Allison Lanza: VIP Coordinator / Merch Manager
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry? I’ve been involved the music industry since I was a senior in high school, so about seven years. I’ve been touring professionally for about two and a half years now.
I got my start by starting a music blog with my friend Becca when I was a senior in high school. When I went off to college, my friends Addie + Gabi joined the team and Gabi had the brilliant idea to turn the blog into a digital music magazine, which we called Beyond The Stage Magazine. She had a lot of amazing connections and we were able to lock in some pretty cool musicians for the pages so the publication gained momentum pretty quickly. Eventually I started interning all over the city in management, marketing, booking and more, and I realized that my heart wasn’t in the magazine like it used to be, so I left on good terms and started pursuing other interests. I got involved with some local Pittsburgh bands and eventually started touring in my time off from school. But what really started my career was the Touring and Promoting Live Entertainment class I took in college. I hit it off with my professor, Jen, who was the accountant for the Vans Warped Tour, and she asked me to be her assistant the summer after I graduated (2017). I’ve pretty much been touring consistently ever since.
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”? When I was 14, I went to see my at-the-time favorite band at Altar Bar in Pittsburgh. It was my first ever general admission show and my mom made my dad take me and my friend because she didn’t want us there alone. My best friend and I got to meet each member of our favorite band after the show and we talked to each of them for fifteen or so minutes. It was then that I came to this big realization that the musicians we see onstage are just normal people with cool jobs, and I was determined from that very day back in 2011 that I wanted to be involved in music in some capacity. Though I never thought touring was where I would end up as I never really saw any women in touring roles at first. I didn't really know there was a place for us in touring until I went to college.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry? I struggle with anxiety a lot which I feel has only multiplied thanks to my job but I’ve learned healthier ways to handle it. I also struggle with knowing I am far from home at all times. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s so being away for months at a time is a bummer. I spend a lot of time feeling guilty that I’m not able to visit him more often while he still remembers my name. I also struggled for a while with maintaining friendships with people outside of my crew but I think I’ve gotten better at this, thankfully. The work-life balance was something that was really hard for me for a while but I've gotten a lot better at not making my job my only personality trait.
What is the best part of your job? Why? The best part of my job is getting to be a part of a concert goer’s experience. All the time I think back to the days where I was the one literally counting down the days to my next concert, memorizing setlists, buying VIP packages, saving my money for merch. Those days meant everything to me, and going to shows felt so magical. It’s so satisfying knowing that I get to help make a show day the best day ever for someone. And specifically I love my current gig running VIP for Kidz Bop because for a lot of our guests, it’s their first concert EVER! And being a part of that really special day is so cool- you never know what kid might come to the show and be so enthralled that they may want to take a singing or a dancing lesson, and maybe they’ll go onto be involved in the music industry in some capacity, too!
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry? I've had a few throughout the start of my career, but I currently consider my tourmate and friend Anjel Lopez my biggest mentor. She was previously the VIP rep for our tour & she’s the one who put me up for the job when she took on another role within our crew. She is awesome to bounce things off of, not only because she used to do my job (and soooo well) but because she has been on major tours and been in positions I've only dreamed of being in.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry? Fight like hell! If a band won’t hire you because you’re a girl, they’re not a band you want to work for anyway. There are many more bands out there who will hire women than the ones who won’t. Keep your head up. It will be hard for you at times but you got this. When I started, I used to mold myself to be "one of the guys" on the road so that I could fit in better, but don't change who you are to fit in on the road.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position? Honestly I’ve been rather fortunate in this regard- I’ve only ever worked for artists who appreciated me the same way they’ve appreciated their male crew members (heck, some of them probably treated me better than their male crew members- they really have just turned into my big brothers, lol). Like I said before, if a band doesn’t want to hire you just because you’re a woman, that’s on them and they’d probably suck to work for anyway. There are so many bands full of wonderful people that will hire women without thinking twice and those are the people you want to work for.
That said, I’ve definitely encountered minor instances of sexism. I can’t possibly count the amount of times a venue staff member will come to count in merch and go straight to the support’s merch guy instead of me to get the headliner’s counts, even when I’m the one running the headliner’s merch. It also should be obvious because I am standing right in front of their merch and probably holding it. It’s mostly just internalized misogyny that I encounter, where it’s like you have to train yourself to accept that maybe you should use context clues instead of just assuming the male is the person you should talk to always, if that makes sense. On my first tour doing VIP, there was a venue rep who would talk down to me the entire day and any time I told him something about the run of the show, he would go straight to my (male) TM and he would get the exact same answer that I gave, or the TM would say "talk to Allison, she's in charge of that." Little things like that- nothing too crazy but will drive you crazy if you let it.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)? It’s funny you ask this because until about a month ago I would tell you I have no hobbies. This was always something I struggled with because I worked so much that I felt I didn’t have time for hobbies. But recently I’ve remembered how much I love to cook. I like to sew and draw and design clothes. I’ve recently gotten into yoga, and I have really been enjoying reading. I've also fallen down a Disney+ hole and now will literally sit on a bike at the gym and do 8 miles while watching a random DCOM. I am also addicted to The Circle on Netflix. It's super cringey, but I cannot stop watching.
Who do you tour with? How did you get that role? My main gig is Kidz Bop- I currently am their VIP representative. I got the job with Kidz Bop when Anjel sent me a text one day asking if I had any interest in taking over the VIP spot as she was transitioning to a new role on the crew. I think when we met for the first time, I had mentioned wanting to start moving from merchandise into VIP, so she must have held that in the back of her head. So then a couple phone calls with management later I accepted the job and I’ve been with them for technically a year now!
When I am not with Kidz Bop I’m probably with one of a handful of different artists. I kinda hop around but I've toured with Nothing But Thieves, The Aces, The Wrecks, Hoodie Allen and a couple others.
Tour must-have? Nintendo Switch and a secret stash of microwaveable popcorn in my bunk.
What is the best/worst tour memory you have? Best: My first tour with Nothing But Thieves ended in Philadelphia and we had this little after party at the promoter’s apartment. NBT’s FOH, Gary, wanted to run the Rocky steps but we were afraid we would miss bus call so we accepted defeat and went back to the bus. It was like 3am, so everyone else went to sleep aside from Gary & I. Our driver William must have overheard us talking about the steps, so he offered to drive us over. He said he would drop us off, do two laps around the street while we ran the steps, then come back and pick us up. He blasted Eye of the Tiger as he drove us over there, and then we ran up the stairs! He rolled up right as we came back to street level. Silly as it is, I will always treasure that moment.
Worst: Also with Nothing But Thieves - we were on our way to a show in Austin, TX and one of the axels on our trailer broke in the middle of nowhere, TX. We ended up having to cross load all the gear and merch into a uhaul and drive it to the venue, and by the time we arrived at the venue, doors for VIPs were scheduled to open in 30 minutes. Of course, when we cross-loaded the gear and merch everything was no longer organized, so trying to pull and count in all in within 30 minutes was absolutely not happening, so I had to keep the merch table closed through the first band as I finished setting up as quick as possible. It was also an outdoor show and I sweat a lot. But the show went on so at the end of the day, it wasn’t all that bad.
Who is your all-time favorite artist? Oasis
What is something you can't live without? My stupid cell phone, unfortunately.
Go-to Karaoke song? Easy- "Rock Star" by Nickelback. I even did it onstage with them once. I’m dedicated.
Tea or Coffee? I’m a tea drinker, but I appreciate a good mocha.
First concert you went to? Technically speaking, Smash Mouth. It was after a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game and they performed during fireworks. Aside from that it was American Idol, I think Season 5? The year of Kellie Pickler.
What’s something that you always have on you? My planner. I’m old school and like having a written out schedule at my disposal always.
Who is your dream artist or band to tour/work with? Halsey or Harry Styles.
What does a typical day at work look like for you (on the road and when you’re not on tour)? Normal day off the road for me right now: sleeping forever, hitting the gym and cooking food. I don’t do a lot of work off the road. Advancing gets added to this if I have a tour coming up within the next two weeks, so then that’s a few hours of sitting in front of my computer and notebook and probably also making phone calls.
On the road will vary but this is a very brief overview of an average day of my summer last year: Wake up a little before load in and grab breakfast at catering. Once my case makes it off the truck, set up my office & print out sign in sheets. Go on a walkthrough with the venue reps and get familiar with where my activation will run. Meet up with my local assistants & give them tasks like putting together laminates or merch bands. Hit up catering for lunch, then set up the party space for our program. Start check in. Make sure catering arrives. Walk the guests to a cappella + Q&A with the kids, then to the party space. Check on guests and make sure they are enjoying themselves. Close party and clean up. Go eat dinner, and then prepare the meet and greet space and after the show, run the meet and greet. Load out all gear, send some end of show recap emails & get ready to do it all again tomorrow. Sleep is in there somewhere, but mostly on days off.
Where do you see yourself in five years? It changes often. I told myself I want to tour for 5 years and then decide how I feel about it, whether or not I want to continue. So ask again in 2.5 years. But as of now I could see myself either continuing on the road - maybe in more production based roles or I would really like to move into wardrobe and combine my love for sewing with my life on the road OR maybe settling somewhere and working at an agency or maybe even a merch company.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years? I hope that women run the whole thing.
Lastly, what saying do you live by? “Don’t let your dreams be dreams. Just. Do. It.” - Shia LaBeouf