Why tour merchandise is so hot right now
By Carlene Thomas Bailey

It’s moved from beer stained back rooms at gigs, to pop-up stores in Soho. Tour merchandise is having a fashion moment, says WGSN’s Carlene Thomas-Bailey.

May 11, 2016
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In a box in the back of my mum’s attic somewhere is a collection of band merchandise, there’s the green camo print N.E.R.D fitted cap (that was hot for a minute but then got marred by the whole Von Dutch moment), a signed Lauryn Hill poster and (rather embarrassingly) some merchandise from The Pussycat Dolls.

The box is a reflection of my music taste in clothing form, with accessories that chart my fandom over the years. The fact that those items are in a box, and not in my closet is proof of how quickly they dated (not Lauryn obvs, but definitely the PCD merch).

Fast forward to today where it’s popular to rock your Pablo Kanye jacket that you got at Madison Square Gardens to the office, hanging it over your chair with your Beyoncé Lemonade tour iPhone case peaking out of the pocket.

Fact: tour merchandise has never been a hotter, more current fashion accessory.

“Band merchandise has changed with the times, it’s part of the wider fashion conversation now, less plain black t-shirts with the performer’s face on it, and more focused on street style ” says Lourdes Linares, WGSN Associate Editor of Denim.

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“Tour merchandise now comes complete with designs that incorporate emoji’s, tweetable phrases and the logo mania that we’ve seen on the A/W16 catwalk. In my recent report I even profiled how Kanye and his Pablo designs are a major example of band merchandise informing the wider denim branding discussion,” she adds.

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Musicians were always trying to be part of the fashion conversation, but now (blame Yeezy) it feels effortless and the norm. In addition to brand merchandise, musicians are also moving from being the campaign face for established fashion houses, to designing their own ranges. You only need to look at Rihanna, who started teaming up with high street retailers in the beginning, and is now evolving to use her marketability to design her own beauty, fashion and accessory lines.

Band merchandise is becoming another arm in celebrities’ fashion distribution model, with some performers delivering product at accessible price points and some positioning themselves in the ‘luxury’ brand merchandising market.

From a revenue point of view, it makes sense too. Last year the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) revealed that in the US, sales of CDs dropped by 31.5% in the first half of the year. With commenting that RIAA Chairman Cary Sherman explaining that this news is reflective of the greater music industry problem which is: “a business undergoing an enormous transition,” where income from streaming and tour sales becomes even more important to fill the revenue gap.

Band merchandise, sold through online stores, and off-line pop-up retail stores, help musicians to boost their earning potential.

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This year alone, Kanye, Drake and Justin Bieber have set up pop-up stores in the US, in direct correlation with their tour dates to push band merchandise. With Kanye tweeting that the store earned him $1 million in two days.

 

The consumer engagement with the tour merchandise is also a huge part of the shift:

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South by Southwest street style

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Strawberry Music Festival street style

“We’ve always had the band t-shirt which consumers wore as a badge of honour, a way of stating their music affiliations loud and proud, whether that’s support for the Stone Roses, Beyoncé or Bieber,” says Shanu Walpita, WGSN Youth Editor.

“Now, thanks to social media that fandom feels bigger and more global, with fans rocking their latest merchandise in their pre and post concert selfies all over Snapchat and Instagram with the relevant hashtags”, she adds.

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So the next time I head to a concert (Queen Bee in July) you can be sure I’ll be rocking my statement hoodie, during the gig, after, and making space for it in my closet.

Like this? Follow Carlene on Twitter here.

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