Inside The Industry Series with Daniel Rodriguez
Many would assume that touring is a glamorous, lavish lifestyle. I caught up with my friend Daniel Rodriguez who has spent the past few years traveling across the country. We discuss what touring is really like for a merch seller, how he got his start working for New Years Day and advice for those wanting to get their feet in the door.
Come with us inside the industry for a detailed look into Daniel Rodriguez’s life as a touring merch seller!
You are currently out on the road with Combichrist. What are you feeling going into this tour?
This is one of the bigger tours that I have done in terms of production, merch, and venue, as well as my first bus tour. So I’m excited about that. This is also Coal Chamber’s reunion tour, so it’s definitely going to be a big crowd. I have known the Combichrist guys for over a year now so I knew the tour was definitely going to be a good time.
How did you get your start selling merch for groups?
Merching is something I just kind of accidentally fell into! The first band that ever took me on tour (New Years Day) was actually my favorite band for a few years. I was really into photography when I was growing up, and I would go shoot their set any chance I could. They were some of the most humble people I had ever met, and over the course of a couple of years, we eventually all became really good friends. One day their bass player at the time, Anthony, called me up before a tour and asked if I wanted to join them. Ever since then I was with them every tour until last fall! Selling merch on tour was something I never thought about doing, but I’m glad I fell into it. The experiences, family I’ve made, and sights that I’ve seen on the road are something I wish everyone can get to experience.
As a “merchie” for the group, what are your daily duties from arrival to the venue until the end of the night?
A typical day usually starts with going into the venue and scoping out where I will be setting up for the night and how much room I have to deal with. Surprisingly enough, some of the most beautiful venues of that I’ve been to DO NOT have functional merch areas for vending! It’s a pain, but we all are usually good about sharing space and making it work somehow. From there I open up my spreadsheet and check sales from the night before so I can gauge how much merch I need to bring into the venue for that night. From there I load-in my boxes and merch into the venue. Loading in can be an ABSOLUTE nightmare or a breeze. A lot of the time our bus would be pretty far from the venue. From there I count in the merch, set up the display, sell sell sell, count out the remaining merch after the show, pay the venue their cut, load-out all the merch back to the trailer, and then from there, I head into the bus to finish up my spreadsheets and count the cash. It’s actually quite a lengthy ordeal. After all that is when I might be able to find a little time for myself, finally! It’s actually a very time consuming and tedious process from start to finish than most people would think it would be.
When it comes to packing for a national tour versus a mini or regional tour, what are the essentials that you must bring with you?
BABY WIPES. Seriously, they are life savers. I’m going to be honest here, I literally showered 8 times this entire tour from start to finish. Most of the time, there is no time for me to jump into the shower before or after the show. Now that the gross part is out of the way, I also have to bring my iPod and a good pair of headphones. If space permits, I would also bring a little guitar. Always pack for any weather conditions, even if you think you for sure know what the weather is going to be like. Other than that, I actually have learned to pack very lightly over the years. Most of the time I don’t even wear half of the stuff I bring!
You also did a run on Warped Tour a few years ago with New Years Day, what was that experience like?
Warped Tour is a BEAST. It is literally like building a little city every day. Warped Tour was definitely a difficult experience, but it’s one of those tours that you do where you finish it feeling like you can do anything in the world. The load-in was most of the time a VERY long haul through dirt, mud and gravel. My day started around 6:30am to go find a spot to place my tent, and ended around 8:00pm. The weather conditions were pretty harsh. The most memorable shows for me were Detroit and West Palm Beach. While in Detroit, a storm came out of nowhere and tents just started flying. All the stages were evacuated and everyone was rushed into the stadium. Luckily no one was hurt. During the Florida date, a rainstorm came. It started out as a little bit of rain, then before we knew it there was lightning striking the ground, and the water level raised to our news. At that point, you just have to surrender to your own stress and just laugh… Warped Tour was definitely an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have to give a hand for the people who do it every year. I would definitely do it again now that I know what to expect going into it.
Are there any memorable shows or places that you have visited while on tour?
Before the tour started, Combichrist had 2 headlining shows on the drive up to start the tour. The first stop was in New Orleans. New Orleans has always been my favorite place to be since I first visited back in 2012. There is so much to experience in that town. Amazing food, drinks, and great people. Another favorite spot of mine was our stop in Pensacola. The beaches were beautiful and I ate twice my weight in crab legs. Anytime you get to eat a good meal on tour, do it… I can only eat so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until I lose my mind.
Would you have any advice for those who want to pursue a job as merch for an artist?
Touring is definitely not as easy or as glamorous as people think, and that needs to be accepted right away. Landing your first gig can be a discouraging process at first, but just keep at it and with the right attitude and connections, someone will give you a chance. Some might get a good gig right away, and some might have to work towards it. There are definitely some sacrifices that you might have to make if it’s something that you really want to do. Although I do a few times a year, I do not consider myself even near a “pro”. I still have so much to learn about the business, and I still have a lot of dues to pay! I know many people who have practically gone on tour on their own dime for years, and they are now touring non-stop and making good money doing it. No matter what, always be humble and treat the bands and crew with respect. The most effective way to land bigger and better gigs is to make good and lasting impressions on the people you meet on the road. All that aside, touring is an experience that I wish everyone can have a shot at. The family that you make and the experiences that you have is something I’d never trade for the world.
Interview by: Robert Fayette
Stay tuned because very two weeks we release a NEW inside the industry interview!
If you want us to interview any of your favorite music industry professionals, email us at