In this edition of my blog series feature Behind the Art, I’m pleased to feature Kate Moore, merchandise & web maven for UFO. I met Kate some years ago at a rock festival in Texas, and we hit it off straight away, sharing the joys and woes of merchandising (a task I’ve since delegated to our lovely Nick so I could focus on managerial things). Kate and I keep in touch online, and if our paths don’t cross while we’re each on tour, she often makes it out to one of our UK shows. I know her job well, and while it’s fun, it’s also loads of work to do properly—and that she does.
UFO Merchandise and Web Administrator. Follow Kate online.
What prompted you to pursue the business side of music? How did you happen into it?
I often wonder!
On the first night of UFO’s UK tour in 2004, I went to the gig and the person who was meant to be selling the merch hadn’t turned up. UFO’s manager asked if I’d mind helping out (we already knew each other—he didn’t just throw a dart and pick whomever it landed on!). I’d only intended to go to that first gig, but ended up living on the bus for the rest of the tour! I nipped home halfway through to fetch some more clothes, but after that there was no looking back!
Describe your job and what it entails.
For the first few tours all I did was sell the shirts and make the paperwork balance at the end of each night. But now it’s the whole thing—from sourcing the stock, right through to selling it at the shows and from the UFO web-shop.
You also maintain the UFO web site. How did that come about?
Pretty much the same way. The guy who was doing it before did a great job, but in those days there wasn’t much actual news, so it didn’t need updating very often. With Vinnie in the band, the touring schedule became more regular, and the site updates needed to be more frequent, so . . . right place, right time—again!
Do you create the merchandise designs, do you have an artist that you use, or is it a group effort?
Tristan Greatrex—the amazingly dedicated guy who runs the Misty Green and Blue fansite (which is absolutely the place to go for all current and archived UFO info and magazine articles, etc.)—has been responsible for designing the last few UFO album covers. He and the band liaise on various designs, and then whichever one is chosen, he follows through with artwork for the sleeve note booklet, posters, t-shirts, tour laminates, everything.
Who’s the first artist that got you started? What’s the story behind that?
I manned the merch desk at a few gigs in 2003-2006 for Waysted, Heavy Metal Kids, Stray, and Cockney Rejects. I used to run a very irreverent UFO fansite—purely for the fans, not for the band—and it was very popular in an audience-participation kinda way. This was long before Facebook, and it became the #1 place for UFO fans to hang out. For the fansite, I’d interviewed some people with UFO connections, such as ex-band members, etc., and that led to me working with these bands. The fansite still exists, but these days Facebook has taken over so the fansite isn’t necessary now! Still worth a look, though, for old time’s sake! The No Heavy Petting page and the Out In The Street page are especially good examples of how much into it the fans were!
Who all have you worked with? And who are all the artists that you work with nowadays?
I think I’ve covered most of them, but I also built the websites for Heavy Metal Kids, Ten Years After, Hundred Seventy Split (Leo Lyons’s new band), Dave Ling of Classic Rock magazine, and Taz Taylor and Dave Burn—two stunning guitarists whose music I first heard when they were members of the Strangers In The Night ‘club’ and felt honour-bound to give them a higher internet profile.
I know the answer to this next question, but I’m asking the question since my readers will likely wonder: Are you related to Vinnie (Moore)?
Indeed I am! I’m the crazy auntie that he keeps locked in the attic and only lets out at tour times. Nah . . . no relation at all.
Do you have a lot of interaction with the fans? Do they fill you with stories at the shows, or is it all straight business?
Oh, yes, for me this whole crazy lifestyle started because of the fans. I got to know so many of them through the SITN fansite, and then met them at the shows. Without the fans, where would any of us be? (“Sitting quietly at home and going to bed at a sensible time,” says my daughter!)
Touché! And we’ll all keep rolling as long as the fans continue to have us.
What are the top issues for you in managing the merchandise, and how do you resolve them?
Making sure everything arrives where it should, when it should, in the quantity it should, with the quality it should, and at the price it should. Everything else is easy. The plate-spinning starts about three months before a tour and from that moment the headache is to keep all the plates spinning on all the poles. The actual job of standing at the desk and selling stuff is the reward for all the work that’s gone before.
As a woman in a male-dominant business, what gender-based obstacles have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Apart from tour bus toilets not being designed for anyone who needs to sit down, and many of the venues having communal showers and no locks on the bathrooms doors, there aren’t really any gender-based obstacles. I’ve been treated as one of the lads for so long that I forget I’m a woman in a man’s world.
Where do you live and why?
I live near Nottingham in England. No real reason why, except in a que será será kinda way.
What is your morning routine?
Mornings on the tour bus are my favourite time, ’cause it’s when I get my best sleep. After the gig we take a while to wind down, so it may be 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. when we get to bed. If we’re driving overnight it’s easy to get to sleep, but I usually wake up at 6:00-ish, the same as at home. From then until the driver stops the bus for his tacho-break, it’s a kind of limbo, where you’re counting the miles until the next “restroom stop,” as you call them in America. Once that’s been achieved, I go back to my bunk and sink into the oblivion of proper sleep till about mid-day.
What constitutes a productive day at work for you?
Sell, sell, sell! The boys can always tell when I get back on the bus if it’s been a good night for merch. If they can see by my face that it hasn’t (or if I’ve had to shell out an exorbitant concession fee to the venue), they hand me a glass of wine and then stay well out of my way. That’s not easy on a tour bus, though!
Is there anything unusual about your workspace? What do you keep on your workspace? What’s the view from there?
Merchandise desks vary greatly from club to club. Those in the O2 clubs are wonderful with a self-contained secure kiosk, power points, lighting, plenty of space, and a wall-display. But in some clubs all you get is a rickety, sticky table with no lighting, miles from an electric socket, and with nowhere to display anything. In some venues you’re placed where you can watch the show, which is an added bonus; but sometimes you’re in a corridor next to the toilets. Every night is different; you just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.
Do you have a peculiar habit?
You’d have to ask the band that. I’m sure they’d give you a list!
Please recommend three songs (any genre, any artist) and tell us why you like them.
I’ll avoid the obvious UFO/MSG songs, and anything rock, because those change from day to day. But consistent non-rock favourites are:
The Load Out—Jackson Browne. Because it’s everything I feel about touring.
The Bucket of Water Song—the Four Bucketeers. How could you listen to this and not be transported back to the glory years of Tiswas and everything that went with it? (American readers won’t understand how important Tiswas is/was to us Brits!)
The third choice is between two Steppenwolf tracks: The Pusher and Magic Carpet Ride. Two very different songs, but they both take me back to a time when I was young and thin and gorgeous.
As I’m also an author, I’d love for you to recommend three books and tell us why you like them.
I’m no good with anything deep. I like books you can dip in and out of . . . and I’m looking forward to reading your book when it comes out!
What makes you want to research an artist that’s unfamiliar to you?
It’s usually when a musician is recommended by another musician whose work I admire. One of my guitarist pals, Taz Taylor in San Diego, has been raving about the Irish guitarist Simon McBride. So I looked him up on YouTube, and, yes—I’m very impressed!
Do you have an industry friend who helps and inspires you?
It’s difficult to single anyone out ’cause I’m helped and inspired by so many people in the music biz. After much thought, though, I’m gonna say Tonio Neuhaus, the UFO Tour Manager. His ruthless German efficiency makes him an excellent person at dealing with the day-to-day running of a tour, and I’ve never seen him faced with a problem that he hasn’t been able to conquer—mislaid equipment, lost passports, crew/band/fan/promoter issues, etc. Also, he’s firing on all eleven from the minute he wakes up, and nothing gets past him. Total respect!
Do you play a musical instrument? If so, which one(s), and for how long have you played?
Blimey, no. I’ve never even tried. Never will, either!
Do you have any superstitions?
Can’t think of any. Although, Friday 13th is usually quite a lucky day for me.
What phrase do you over-use?
“Oh, go on then, I might as well finish the bottle.”
Do you have a funny story related to your job, whether on tour or preparing for a tour?
I’m very much “what plays on tour stays on tour,” but one funny story I can share is the time we were in a cab and needed to stop to ask for directions. I was in the front seat next to the driver, so I got out to ask for directions. I then got back into the cab and relayed all the information to the driver. He looked confused. The band had gone very quiet so I turned around and they weren’t there. The seats were empty! Turns out I’d got into the wrong car, which was a different make, model, and colour—and with a different-colour driver, as well. Our guys were watching all this from the car behind, and as you can imagine, they’ve never let me live it down.
What is something about yourself that is essentially unknown and maybe even surprising?
I can’t drive. I failed three driving tests about twenty years ago, and then gave up. I’m much happier as a passenger—as long as I’m in the correct car!
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
Don’t expect to make any money. Just do it because it’s inside you and has to come out.
What advice would you give to someone interested in doing what you do?
Always carry a roll of gaffer tape. And never lend your pen to anyone, not even for a millisecond.
Thank you for the interview, Jill. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions!
Andy Parker, Classic Rock magazine, Cockney Rejects, Dave Burn, Dave Ling, Heavy Metal Kids, Hundred Seventy Split, Leo Lyons, Misty Green and Blue, No Heavy Petting, Out In The Street, Paul Raymond, Phil Mogg, Simon McBride, Strangers In The Night, Stray, Taz Taylor, Ten Years After, Tonio Neuhaus, Tristan Greatrex, UFO, Vinnie Moore, Waysted