Live Nation joined the atVenu family a few years ago, upgrading their amphitheaters to atVenu for all merchandise operations and creating their now venue management team with Michael Moynihan heading up the northeast region. We sit down with Michael to learn more about venue merchandise operations and some of the lesser known details that go into running and overseeing 17 Live Nation amphitheaters!
I started at 17! I was a theatre kid growing up and had managed to establish myself as a lighting and sound designer in the small community theatre scene in New Hampshire. My Mom, sick of me taking her car to all of those “gigs” pushed me to get a “real job.” I decided to get a real job at the concert venue down the street. I lucked out because that venue was Bank of NH Pavilion. After a few years the owners, RJ and Bridget Harding, asked me to take on more roles at the venue. On top of doing merchandise, at different points, I was the IT assistant, the office manager, and the Assistant Box Office Manager. Eventually, the venue entered into a partnership with Live Nation around the time Live Nation was also planning on taking merchandise in-house… so I owe a lot to being in the right place at the right time. Now, I work in partnership with the General Managers and Merchandise Managers on the merch operations at 17 different venues- including Bank of NH Pavilion!
It can be intimidating; I work with people who literally sold merch for Elvis … who died almost 20 years before I was born. I learned quickly that people don’t care about your age if they see that you add value to the operation. Early on, I threw myself into learning atVenu, because some of the merchandise managers at my venues didn’t know it yet. By knowing the system, I became useful to them. The flip side of it is that I’ve learned a lot from my team. I only really ran merch for a 9,000 seat amphitheater, and some of them run stadiums, so a lot of my job in the beginning was learning from their wisdom. For me, I think it’s good to have a team that are really experienced. Iron sharpens iron. It just makes me work harder to not let them down.
More or less the whole summer! I spent over 150 nights in hotels last year... in six months. Generally, I try to go to 3-4 shows a week, and hopefully I visit all my venues 3 or 4 times a year. I always say that “I’m going to spend less time on the road this year” and I never really do. I want to be where the action is!
"Make your displays brighter!”
I say it at every venue I go to. If fans can clearly see the merchandise, they’re more likely to buy it quicker! If they buy it quicker, your lines are shorter. If your lines are shorter, you’ll get more impulse buyers. And capturing more impulse buyers is great in merch because that’s money that you may have not have otherwise received.
This wasn’t a Live Nation gig, but I was working this one show… We had insane lines at the merch stand and the guy selling next to me (who was getting a PhD in IT) basically short circuited… he literally forgot how to turn on the iPad. Merch is straightforward and simple but it’s a high-pressure environment. You have a crowd of people staring at you while you work! It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you can’t handle the pressure in the moment.
When I was running merch at Bank of NH Pavilion, there was one artist who was selling miniature bronze busts of himself for $200. Honestly, it seemed like the most ridiculous item to try to sell at a concert. Who’s going to want to carry that around all night? So, I went to my team and said, "whoever sells the most busts, will win a $50 gift card to Patrick’s [a local pub]!” Two of my sellers took that challenge and sold 8 each. The tour’ s merch manager told us that they had sold more of these things tonight than the artist had in the last 10 years! And then we all went to Patrick’s!
I don’t know if this is attributable to Covid, but the increase of sales in merch has been a game changer. In the pre-Covid world, we would just do a “normal” $7 per head show. We’d stroll in at 2:00pm, count some shirts, display, sell, count out, go home. Now, there’s no such thing as a normal show anymore. That same show is doing $20 per head and we’re in at 10:00 am so we can have the outside stand ready by 1:00pm!
I was lucky that when I took over merch in Gilford, my first road reps were Scott and Rose Hanson, who are some of the best venue/artist merch reps in the game. I probably learned close to 75% of what I know now from them during that first run of shows. I always make sure I visit a Zac Brown Band show when they’re in my region and I always pick up new tricks! Also, you can’t beat getting to work with Prem Shah. I remember when I was at Bank of NH Pavilion, I would hear almost mythical stories of him running BTS at the Rose Bowl from other merch reps. And now, I get to work with him every day and it turns out, he is not only that good, but he’s
also just a chill human being. But probably, my biggest inspiration is the owner and General Manager of Bank of NH Pavilion, RJ Harding. He’s basically my business dad. I am eternally grateful to him because he seemed to see potential in me, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that. He’s also the smartest person I’ve ever worked with. He taught himself how to code a whole ticketing system and a merch POS system! We were doing online merchandise orders in 2014. It was inspiring to be on the cutting edge in Gilford, NH.
Honestly, where the larger acts play tends to be how I determine where I’m needed. Like in 2021, I felt like I was a roadie for the Jonas Brothers. I think I worked at least 5 or 6 of their shows.
The Foo Fighters show at Bank of NH Pavilion (their first back since the death of Taylor Hawkins) was an incredible night and possibly one of my favorite nights working ever. I got to watch one of the most famous bands in the world have a historic show on the same stage where I graduated high school. It’s going to be hard to top that!
Listen to Mom when she says get a real job! I work with great people, doing work I enjoy, in a great working environment. I’m 28 years old, I get to live in NYC, and I get to travel and see new places. I know I’m winning the “Twenties” lottery for sure. I work with local venue merchandise managers who care and want to do right by the venue, the fan, and the artists. I’m just waiting until other people start figuring that out and start coming for my job. I love what I do, and I look forward to each summer season in our amphitheaters!