Bands. We all love their music and merchandise. But it comes to a point where every band is producing the same item as each other, just with a different design and band name attached to it. That's just as bad as jumping on the 'band'-wagon, going with what is popular and going against the whole purpose of being original (which in turn might question the originality of the music).
Yet when bands moan that they are not making money on merchandise, have they not thought that the items they are selling are near enough the same as every other band going? Fans demand a lot and as music downloads slice a 15 inch deep wound within the music industry's sales reports, bands are having to turn to other ideas to generate profit.
In time, music downloads may well die a natural death as tapes, vinyl's and CD's keep selling and they too became succeeded by another form of media. Question is what will replace music downloads? Streams seem to be the most likely option, but are we relying too much on the digital age to convey our music? Let alone the band's having their products sold through merchandise stores like Grindstore and Loud Clothing?
Let's take this back to the merchandise topic and ask ourselves, what are eight ideas that bands could potentially invest in, that could be cost-effective and unique in every dimension.
Of course not all bands would be able to afford these ideas and we are fully aware of this, but the whole idea of this post is to generate ideas for bands in general and to point out gaps in the merchandise market.
"There is a strong demand for Michael Jackson's music and merchandise, and that will only increase as more material surfaces in the years following his death" - Adam Kluger
The now defunct Melodic Death Metal / Metalcore band The Dead Lay Waiting took this route (read it here), and inspired themselves to design, order and sell syringe-shaped USB's. We all use them, whether to transport school, college or uni work, for business work or purely just to transport files across from one place to another. So this is a great way to 'connect' with your fans more and to expand your technological side of the band's merchandise repertoire.
There are plenty of USB custom designers out there, so comparing offers is fairly easy. As for the bands, as soon as they have their USB's delivered and ready to sell, once sold they can begin to realize that they, like Nokia, can connect with people - in this instance the fans.
Sites to visit:- USB Makers / USB2U / Vistaprint / Design!t Flash
Those handy writing tools known as pens are perhaps the most common item you would find in anyone's hand at a place of education or anyone who has to deal with paperwork at any given time. Now Iron Maiden have done this before (click here to buy), but because pens aren't that all too expensive at purchasing custom made, this is an ideal merchandise idea for any band.
Especially when sites like Vistaprint can produce 5 pens at the best price of £12 (click here). Sure they will eventually become useless; unless the option for refillable cartridges was there, when the ink runs out or the spring mechanism goes, but this is quite the novel idea for bands to sell to their fans. So instead of 'writing' a riff or two, they could 'click' into the idea of investing into pens for their fans.
Sites to visit:- Vistaprint / Pens Unlimited / Custom Ink / Promotion Pens
iPhone / iTouch / iPod covers
Most of us, if not the vast majority, either own an iPhone, an iTouch or an iPod (classic per se), so why not have bands design their own covers like India's Demonic Resurrection have done(click here). Again some bands might not be able to afford this, there might be a way around this in as far as bands asking designers whether they could sell these covers without any fee being passed to the designer, and the band earning a percentage of sales.
It would bid farewell to the basic, boring cases which stores like Apple and Carphone Warehouse sell. Moreover it feels a little more personalized - unless you purchase the same model, make, color and case, then it WILL be interesting. These could always be made to order and this would probably be the better option, rather than stocking them.
You could always password protect the device or maybe, just maybe, in the future implement finger scanning software... we're digressing here... let's get back to the merchandise article.
Sites to visit:- Case App / Cafe Press / Like My Case / Custom Funk
Sure some bands like AC/DC and Iron Maiden have already released their own signature alcoholic drinks, but with beer kits becoming so readily available and the ability to make home made alcohol already established, the potential for smaller bands to do this can become realistic.
Can you imagine bands unveiling alcohol pertaining to their own country? What if they used a portmanteau to make their drinks known? Let's have a few examples:
Rammstein + Jagermeister = "Rammeister"
Crossfaith + Sake = "Crosssake"
Arkona + Vodka = "Vodkona"
You get the idea.
The wine though would bode well if AC/DC performed at the Australia and New Zealand music festivals 'A Day On The Green' (click here for an article we did about this festival), just imagine drinking the AC/DC Platinum wine edition, in a vineyard, whilst they're playing in their home country, how cool would that be? OK maybe not as cool as Rammeister though....
Sites to visit:- The Home Brew Shop / Home Brewing / The Brewmarket
Let's go a bit on the insane side..
Music downloads, the bane of the music industry, they seem to be dominating the music consumption behavior across the globe, whether through the more apt means of purchasing legal downloads through Amazon, iTunes or similar online and offline applications or via piracy and or illegals means such as filesharing, torrent, or hacking; even to extremes such as leaking.
But is the age of the music download finally reaching saturation point? With the resurgant force of Vinyls making a comeback and their subsequent values increasing, are we really getting the best of the music we have paid for? Clearly no.
Let's look at some figures:
The "IFPI estimates that 3.6 billion downloads were purchased globally in 2011, an increase of 17 per cent (combining singles and album downloads)" (Source: http://www.ifpi.org/content/library/dmr2012.pdf)
So ok that's over a half of the world's population, but what if the same song was downloaded multiple times by the same person? Or 1 million people downloaded 3,600 songs? That's about an eighth of the current population of London. So come on, how can they be absolutely certain more and more people are downloading music? Now lets look at CD's.
