Music History

Published on February 11th, 2014 | by Alan Cross

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How the Beatles Invented Band Merch

In case you haven’t had enough of all the 50th-anniversary-in-America stuff, there’s this article from The Music Network that details how the Beatles essentially invented the idea of band merch.

As with most things in modern music – it started with The Beatles. Every year the Elvis Presley estate pulls in $40 million in revenue, however Elvis Presley Enterprises, the arm set up to hopefully profit from Elvis merchandising was set up in 1954, and lay dormant for many years, until his death in 1977. Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager was an instinctive musical magnet, however as a band manager he was inexperienced and lacked forethought, which led to both the slew of official Beatles merchandise flooding the early ‘60s market, and the appalling low profits that the band saw from it.Of course, as with most new business opportunities, few saw the potential at the time. In late ’63 Epstein handed The Beatles merchandising arm over to his solicitor, David Jacobs who in turn handed it to Nicky Byrne who he had met at a party. They issued an official licence to companies in return for 10% of the profits. And so started the onslaught of tat.

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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