Industry Deep Dive: Bands, Venues, and Merch
For thousands of years, music has brought people together, from singing songs about the great hunt to crooning about heartbreak and the loss of love. Music has always been used as a way to keep spirits up when times are hard and a way to celebrate when times are good. Music is powerful, and so is the merchandising industry behind it. The Opening Act The first true band merch sold at a venue can be traced all the way back to Elvis. Elvis’ music was schismatic at the time. Older folks thought it was just a bunch of loud noise, while teenage girls actually fainted during concerts. His manager saw the opportunity to capitalize on this controversial music and sold both “I Love Elvis” pins and “I Hate Elvis” pins outside of the venues where he was performing. And this was just the start of band merch as we know it. In the following years, as Rock ‘n Roll found its footing, concert merch naturally followed along. After all, why wouldn’t you want to show off the fact that you got to see your favorite band or musician perform live? The concert shirt is like a badge of honor - I was here. I saw them. Before the days of the internet and retailers like Hot Topic in 1989, the only way to get merch from your favorite band was to see them at a concert or make it yourself. 1956 I Hate Elvis Buttons The most expensive band shirt ever sold at auction was a 1967 Grateful Dead shirt from one of their first shows for over $17 K. Source: loudewire.com History of Music Merch 1956 PROMOTE THE IMAGE OF ELVIS PRESLEY Hank Saperstein and Colonel Parker agree on a deal, giving Special Products, Inc. the right to promote the image of Elvis Presley. They soon began producing 30 different products, including hats, T-shirts, jeans, kerchiefs, sneakers, shirts, blouses, and belts. 1966 DESIGNS THE VERY FIRST GRATEFUL DEAD T-SHIRT Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley went on to design the Grateful Dead skeleton and roses motif. 1971 THE ROLLING STONES RELEASE “STICKY FINGERS” WITH JOHN PASCHE-DESIGNED TONGUE LOGO John Pasche tongue logo for the Rolling Stones. In subsequent months and years, this abstraction (which was inspired by Pasche’s meeting with Mick Jagger) came to be a focal point of the band’s branding. 1973 ACE FREHLEY DESIGNS THE ORIGINAL OF THE NOW-FAMOUS KISS LOGO Although there was once speculation whether Paul Stanley had designed the KISS logo, it was finally agreed upon that it was, in fact, Ace Frehley’s creation. While we certainly recognize KISS’s impact on music merchandise. 1983 MICHAEL JACKSONS FAMOUS WHITE GLOVE In a 1983 television special commemorating the 25th anniversary of Motown, Michael Jackson debuted the crystal-encrusted glove that would become his most recognizable wardrobe hallmark. source: www.highsnobiety.com 1991 NIRVANA SMILEY FACE LOGO As for the Nirvana smiley face logo — that one first appeared on a poster for the private Nevermind album release party held on September 13th, 1991. It wasn’t until Nevermind achieved atmospheric levels of success that the smiley logo appeared in combination with the font all over t-shirts and every other piece of Nirvana merchandise that you can imagine.
The Numbers 2.5K is the average attendance per concert in 2022 17 is the average number of merch products purchased at a show in 2019 44K $8.85 is the average spent by individual concert attendees on merch at a show $13.5B in merch revenue in 2022 - up 43% from 2019 concert events took place in 2022 The Merch Table There are, ultimately, two types of band merch. The merch you get at a concert and the stuff you can get online or in a store. All net proceeds from merch sold at shows go to the artists. And it’s the same for every level. The small, local band that’s starting out relies on the merch that they sell just as much as more prominent bands like Opeth or Midland do. Merch can come in all shapes and sizes, too. For example, light sticks are extremely popular among K-pop fans as a sort of calling card to share which fandom they’re a part of. They light up stadiums just like lighters used to light up venues in the 80s and 90s. They can have a pretty price tag, too - with the more advanced ones that connect to your phone via Bluetooth so you can change the colors and sync it with the concert - can reach about $200 per piece. Kind of like a more technologically advanced battle jacket that you don’t wear. Light-Up Foam Stick Item # LEDFOM WOWLine | SAGE #52510 Light Up LED Glow Bracelet Item # GP72819 Getin Promos Inc | SAGE #51660 BTS Light Stick source: atvenu.com Livenation.com, loudewire.com 21% of concert goers bought merch at a show they attended in 2022 249 is the average number of attendees at each concert that purchased merch in 2022 $18.6K is the average in gross merch sales 121M people attended Live Nation concerts in 2022
