Welcome to the T-Shirt Business!!!
Yes. I said it. There’s is NO music business anymore. And for many many years, there really hasn’t been. Even before record sales disappeared, most of what Pop music was, was just a commercial. A commercial for what was coming before or after the music (more commercials) and an advertisement for that artist. But I’m going to ignore that part for now. Let’s get back to the crux of the issue.
Years ago, I was working with a band who had just been signed to a very decent major record label deal. Nothing insane. No bidding war and these kids weren’t rich but they had the budget to afford to use me to produce their record. It was also mixed and mastered by some of the top professionals in their field.
When the first record was done, the label considered it to be a pretty big flop. A failure. I think we sold just under a hundred thousand copies in the first six weeks. The label was considering dropping them but was definitely pulling all of the extended marketing they had planned. I felt depressed. It was over.
But then I went to their show. It was packed. This band was drawing thousands of fans to each and every show. Pulling in thousands in merch. At one show, I think they sold almost $5,000 in merch alone. Very little of that was the CD.
Luckily, this was before the famous 360º deals and the label wasn’t getting any of this money. I was going to talk to the band about the label situation but I don’t think they cared. They managed to set up this tour themselves and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight to how much merch they were going to move. They had booked a tour in Japan and told me it was even more successful than the tour in the US. They were quite happy.
So after the show, I watched these guys carefully. They were very good live but I had to figure out what else they were doing that was so special. Why were they were moving merch at such a volume.
It turned out, the band themselves were working the merch table after the show. They would take turns or do it as a group and would hang around for about an hour taking pictures with the fans and of course, selling them on buying their t-shirts and other merchandise. It was an amazing event and it was taking place AFTER the show.
I should also mention that these guys were very good looking and quite charismatic in their dealings with the fans. They were absolutely great showmen and salesman. Even if they didn’t realize what they were doing. They loved it and the fans were ecstatic.
Of course, later on, I did realize that they were well aware of what was happening. They knew that the business had changed. That people didn’t buy records anymore. That what this band was selling was not the music, the CD, or even their performance of their songs. They were selling themselves to these young teen and pre-teen girls by giving them their attention and most importantly, selling them their merchandise in exchange for their time.
At one point, I even complimented one of them on their musical performance and he looked back at me and said “Dude, we’re NOT musicians. We’re T-Shirt salesman”.
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I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia