$40 for a T-shirt? Give me three of 'em!
April 10, 2007 7:17 AM   Subscribe

I was at a concert last night and an epiphany came upon me as I was waiting to buy horribly overpriced merchandise for my stepsister. I want to use this epiphany to further my job responsibilities. I just don't know how to go about it!

The company I work for is multi-faceted and one of our divisions handles promotional products. Since we primarily work with healthcare, the promotional products are limited to pens and the occassional travel mug that hospitals need for events. (Also, I'm not involved in the promo department, but I'm in the interesting position of being able to if it turns out I have a knack for it.)
So as I was waiting to buy $40 T-shirts for my 16-year-old stepsister and her friend, I realized "I'm in the wrong business." I want to try to integrate selling concert merchandise into our business. I just don't know what resources are available for this - who hires merch people? The record label? The venue?
If anyone has any ideas about this, or experience, I could really use a good jumping off point!
Thank you in advance!
posted by slyboots421 to Work & Money (7 answers total)
It depends on the band, IIRC, bands on Roadrunner records would get their merch through the label.

Some bands (especially at the more local level) either make the shirts themselves or hire friends who know how to screenprint well.

Odds are, if you're dealing with individual bands, their manager would either be the person to talk to or could tell you who to talk to.

My personal suggestion (as a music fan and someone who has played in bands that needed such services) would be to ignore the t-shirt end of the market as it's probably saturated and try to convince bands to buy your more interesting products.

Only a handful of bands have cool non t-shirt items, and when they do it's been really memorable (for example, Skanking Pickle had a branded squirt gun). If you could convince the bands these "odder" items would sell (which I think they would), they'd be sure to buy from you, as they probably wouldn't know where else to get them made.

You might want to poke around on velvet rope and ask your question in the appropriate forum, as some people there work in the music industry.

And, good luck.
posted by drezdn at 7:45 AM on April 10, 2007

Just so you know, there's not as much juice in this as you seem to think there is. The reason that concert merch is so expensive is that the venue, and sometimes even the band's agent, takes a cut, and in order for the band to just break even, the price gets jacked to accomodate all those cuts. So the bands will still be looking for bargain-basement prices even though the markup seems huge.
posted by rkent at 8:10 AM on April 10, 2007

I'm not exactly sure what you're asking. I assume this was a large concert band as the bands I see usually charge 10 or 15 bux for a t-shirt. If it was a large venue band like U2 or such, I'm curious why you think t-shirt vendors make any money. That money--the bulk of it anyway--goes to the band. It helps pay for the very expensive venue, security, light shows and other crap these bands think have something to do with music.

And, if instead of selling merch at shows, you meant selling merch thru your own business or web site, there's simply no reason for the band to let you. Their likeness/logo is trademarked to keep people from doing exactly this. This is why bootleg tshirt sellers are frequently arrested in venue parking lots and such.

Also, since it's not clear from your question--the merch vendors are supplied the inventory by the band/label/corporations. They are not merch manufacturers who are hired to sell their own wares. For the most part, they're earning minimum wage or slightly above to sell that crap.
posted by dobbs at 8:11 AM on April 10, 2007

Response by poster: It was a huge concert, it was the Christina Aguilera show where they were charging $25 for a "CA" makeup bag.
Dobbs and rkent, thank you for the information. It makes sense - and explains why more people haven't cashed in on the legit side of this seemingly lucrative business!
Thanks guys!
posted by slyboots421 at 8:44 AM on April 10, 2007

Many of the large tour merchandise companies (like Nice Man) are actually owned by the record labels these days and labels will always try to secure merch rights from artists at the start. However, there are independent merchandisers out there and they do indeed make money even if margins are slim.

Artists assign the tour merch rights to a merchandiser and that company then gives a portion of revenue back to artists. The figure varies but is typically around 30% of gross I believe. The people actually selling the T-shirts and concert programs at the venues don't work for the merchandiser. They are supplied by the venue and in return, the merchandisers pay the venue a "hall fee" between 30 and 40%.

Depending on the act, tour merchandise can do huge volumes. At a Christina show, I'll bet it's probably 25 bucks a head.

Retail merchandising is a different business. Artists will assign merchandising rights to a retail merchandiser who will then sublicense to other companies such as clothing manufacturers, poster companies, etc. I don't really know the percentages there.
posted by gfrobe at 9:50 AM on April 10, 2007

Clear Channel was also trying to get into the merch business and corner the market on all thing money-making at shows. They seem to have spun off their concert division but I offer these quickly found links to show that plenty of big players have eyed this market.


Here's another article I found on a big player already in the market. The staffing may make you think these are mom and pop operations but it couldn't be farther from the truth. http://www.celebrityaccess.com/news/profile.html?id=294
posted by phearlez at 12:04 PM on April 10, 2007

Just so you know, there's not as much juice in this as you seem to think there is.

One of my uncles in the Toronto area does it part-time and makes a second income that is significantly better than my first income. There's a whole heckuva lot of juice in it.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:40 PM on April 10, 2007

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