Speaking of wearables - merch has expanded beyond the typical t-shirt and hoodie. Bands like Metallica have partnered with shoe companies like Vans, and you can find backpacks, jewelry, and other accessories on websites like Hot Topic. Metallica Elevated Vans Custom High Top Converse Item # AVE001 The Ave Customs | SAGE # 51111 Action figures, vinyl figures like Funko Pops, and statuettes have found a place too. Toy brand Super7 produces a line of action figures for bands and artists like The Notorious B-I-G, The Beastie Boys, and Devo. Knucklebonez has resin figures that are usually limited edition. And Funko’s line of Rock! Pops span all music genres, from Tupac to Willie Nelson to Eddie from Iron Maiden. Tupac & Willie Nelson Funko Pops Food and drinks aren’t off the table either. Snoop Dogg has Cali Red, Cali Rose, and Cali Blanc wines with the brand 19 Crimes (Martha Stewart hilariously has one too). The snack brand Rap Snacks has chips, popcorn, lemonade, and noodles, all from rappers. Brumate Wine Gift Set Item # HGS-1260 HIRSCH | SAGE # 66296 And who said you had to have band posters? Bands like My Chemical Romance partnered with Oxford Pennant to create some seriously cool felt pennants with lyrics from their album The Black Parade. Plush are popular too; Ghost released a plush of their lead singer, Cardinal Copia, which has become a meme within the fandom because of its horrifying “stand-in-your-fridge-eating-yourshredded-cheese-at-3am” appearance and has been affectionately named “Plushia.” And fans of BTS and other K-Pop groups can have their favorite member to snuggle with, too. BTS K-Pop Plushies and Cardinal Copia Plush
Unique promo items you can find at the merch table and online: Stray Kids Photo Stands Prince Third Eye Glasses Megan Thee Stallion Tennis Balls Alan Jackson Belt Buckle Orville Peck Mug The Anatomy of the Battle Jacket Let us introduce you to the battle jacket – the pride and joy of many a metalhead and the ultimate display of concert merch. First emerging in the 70s and inspired by the biker scene and military jackets, their primary usage is to show off one’s values to a group or pledge allegiance to a particular band and generally stand out in the alternative crowd. They are also a cheap alternative to the more expensive licensed t-shirt. Kids who spent all their money on the tickets could still afford to blow $2 on a patch to sew to their denim vest and show off that they had been to the concert. So, what makes a battle jacket? It’s up to the wearer! The key components, however are patches, spikes, pins, and a big ‘ol back patch. Oh, and a lot of bandaids on hand during this DIY endeavor. source: downloadfestival.co.uk
So, how can you tap into the band merch industry? Support your local artists! Lots of smaller artists and bands are trying to ‘make it’ in the music scene. Remember, though, they might not have the funds for large orders, so being able to support low minimums is key. And you never know, you might be providing merch to the next Metallica! You could also look into companies like Hot Topic, Rockabilia, and Global Merchandising for licensing opportunities. Alright, so what kind of promo products can we turn into band merch? Here are some staple promos to pitch to your local artists: Best Coolie Item # 1000B Best Promotions USA LLC | SAGE # 68218 Guitar Pic Item # GPS/030-4CP ArtechPro | SAGE # 62694 Custom Label Pins Item # KB5000 Emblematics Inc. | SAGE # 52109 Knit Roll Cuff Beanie Cap Item # KSR-750 Suntex Industries | SAGE # 53882 Custom Embroidered Patch Item # PEMB3 EMT | SAGE # 50054 Zip Up Hoodies Item # 2322848 DollarDays International Inc SAGE # 69229 Clear Waterproof Drawstring Backpack Item # E9344 OpusLine. | SAGE # 67027 Custom Umbrella Item # 7200P Storm Duds Raingear | SAGE # 65840 You can also promote kits. Kitting is a huge trend for the promo industry right now - but the music industry has been taking advantage of this type of merchandising for several years now! Any time you purchase VIP tickets for a concert, you’ll usually get a clear tote bag filled with things like stickers, shirts, hats, flags, and more. Not to mention – VIP tickets will also get a specially printed lanyard and laminate showing off the ticket holders VIP status and allowing them entry to coveted restricted areas such as the pit or backstage. Quiet Breeze Rechargeable Hand Fan Item # WTV-QB23 Ariel Premium Supply Inc | SAGE # 60462 Dye-Sublimation Lanyards Item # LDS34 ImprintID | SAGE # 69609
The Encore Band merch is here to stay, and it’s an ever-growing industry! With live entertainment projected to continuously rise, this is a great industry to break into and rock on.
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