Interview with Adrien Parker from Rare Peeps

Interview with Adrien Parker from Rare Peeps

Rare Peeps has been an atVenu partner for years, managing live event on-site merchandise operations for some of the largest festivals including Coachella and Stagecoach.

Getting To Know The Founder

How did you come up with the name Rare Peeps?

I don’t get this question often, but I love answering it when I do because it’s something I hold fairly close to me on a personal level. For context, I’ve always been a huge nerd and once you understand the reference here, it’ll all make sense. One of my favourite video game / software development companies has always been a British company called Rare that is based out of Twycross, England. They’re responsible for some of most popular video game titles for the Nintendo 64 console in the early 90’s, including Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye 007, and my personal favourite: Banjo-Kazooie. The “Rareware” logo and name appeared on the back of some of the most iconic video games at the time. When we first decided to start a merchandise company, I thought it’d be such a cool subtle nod if we called the company “Rarewear” or “Rare Wear” because it was so rare to find other companies or people who were event remotely good at live event merchandise…and of course, you wear merch, right? Eventually, after some brainstorming, we came up with Rare Peeps, because we’re rare people who actually give a damn about the details, what we do, and executing things as seamlessly as possible. I even keep a Rareware patch on my backpack at all times because I love obscure references.

Founder of Rare Peeps, Adrien Parker

What was Rare Peeps’ first festival?

Our first festival was actually a single day outdoor festival in Jacksonville, Florida at Metropolitan Park with Danny Wimmer Presents called The Big Ticket. This was in mid-2015.

Which merch caused the longest lines for the booth’s you’ve seen at a live event?

Kanye’s Sunday Service at Coachella in 2019 had a line that was close to a mile long. I’ve still never seen anything like it.

Coachella 2019 Sunday Service Merch Booth

Is there any type of merch apparel or accessory that you want artists to stop including in their merch lines because they are annoying to manage at the booth and sell very little?

Any items that could be considered a tchotchke item; keychains, coins, lighters, magnets, enamel pins, etc. Not only are they incredibly tough to manage and keep track of because they’re so little, but they absolutely suck to display. They’re never big money makers either.

For your favorite bands, what is the merch item(s) that YOU actually purchase?

I actually don’t buy band merchandise all too often. If I do, I’ll buy music…vinyl specifically since I’m an audiophile and have a huge record collection. If we’re talking clothing, I actually prefer to buy obscure food or convenience store t-shirts with left chest hit prints and back hit prints.

What has been your favorite event thus far?

The Metallica 40th Anniversary Celebration. In addition to being a certified nerd, I’m also a huge Metallica fan.

Metallica 40th Anniversary Weekend Merch Stand Setup

What’s the funniest merch item you have sold at an event?

In 2017, at a festival in Long Beach, California called Summertime in the LBC, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony sold Styrofoam lean cups for $5. I thought it was so hilarious that people were willing to spend $5 on a Styrofoam one time use cup that had Bone Thugs’ logo on it.

Managing Live Events

What is one of the most time-consuming parts of preparing for a festival?

The weeks leading up to the festival. Many people would assume that the most time consuming work happens at the festival, but I would argue that it’s actually several weeks beforehand getting everything prepared so that you are even able to operate on-site.

Your company officially signed Goldenvoice as a client in 2021. For those that aren’t aware, Goldenvoice runs festivals such as Coachella and Stagecoach. For festivals of that magnitude is there anything different you have to take into account compared to other events?

One of the biggest differences between Coachella and other events is the artist merchandise aspect. Coachella routinely has in the neighborhood of 100 artists that perform each year and we sell merchandise for all of them. For reference, a normal mid-size music festival generally has somewhere between 20-30 at most. Imagine being responsible for over 100 different product lines?

Rare Peeps partnered with Danny Wimmer Presents for all of their festivals starting in 2021. Did the same team travel to each festival or did you have different teams setup for each event?

We’ve worked with DWP since 2015 and a few of our company’s key people have been involved in almost every show each year. My staffing director, Dave Fisher, is such an important part of my company and he’s been to almost every show. For on-site operations, our artist merchandise managers Mikayla Davis and David Standlee have both been with us for a few years and worked almost every DWP event.

Industry Trends & Insights Into This Coming Season

What would you tell fans to do when they get to the merch booth to make the transactions go smoother/faster?

Use your words! “I want the black t-shirt.” tells me absolutely nothing when there are at least one dozen black t-shirts on the display wall behind me.

Please have a general idea of what size garment you normally wear and if you don’t, I cordially invite you to begin paying attention to the clothes you put on each morning. Also, “please” and “thank you” go a long way in this industry. It’s entirely possible that the person you’re buying that shirt from woke up at 8:00am to take inventory of their product, received and de-palletized an entire shipment, unloaded a truck, built the display, answered 15 e-mails, and is now cashiering.

Welcome To Rockville 2021 main merch tent

To someone who says selling merchandise at events is like retail, what would you say back to them?

I love this question, as it’s often one of my main focal points whenever a client balks at our service fees and pricing structure. With retail, you have permanent infrastructure and accessible resources to streamline the day to day processes that need to be accomplished. With live event merchandising, you have to approach things with a  multi-disciplinary mindset.

My company’s key employees are skilled in inventory management, forensic accounting, understanding finances and tax law in multiple US states, cashiering, cash collection, trend forecasting, planning / projections, staff management, human resources, heavy equipment such as forklifts, boom lifts, scissor lifts, etc. I’ve never met a Nordstrom employee who can inventory $1M in product, identify discrepancies, hop on a forklift, and then build an organized display wall and begin cashiering all within the same day! The point being, unlike a big-box retail store where there are various departments, merchandise at a festival IS one single department and our entire team has to be able to execute it, all while braving the outdoor elements like sun, wind, or rain.

This industry has been through a lot the last few years. Even though it is only February, are you noticing anything different as we kick off 2022 compared to 2018 or 2019?

Across the board, we’ve noticed that festival patrons universally have been more spendy. It’s obvious that people have had pandemic induced cabin fever and are ready to get back out with their friends to experience live music and buy some merchandise to take a piece of the show home with them!

Have you seen a shift at all in payment methods over the last few years? What do you expect to see over the next 1-2 years?

I’ve definitely seen things lean in a direction where electronic payments are used more so than cash. Apple Pay and Android Pay in particular, in lieu of credit cards.

As festival season has officially begun, Rare Peeps kicks off their season with Coachella and Stagecoach and into dozens of other festivals including all Danny Wimmer Presents and Goldenvoice's newest festival, Power Trip this fall!