Ever wondered what it would be like to travel from city to city, slinging merch for your favourite band? Enter Alex Fucking Smith of The Merch Life.
Alex is living the dream of anyone who’s ever gone to a concert and thought “I wish I could do this every night”. As you can imagine, there’s never a dull moment for Sleep On It’s resident merch guy. Lucky for us, he doesn’t keep those memories to himself; he’s kept tour journals from his adventures & compiled them into books on his Patreon.
We spoke with Alex about the pros & cons of touring, his craziest memories, and how to live the merch life for yourself.
How did you get started living the merch life?
Well I met Teddy Horanksky in college and became friends with him. At one point he invited me to come to Cleveland with him to watch his old band (Goodnight City Lights) play. They had merch they were trying to sell so I offered. Did that a couple times in Cleveland, and when Sleep On It became a thing he asked me again. From there on I just became the go-to merch guy for Sleep On It.
When did you decide to start The Merch Life? Was there an “AHA!” moment?
So I started The Merch Life blog as something to do to kill time on our earliest tours. I thought it would be neat to document our travels and how I felt on a day-to-day basis. At the time I was in college studying game design, so I was looking for any sort of new experience that I could draw upon in order to make different/more compelling games. After a while people started really reading and enjoying what I had to write about, so when the band asked me to go on the road with them back in May with As It Is, I decided to make the leap and try out Patreon, and it really solidified that there is a market for my type of writing.
Can you give us a tl;dr version of one of your craziest road stories?
The craziest has to be dressing up in a luchador outfit and going on stage at Riot Fest in front of 1,000+ people. Which included an impromptu lifting of Zech that our photographer Anam Merchant took a picture of. (A picture that would eventually become the cover of The Road to Riot Fest.)
That entire day at Riot Fest was so wild, I had to split the day up into multiple posts in my Tour Journals. Them playing to that big of a crowd was a sight to behold, but actually being able to get on stage and to personally be a part of that moment was amazing.
What’s the best/worst thing about being on the road for weeks or months at a time?
The best thing is being able to travel the country (and Canada), seeing cool cities, eating new foods, and making new friends. And not just making friends within the tour package, but making friends in the new cities you get to visit. Whether I meet them on Twitter or whatever, going to places and seeing friendly faces is the reason I get out of bed when days get real tough on the road.
The worst thing about being on the road, honestly is the financial stress. And that’s not me complaining or asking for pity. But it’s hard to come out here and try to maintain a budget, eat healthy, eat cheap, all while watching your bank account drain. You do your best to work when you get home, (assuming you can find/keep a job that allows you to travel for months on end), but at this level there’s certainly more going out than coming in. It’s part of the sacrifice I make by deciding to live in Chicago while also having this be my main source of income.
What’s your advice to those who also want to live the merch life?
Go support your local scene. Do the daily volunteer work for your town’s Warped Tour. Meet people trying to get on the road and be willing to commit yourself to hard work for little pay. Because we all know that the bands are out there doing the same. Meeting the right people and being personable are all gateways to better jobs. So be nice to people you meet, and be willing to work hard. That’s really it.
Oh and be able to count. At least to 12.
What’s next for you? What should we be keeping an eye out for?
Well I’ll be heading out with Sleep On It when we tour North America with Waterparks this November/December which will culminate in another book but if people want to read as I go, they’re welcome to subscribe to www.Patreon.com/TourJournals or follow me on Twitter @Im_Alex_Smith. I’m always looking for ways to get fans involved when I’m on the road!
And if they want to read about everything that’s happened so far they’re welcome to check out www.themerch.life/shop to grab themselves a copy of either book using promo code: ATB15 to get 15% off their order. (Good until 11/3/17)
Thanks again for taking the time to interview me! Can’t wait to get back to Toronto!