Questioning Merch

Column: Features   |   Date Published: Monday, 25 May 15   |   Author: Cody Atkinson   |   1 day, 4 hours ago

Money. Moolah. Dollar Dollar Bills. You have cash and bands want it. All of the cash that you can afford to hand over. Sure, you could buy albums, but where's the fun in that? Merch is where it's really at. But what's the point to band merchandise? Is there a point to it? Or even life itself? Cody Atkinson answers some of these questions. 


Why do bands even sell merch? To make money. As Melbourne band The Stiffys once put it when describing their choice of sailor hats as merchandise: “You buy the hats then you sell the hats to make the money. You use that money to buy more hats to sell more hats to make more money. Money. Buy hats. Sell hats. Money. It's just the music business.”

Indeed, the “music business”. But what do t-shirts and hats and g-strings really have to do with music? On paper, nothing. T-shirts have fuck all to do with music. By that I mean that nothing about the listening experience is altered or changed by the various items associated with it. The CD will sound the same regardless of whether you bought the Drive By Truckers hat.

However, if you buy merchandise from the band it gives them cash, which helps them to do actual music related things, like paying for rehearsal spaces or studio time or tours.

Why do fans buy band merch? The reasons are twofold. Merch lets fans of a band visually identify as fans of that band, in a way that listening to an album can never do. You can say you've listened to Sonic Youth's Goo until people stop paying attention, but wearing the Goo t-shirt shows people that you care so much about it. It's a visible representation of personality that usually takes minutes to get across in conversation. And you know what?

…What? It doesn't even matter if you like the band or their music. Think about every other person wearing a Ramones or Sex Pistols shirt – they do it purely for the rebellious identification, without any of the musical legacy.

That's a depressing thought. The other reason? The aforementioned support of bands. Once you've bought all of a given bands back catalogue and been to as many live shows as possible, you start to run out of ways to give artists money without seemingly like a stalker. For the super-duper fans, merch keeps the relationship up, if not a one-way one.

What's the least likely item that you've come across? Probably that Pixies have a cycling guernsey. Also, The Fall have a cycling guernsey. Both of these things seem to make no sense at all even in the slightest. Kraftwerk should be the ones with cycling merch if anyone has to have it, which they don't. Obviously this means we need to see a cycle-off between Black Francis and Mark E Smith, with the winner ceremonially getting to burn the guernsey of the other rider on stage at a show of their choice in the future.

And the most likely? The Wavves weed grinder. It just makes so much sense. It finishes slightly ahead of the Wavves rolling papers, but only just. I guess it's kinda of a package deal.

The scariest? The Iceage knife was pretty fucking out there, even for Iceage. I mean a handcrafted band knife is probably the least “shareable” piece of merch ever, well at least without people being arrested.

Wait, a knife? A real fucking knife, with the band's logo hand carved in the handle. They were selling knives at their shows.

The stupidest? Other than the knife? You know those blankets with arms that were called snuggies? Well, Weezer had their own brand of snuggie that shipped with their album Ratitude. Why a snuggie? I have no idea. I'm guessing Weezer has no idea why they picked a snuggie, but I guess we are here now. Living in a world with Weezer snuggies and now columns talking about Weezer snuggies.

The most contradictory? AC/DC wine always felt a little bit off, as they never seemed like they were heavy wine drinkers. The smart money there was a VB co-promotion with Boonie-esq figurines who would spout AC/DC lyrics during the news or somesuch, but it never happened. Instead, we were given a range of average to good wines.

But some bands have done booze really well, yeah? Certainly. Brew Am I, the beer named for You Am I and brewed by Young Henry's in Sydney was a top drop worthy of the band's 20th anniversary tour.

Wait, didn't KISS do a beer? KISS have done two beers, if you can believe. The one I've had wasn't good. DRINK RESPONSIBLY. KISS have done pretty much everything, from perfume to checkers sets to kid's onesies to ice creams to bike shorts to even coffins. Like the ones people get buried in. Let me pause for a second so that sinks in...

YOU CAN GET BURIED IN A KISS COFFIN?!?!?!? KISS seem to be the real life Krusty The Clowns of the merchandise game, down to the fact that they even had their own cereal.

And the over the top face make-up… Which they also sell, as well as masks. Because of course. In the merchandise game, the only thing that matter is that KISS apparently will always win.

Tweet your favourite item of band merch to @bmamag for your opportunity to win whatever great/terrible band merch we can find around the office. Get digging!


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