Band Merchandise

Sixto Marcelo By Sixto Marcelo, 12th Nov 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Music>Promoting Music

Some unsigned bands augment their income by selling band merchandise to their fans. Is this some form of sell-out or not? Let's examine.

Groupie sellout or not?

Indie music scene and contemporary pop culture trivia may both sound innocuous or far-fetched to the average consumer who’s at the same time a serious professional. Once subjected to closer scrutiny, however, there are certain elements you may find serviceable for use for potentially thriving retail business.

Take the indie subculture demography for example. A scene characterized by unsigned bands alongside their cult following. Non-mainstream fashion coexisting with fashionista blogger validation. As much as the genuine underground tries to stick to their guns as purveyors of music, fashion and lifestyle from the fringes, the mainstream will always find retail inspiration from its contemporary legend --- via the groupies who sell the novelty of it all.

In recent decades, a pattern of significant and profitable retail has been made to exist by such enterprising new breed of “business people.” Those who engage the underground scene and its denizens with their own kind of entrepreneurial daring as found in the following business models:

• Band merchandise
This isn't really new since even The Beatles and The Rolling Stones have been doing this kind of retail above ground for a long, long time. What unsigned indie bands do with their own brand of merchandise retail is infect it with a huge dose of exclusivity. Only avowed fans can get hold of the stuff they sell like self-produced CDs and downloadable music, T-shirts, hoodies, posters, and the like.

Authentic regalia are the order of the day and any unsigned indie band shirt, for example, bought outside of such retail premise, will always be considered by its cult as poseur items. This is reverse snob appeal at work.

• Sellout
There are indie scene production outfits that need to make compromises with the mainstream in order to push the underground subculture’s envelope. These are live entertainment, indie cinema or guerilla fashion production outfits who strike up deals with mainstream businesses like liquor brands, skateboard makers, or tattoo shops and the like to sponsor special events like concert tours, art/film/music festivals, themed bazaars or arts and crafts fairs that feature the aesthetics of the scene.

• Bar tours
Live gigs that feature bands hopping from one bar to another that sometimes include multiple city itineraries. Similar to the Sellout business model but more limited in scope, bar tours are usually organized by bar owners together with their various colleagues in the bar-with-live-entertainment industry. Mainstream sponsorships also figure in this business model with a happy compromise being made possible opposite indie band merchandise retail.

Tight clientele

Indie scene cult following isn't as big as mass marketing but it is made up of a tightly knit clientele base. Groupies follow unsigned bands everywhere they go and the most enterprising of the lot make profitable business going for themselves and the bands they support.

Retail is commonly done virtually via websites or social media pages. Unsigned bands market themselves via DIY (do-it-yourself) music videos posted on YouTube and can sometimes sell their music via paid downloads in their websites. Groupie businesses account for much of the online exposure unsigned indie bands enjoy --- exposed to the real-time thrills of social media retail.

The potential for such social media influence is what attracts big business to woo consumers with methods similar to those used by groupie retailers. There are certain products and services that can harness the same demography that inhabit groupie retail. Big businesses view the potential for such demography as a niche market. There are several reasons for this like the following:

• Youth market
By turning an extraordinary pop culture experience exclusive to a certain group only into an interesting mass market branding experience targeting the youth, companies can tap into a profitable business opportunity.

• Virality
Marketing content as purveyed by social media and online tech platforms such as web browsers and blogs have huge pass-on potential possibilities. Companies know how successful such patterns of information exchange can help brands be more profitable and popular.

• Mobile retail

Groupie retail thrives on online technology like websites and social media so it is so amenable to mobile retail. Knowing this, imagine what business VoIP in companies can do towards this end.


Band, Band By-Products, Band Logo, Band Merch, Band Shirts, Collaterals, Merchandise, Music Business, Promo Items, Rock And Roll

Meet the author

author avatar Sixto Marcelo
Professional graphic designer and writer.

I try to be helpful as much as I can with the kind of information I put out. Pop culture, tech, business, music and art are my points of interest.

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