In four years as a crew member and merchandise manager, Simmons has toured in 11 countries and every state in the Lower 48 to help make the music she loves happen.

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Abbey Simmons

What do you do? I’m a touring crew member with bands. Currently, I’m the assistant tour manager and merchandise manager for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings [playing the Moore Theatre in Seattle on April 14]. Last year, I toured with both SJDK and Sleater-Kinney as their merch manager.

How did you get started in that field? By accident. Music has been one of the central and defining positives of my life, and after several different attempts working in other fields left me dissatisfied and disenchanted, I started trying to make a living in music. I co-founded and wrote a Seattle music blog called Sound on the Sound for seven years, booked shows and helped bands and venues with PR. In 2011, I asked to intern for a friend who managed a handful of local musicians, and in 2012, I volunteered to tour manage a week of a band’s tour for free, to see what life on the road was like. I fell in love instantly, despite 8–10 hour drives, six people sharing a single hotel room and living on my $10-a-day per diem. I ended up staying for the entire month of tour and never looked back.

What’s a typical day like? One of the things I love most about touring is that there isn’t much of a “typical day,” even if you roughly keep the same schedule. 

You wake up in a new city and often a new state, having been driven to your destination as you sleep (hopefully). Every day is long — working 16-plus hours a day is normal — and you’ll be on your feet for at least three-fourths of those. If I’m predominantly a merch manager, my day will be spent between a semi-truck pulling items to sell, sometimes lifting tons of T-shirts and records, then setting up a merchandise stand, selling from the moment the doors open till the last customer is served, settling with the venue (which takes a percentage of merchandise sales) and then sending accounting reports to the band’s management and any re-orders needed for the next shows.

I once had a lady tell me at the table, “It must be nice to have a job with no responsibilities,” and I cackled like the sleep-deprived maniac that I was at that moment.

What’s the best part of the job? I get to help make the music that I love happen. I mean, I got to sell merchandise for the man whose song my husband and I chose for our first dance, Charles Bradley. I’ve had a chance to thank musicians who matter to me for doing what they do. And while doing so, I’ve gotten to see a whole lot of the country and the world: I’ve been to every state in the Lower 48 multiple times in the last four years, and 11 countries. And I’ve made many cherished lifelong friends, from fans to fellow crew members to the bands themselves.

What surprises people about what you do? That it’s something someone can do as a career, that I’m not married to anyone in the band (see: it’s something that someone can do as a career), that I’m by no means the only lady who tours for a living, and just how tame a life it can be.

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