Merch–that is, the t-shirts, posters, and other stuff you can buy at a concert–has become a vital revenue stream for every artist. Earlier this year, I was at an Iron Maiden show and witnessed the unloading of an entire semi-trailer that contained nothing but Iron Maiden swag. And that was for one show. I also heard that it’s not uncommon for Justin Bieber to sell $300,000 worth of gear per gig.
This area is a moneymaker for sure. But who came up with the idea? This article from High Snobriety explains the history of music merch.
“As we’ve seen with contemporary acts from across a variety of genres, music merchandise is now a vital piece of the equation when evaluating the success of both an album and a subsequent tour. While recorded music itself remained the highest source of revenue (according to a 2016 study), merchandise grew year to year (2015-2016) by 9.4 percent. As a result, merchandise accounted for $3.1 billion in global sales, while the gross revenue from live music concerts worldwide was $4.88 billion.
“As a whole, the industry has certainly taken note for the better part of a decade. In 2009, Bravado, a unit of Universal Music Group (UMG), secured a lucrative deal to create merchandise for the Rolling Stones. At the time, their roster already included Kanye West, Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and Nine Inch Nails. More recently, they’ve added millennial talent like Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber, Brockhampton, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi, Migos, Playboi Carti, Post Malone, and Travis Scott.
“In 2018, Warner Music Group completed a $191 million deal to buy Germany-based music merch maker and e-tailer EMP Merchandising. “In today’s streaming world, merchandise is still one of the best ways that fans can express their passions and personalities,” said Max Lousada, CEO of Recorded Music, WMG. “It’s also a big part of how music has visible and physical impact on global culture and fashion.”
“There are countless dates which have become vitality important when unlocking the history of music merchandise. Here are some of the most important.”