Over the four decades Dell Furano has been selling concert merch, he’s seen the industry evolve into a $12 billion a year business. Artists now make up to 35% of their revenue from selling things like t-shirts and a guy like Justin Bieber can gross $400,000 a night in merch sales.
Billboard has this feature on Furano.
“Go talk to Dell.” Those four words, uttered by legendary promoter Bill Graham, changed the course of Epic Rights founder and merchandising pioneer Dell Furano’s career. It was the early 1970s, and Furano was taking a year off to learn the concert business before heading to law school. He was employed at Graham’s renowned 5,500-seat Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, where he had worked part time during his undergrad years at Stanford University. The then-wife of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmannasked Graham whom she should see about selling T-shirts during a show, and Graham sent her to Furano.
“That simple ‘Go talk to Dell’ changed my life,” recalls Furano, who permanently shelved law school to go into business with Graham. Along with Furano’s brother, Dave, they debuted Winterland Productions in 1974, a groundbreaking merchandise company with clients including Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and, of course, the Dead. But it wasn’t easy in the beginning. “In the ’70s, it was not cool selling merchandise, so we had to be careful,” says Furano. “Groups would say, ‘OK, you can sell, but don’t embarrass us. Stand in a corner.’”
You’ll want to read the whole thing here.