"Two-thirds of album sales are still on CD, but their fall of 19 per cent was offset by slightly increased digital sales of albums" (source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9775844/Album-sales-slump-as-downloads-and-singles-dominate.html)
But there again, are they taking into account unsigned artist album sales? What about charity shop album sales? Boot sales? Ebay? Amazon? Who knows, probably not.
The thing is, sure downloads are cheaper, quicker and easier to get hold of, but there are 10 reasons we believe why CD's, Vinyl's and Tapes still bully the music download trend.
1. Additional features and costs.
What do you also get from music downloads? Well apart from the occasional virus, sweet bugger all. However, when talking of CD's, you get a number of things that total up to make the value of the CD itself more appealing than downloads. For argument's sake let's say Dave's debut album costs 99p per track on iTunes and £9.99 pre-order. So you pay £9.99 for the pre-order, brilliant. But you want to reassure yourself you can keep the music for years, cue problem, how do you manage that? Oh you say you will use a re-writable disc and what wait you have to buy them?!?!? Print off the CD inlay and booklet cover, oh wait ink and paper usage, oh and the CD case too, suddenly you're paying £3-£6 more on top of the £9.99. Others will say, use an external hard drive, ok cool another £70+ spent, financially worth it in the long-run as long as A. it does not die or overload (it will eventually) and or B. you're burgled, bye bye Justin Bieber music. And what about the booklet with the CD, also the portability of the CD, play it in your car. I could waffle on and on but there are 9 other reasons why music download just don't cut it.
2. Misplacement of songs
Oh no disaster, you have deleted your entire iTunes library and you bought every song without backing them up or you deleted a song and want it back, another 99p+ gone down the drain, but with a CD you can burn it to your computer endless times. I think that closes this one.
3. Value and customization
If anyone could realize that if your favorite artist was to die that the music downloads would be worthless, but the CD's, Tapes and Vinyls have a value attached to them, just ask The Beatles whose release "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (signed by all four members) was sold at an American auction on Saturday 30th March for "$290,500 by Heritage Auctions in Dallas. It had been listed at $30,000 before the sale", now do you need any more persuading? Digital signatures do not count. Oh and you can get physical releases personalized per se "To James, much love. Carly Rae Jepsen".
4. Supporting the local scene
You are no fan if you don't own at least one physical release by a band, even more so where you have local bands that rely solely on your buying of merch, what a better way to support them than to purchase their albums. Oh and referring to point 3 you can get that signed too, furthermore some unsigned bands actually number their releases so consider that purchase of album copy 6/100 a rare. Just downloading the music for free really does not support the band, music has a value, it's an art so don't steal that time and money spent by the artist to record the song just for you to illegally download it.
5. Access to information
Lyrics, now what is the point of attempting to sing a song if you don't know the words. Quite hand to have your booklet with you to sing along, mind you doing a songs of praise style deliverance in a mosh pit is entertaining but not practical. Sure you can look it up online, but for ease of access it's better to read the booklet. Oh and you want to contact their management? Easy look at their managements name in the booklet.
6. Radio DJ's often start out by collecting CD's.
Anyone working in the music industry will admit to owning CD's, this is how most of the Radio DJ's started out. They buy the physical media (CD / Tape / Vinyl) and then play it on the radio, of course nowadays it's all digital on the computer. But back in the earliest days of radio, unsigned artists would send in their music on physical media to be played by the DJ, furthermore did you know Chelmsford, Essex was the birthplace of radio? Pirate radio also used these media types, Radio Caroline is well known for this and actually had an interesting start:
"Radio Caroline was begun by Irish musician manager and businessman Ronan O'Rahilly. O'Rahilly failed to obtain airplay on Radio Luxembourg for Georgie Fame's records because its airtime was committed to sponsored programmes promoting the major record labels; EMI, Decca, Pye and Philips". (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Caroline#1991_-_present:_Licensed_Support_Group_era)
CD's are in region 0, meaning they can be played anywhere on any PC, CD player or DJ desk. On the other hand, digital downloads come in a variation of types: mp3, wma, m4a, wav, etc and so restricting the playability level to lower than that of the CD. Enough said.
At least with physical media you know what you are buying, with music downloads all kinds of things can happen: tracks missing, wrong track length, wrong music entirely!. The third example is a classic with the Linkin Park vs Tribal Ink issue, the latter had released their song "Refugee" and was mislabeled as Linkin Park's new single "What I've Done" (http://linkinparks818th.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/tribal-ink-songs.html), at least with a CD, Vinyl or Tape you cannot go wrong.
9. Level of rarity
Say what? Vinyl limited to 10 copies! Physical rare releases are worth more than their download counterparts, need we say more?
10. Fun of collecting.
Jim's band has 12 albums, you are seeking the rare red pressing limited edition of the band's first album, £20 won on eBay, your collection is complete. Has the more personal feeling than downloading the whole discography no?
What is your stance on this? Please leave your thoughts below as a comment.
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