs (in touring, at least) come via word-of-mouth so strong relationships are really important. But most of all-if you don't find something right away, don't give up on it. The right opportunity will come along.