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  • Writer's pictureCheyenne M

Rocky Rodrigues: Merch Manager

How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?

I got my start in the industry around November of 2015. I lived for going to shows and naturally started making friends with different merch people and crew members that worked for the bands I traveled endlessly to see. I always told one merch guy that if he ever started his own band, that  I would do his merch for him, to support him. That ended up being a reality and I flew out to see a festival in Texas during Christmas time that his band and some of my other favorite bands were playing. I volunteered to do merch for them that night, their manager saw the numbers, and offered me a tour a couple weeks later. I've been touring 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”?

Ah man...I remember watching DVD's like My Chem's 'Life on the Murder Scene' and Avril Lavigne's Tour DVD and knowing I needed to be part of that world. I grew up knowing that live music and the music industry was something I had to be in, I'm absolutely married to this world and have an endless list of things I want to do within it. The first day of my first tour, I remember running around finishing little tasks before doors and it kind of just hit me that I was actually on tour. This was my job, I was part of a crew, I was across the country actually starting the career I had wanted for so long. 

Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?

Definitely self care. It is so so SO easy to be swept away within a show day schedule and not be able to find the time to take care of yourself. Even more so not even wanting to because it's such an addictive and exciting environment that demands your full attention. I have FOMO so bad when it comes to not wanting to miss a single moment of what's going on.  I've only just now in the last year out of the almost five I've been doing it found the mental discipline to prioritize time for myself and my health. Lack of sleep, going from not getting a chance to eat for 10+ hours to overeating when you finally do, not showering as often as you usually do, can all compound and really take a toll on your mental health. 

What is the best part of your job? Why?

Hands down, traveling the world. I love the opportunity to learn from every new city, country, and it's people. I went to school for social psychology and I have such a deep passion for people that translates so beautifully into what I get to do. Yeah it's important to keep sales up and make money, because this is a business at the end of the day, but getting to connect with people over music and help create an amazing night for them is such an amazing feeling. 

Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?

I have a few!! My friend Blake Kunkel does merch for Dance Gavin Dance and I did one of my first tours with him. He was someone who immediately saw me for me, helped me when I needed it and never turned me away just because I was green. He's someone I can trust with both business and personal matters and he remains one of my best friends in this industry that can be so cruel and catty at times. Another is Sheree Blake who lives in Australia! She is a merch QUEEN and someone who I aspire to be more like. She's the perfect combo of professionalism and badassery combined in one. As womxn in this industry, you could be the best at what you do and still get asked who you're banging, or if you belong backstage. Sheree can run circles around anyone, sell more than you could imagine, and do it in heels and the prettiest lip gloss. She's someone I constantly turn to when I struggle with embracing my femininity because of the nature of this job. I'm always wary of dressing up, showing too much skin, not wearing a full face of makeup on tour just because of the backlash and harassment that will come from both customers and asshole industry people. But her talent and professionalism in what she does combined with the social intelligence she has just proves that you can combat that stereotype with class and it's amazing. Finally, someone I admired since I was 17 and went to shows religiously is Carlos Navarro! He is the pinnacle of an amazing human and merch manager. His merch game is so unique and impressive, all these years later I still hold my displays and techniques up to his standard.  Very much a "What would Carlos do?" Haha. I remember he would be touring like 3 weeks leading up to a major knee surgery and still be on tours doing the damn thing. I would tip him like $40 just because I admired him so much and saw how good of a person he was. Fast forward to me being almost 25, and I am lucky to call him a friend and an equal now. 

What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry? Especially, in touring?

Give em hell kid!! Don't let anyone ever tell you that you can't, take any setbacks or negativity and turn it into fuel to try even harder and go further. I risked my entire free ride to college that I had been working for since I was 6 to do this. I completed my degree on the road, learned an entirely new job and world, went through hell and back personally, missed major milestones in my life back home, and I still did it. I never gave myself a Plan B, my main motivation was making this my life and keeping that my sole priority. Also-make it a point to meet and work with as many other womxn in the industry as you can! The support you can get from those relationships are invaluable. 

