We came up with these categories last year, (mostly) tongue in cheek. File this under "we laugh because otherwise we'd be pulling our hair out" as we spend our vacation time toiling away in the service of folk music.
Most Organized: Some artist just have the merch thing down - packed well, nice display, tee shirts rolled up and sorted by size and type. Even if there's a lot of merch, it's not hard to count in and count out. Tracy Grammer wins this award, most years - she's a pro! The Grand Slambovians (with merch person extraordinaire Cindy) are also in the running.
Optimist Award (Emerging Artist): Every year somebody brings a full case (300+) or CDs when we suggest perhaps 50-100 max. It's not really a fair award (sometimes artists finish up a CD specifically with the fest in mind and have it drop shipped) but it just seems so hopeful. Although every year, some emerging artist brings 10-20 pieces, sells those out in a flash, and could have sold much more.
B.O.T. (Bin o' Tees) Award: Every year, somebody shows up with 5 or 6 plastic tubs filled with tee shirts: unfolded,
uncounted, unsorted, random. We end up counting in (by hand) 200-300
shirts, and counting them out after the fest - a huge commitment of time
and energy for a small crew. We are (of course) filled with resentment. Last year, if I recall correctly, I spent an afternoon
mid-fest rolling and rubber-banding one artist's tees as a form of
festival Metta (loving kindness) because I realized I was sending out
all sorts of crappy vibes to this particular artist solely on the basis of their merch, and wanted to even out my karma.
Artists we love figure out a way to control tee-shirts. We've seen them rolled and banded with rubber bands or hair ties. We've seen them folded and placed in zip-lock bags. Just something so that we can count them quickly and accurately, and aren't stuck straightening up the mess from your last gig.
Dan Navarro Suitcase Award: We love Dan to pieces, but one year he showed up with a huge soft sided suitcase filled with CDs. It looked as if someone had opened the suitcase at the end of the merch table at his last gig, just swept all the CDs into the suitcase, and closed it up. Everything mixed and jumbled, he as amused and bemused by it as we were. We tease Dan about it when he brings his smiling face back to merch land (and for the record, it only happened once). Every year somebody shows up with a merch collection that looks like it got packed from across the room with a slingshot, and we flash back to that moment we opened Dan's suitcase and thought "What the what?"
Creative (non-musical) Merch Award: Folks put a logo on just about anything, and we like to recognize that. Spuyten Duyvil is pretty good with this (can cozies, flasks, bottle openers, etc.) - but we've had also had water misters, lighters, frisbees, matches, coasters, you name it.
I'm Special Award: Most often it's someone not appearing or performing at the fest who wheedles their way into the merch tent (I'm pretty watchful, but stuff gets past me, or people go over my head). No, you do not get to sell your CDs in the tent just because you were an emerging artist in 2003 or have been a volunteer since 1995. We have to track, count, carry back and forth to the trailers, and assume liability for stolen merch, and we're only going to do that for performer's actually playing the fest. And if you do sneak or wheedle your way into the tent, know that checking you out having sold nothing during the fest kind of makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Karma, bitch!
Dregs Award: Sometimes artists show up with a merch selection that looks like they cleaned out their trunk - one of this, two of that, a handful of another. Kind of get the feeling that bringing merch to sell was kind of an after-thought. And often we're telling people "sorry, that's all she brought to sell" throughout the weekend. You are missing sales!
Display Over-Achiever Award: Some artists really put a lot of thought and effort into their merch displays, with lights, suitcases, racks, posters, etc. Every year we are duly impressed, and note other artists looking on with envy and perhaps planning their own future merchandising.
Granola Award: Eco friendly packaging or merch. It will be a long time before someone beats Poor Old Shine with their CD cases made from recycled / reused cereal boxes, gleaned from the U-Conn cafeteria. Folks were frantically pawing through the stack of CDs to find a cereal box (inside) that they liked.
Late Arrival Award: Invariably, someone shows up five minutes before their set, throws the merch at us, and runs to the stage. Often patrons have been asking for their stuff all weekend. After their set, the artists run back to the merch tent, intent in checking-out (having sold almost nothing, because their fans were all listening to them play). Artists - we're more than happy to have you ship stuff ahead of time so it's out and available for sale from the festival start, and if you leave early, we're happy to keep a small pile of your stuff all weekend and ship it back after. No need to lose sales....
Merch? What Merch? Award: It's hard to believe but some artists show up without merch. Sometimes it's a national act who just can't be bothered. Sometimes people just forget or do not realize that there are 1000's of music fans here with vacation money waiting to be spent. Their spot in the merch tent (carefully laid out pre-fest) is sadly empty all weekend.
Down to Earth Award: You might be a major celebrity or minor musical god(dess) but you treat the folks in the cheap seats well. Amazing how accessible, real, and human most of the folk performers are, but some really do stand out.There are a couple of well known, national audience folkies who never fail to greet me and give me a hug when I see them at other fests or gigs, that's very sweet.
My People Handle That Award: Conversely, there are some artists / performers you will never see in or near the merch area. It's just off their radar, they have managers or merch coordinators to do that.
Festival Virgin Award: Every year somebody (emerging artists, but sometimes mains stage or dance stage acts) show up with a wide-eyed "we're not in Kansas, anymore" look at the size and scope of our little fest. We try to make them feel at home and help them find their way around.
Tootsie Roll Enthusiast Award: Merch trailer all-around good guy Lance brings a big jar of Tootsie Rolls every year (which we try hard to keep the ants out of) and invariably some performer makes a stop in every few hours for a fix. It's quite charming.
We're in the Band Award: We're generally happy to put out merch for side musicians, solo efforts, but some groups end up with 15-20 titles for side musicians, compilations, side projects, etc. You could stock a small music store....
P.I.T.A. Award: We don't really like giving this one out (and often it's bestowed affectionately). But if an artist returns to the merch area 4-5 times to add or remove merch, changes the prices 3 times, set's up convoluted sales special (buy two CDs and get a tee-shirt free) takes stuff out of the tent without telling anyone, grabs merch to give away while signing, moves their stuff to a better location (we put things out alphabetically), etc. they are in the running.
Putting in Time Award: We once watched an artist (OK, it was Susan Werner) spend 2.5 hours in the signing area, taking time to talk to every fan, putting folks on the guest list for upcoming concerts, handing out free CDs, and not leaving until everybody got seen. Kind of unbelievable and inspiring to watch.