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How the music industry expanded with merchandise

Modern tribes

Subcultures are like modern tribes.

For people who aren’t familiar with the term subculture: a subculture is a group of people with specific features. These features deviate from the mainstream. Punks, Goths and Disco are three examples from subcultures.

Like in tribes, external features are very important and typical for the subculture. This creates an attractive opportunity for clothing brands.

A clothing brand that can successfully associate themselves with a subculture, gets a new group of loyal fans. These fans are not only new consumers, but also active spokespersons for the brand. This workflow generated a one-way advantage for clothing brands.

Classic method

Next to clothing brands there is the classic merchandise setup. Merchandise grew out of a different set of needs than the needs of clothing brands. For clothing brands, discovering new customers is the key aspect. While in classic merchandising, generating revenue from the existing fan base is the key aspect. This short term vision created poor quality and a negative experience for the fans. Everybody has a couple of heavy formless T-shirts hidden in their closet.

Cultural shift

At the moment of writing, we are experiencing a cultural shift. Artists and events learned a lot from the clothing industry. Merchandise starts evolving in a solid part of the marketing mix. Next to the extra revenue merchandising generates, other advantages start to arise. Below is a short introduction to the advantages of high quality merchandise :

  • Streetscape: When merchandise looks and feels good, people will wear it. So there’s not only the initial income from the sale. But the merchandise keeps rising it’s value when the fan (wearing your brand) reaches more and more people.
  • Social Media: Since the rise of photo based social network sites like Instagram and Snapchat, the amount of shared photo’s rose exponentially. When fans wear the merchandise of their favourite artist or event, these pictures work like free banners. Merchandise makes sure your brand stays top of mind .
  • Physical value: because of the global digitalisation, physical products are perceived with higher value. A physical representation of a brand (from T-shirt to snapback) creates a closer band with the brand.


Quality merchandise is starting to grow. Because the revenue from music sales took a nosedive, artists started looking at other sources like merchandise. When there is a solid strategy, merchandise becomes a very strong tool the arsenal. What do you think about merchandise?

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