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?

Not turned down, but I've definitely had concerns brought up because I am a female. Mostly in regards to band members having significant others who didn't want them to be touring with a young female. That always frustrates me, because my mental schema of myself is that of a crew member who is on the road to work and have fun. Most of the time, I don't even have the personal time to myself for romance or even alone time, so to be singled out and judged for something like that is very annoying. In situations like that, I just empathize with someone who is missing their significant other and try not take it personally. When I'm working for a band that has a demographic consisting of older men, I do get more invasive and sexist questions-your typical "Who are you sleeping with? Whose girlfriend are you? Are you on the whole tour sweetheart?" Those questions piss me off to no end because people don't even understand how disrespectful it is to ask that of a womxn on tour. Again I try to use those moments are teaching opportunities to address the sexism there and help those who ask understand how insulting that is. 

What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)?

I love working out, curating playlists with my current favorites on them, film photography ( I have a photo album for every tour I've ever done taken with my Instax mini I carry on the road). I do enjoy a nice smoking session (I am very 420 friendly) at sunset with friends as well-on and off tour. 

Tour must-have?

Gaff tape, portable charger, protein bars and my own towel-otherwise I stain every hotel towel with my hair hahaha. 

What is the best/worst tour memory you have?

There's too many bests but some include going to Disneyworld on an off day with the As It Is crew and tour package (shoutout to Mase and Hayley for hooking it up!), getting into a Migos Superbowl after party at the Masquerade. 

Who is your all-time favorite artist?

My Chemical Romance, easy. 

What is something you can't live without?

Headphones, coffee, and 50 different chapsticks. 

Go-to Karaoke song?

Agh I have a little list that I choose from in my head and always decide on last minute: Hella Good by No Doubt, Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood, or Criminal by Fiona Apple. 

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee, unless we're talking dirty chai tea lattes. (with oat/soy)

First concert you went to?

It was either Avril at my local mall, it was an acoustic album release of Under My Skin, or a Death Angel my dad took me too in SF. He pushed me into my first moshpit. 

What’s something that you always have on you?

Chapstick, a black sharpie, and an extra hairband. 

Who is your dream artist or band to tour/work with?

My Chemical Romance, Beartooth or Harry Styles. 

What does a typical day at work look like for you? (On tour / not on tour)

Typical day on tour looks like this: wake up, locate nearest coffee shop, put my pass on, and scope out the merch space in the venue. It's a lot of waiting for load in most of the time, but the best part about merch is you can most likely load in whenever since it's all separate from stage setups. I prefer to set up everything, get my restock for the day, and situate my float for the night before I get ready and see what free time I have left for myself. If I have time before doors after setting up, I'll grab an afternoon coffee, do my makeup for the day and change my outfit, maybe catch up on whatever Netflix show I'm obsessed with. Once it's doors, I'm married to that merch table. I don't really like to leave unless I absolutely have to for food or to use the restroom. I sell all night, settle with the venue, load out, smoke a joint, eat some cereal and usually go to bed haha. Wake up, rinse, repeat! Off tour I'll wake up, make breakfast, make a list of things to do that day, then start checking them off. Most of my friends and family have a normal life which entails being married to a schedule around school or work-so I'm alone most of the time off the road. I use this time to sing, workout more, paint, and deep dive into more psychology (what I majored in in college!) and astrology. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Still touring full time, TM'ing, implementing more mental health programs and resources into the touring music scene, writing and releasing my first EP. 

What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?

I would love to see more money go into the pockets of artist's who bust their ass and bleed their soul out for their art. I want more passion and less clout chasing, more space for womxn and minorities, both behind the scenes and center stage. Lastly, I would love for there to be more mental health resources available for those who tour. On site therapy sessions, online therapy sessions, more mental check ins and breaks that become part of the schedule. 

Lastly, what saying do you live by?

Life moves fast, run faster. 



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