Fashion and music have always gone hand in hand—and now, as artists step up their merch game like never before, they are sparking entire fashion movements. Artists like Beyonce and Kanye are releasing apparel lines that are being received with a level enthusiasm usually reserved for an album launch. Take for example, Kanye’s “The Life of Paublo” pop-up shop in NYC, a 3-day event that reportedly brought in seven figures—this should be proof enough that music merch is having a major moment.
The band tee has been around as long as rock and roll, so why are we seeing this comeback now? The internet, of course, and digitalization of music has undoubtedly shaken up the industry. As artists and their labels react to this shift, they are relying more heavily on revenue from touring and merchandise, as opposed to album sales. Additionally, the innovation in the blank apparel industry has made fashion-forward merchandise more accessible than it was in the past. An artist’s merchandise is a direct reflection of their brand, and as they depend more on merch as a primary money-making source, it’s vitally important to use the best quality garments available.
If you’ve bought a concert tee recently, chances are it was BELLA+CANVAS. We are a favorite among artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Flume and G-Easy because artists are recognizing the value in tees that people want to wear again and again. G-Eazy summarized this sentiment in a recent interview when he said, “Word of mouth is the most valuable form of marketing…If we’re deciding about merch pieces, t-shirts or hats, they have to be well designed and cool enough for somebody to want to buy it and then wear it and walk around advertising me and my music.”
We had a chat with Kari Rohr, VP Merchandise Production at Warner Music Group to get her take on all this. Read our Q&A below!
Q: How important is merch as a revenue source for an artist?
A: Music merch is a critical compliment to the music. It allows the consumer to own a physical piece of the experience music offers. Music merch is an expression of the music, the message and the style that ties the artist to the consumer. With the decline of physical CD sales, merchandise sales offer another avenue to contribute revenue while complimenting the music.
Q: Have you seen a shift in the music merch industry’s purchase behavior from price-driven to quality-driven?
A: The ever growing relationship between fashion and music plays a big role in choosing quality blanks. An artist’s merch line is a reflection of their image, a way for them to connect with their fans. In the same way an artist would never want to put out a bad album, they wouldn’t want their name and logo on anything that doesn’t represent the quality of their brand as a whole.
Q: What are the most popular trends and styles you see requested from artists?
A: Recently we’ve been choosing longer style tees as well as boxier shapes. We love the Long Body Tee and Heavyweight Tee from BELLA+CANVAS. 100% cotton is the standard to allow for soft hand water based discharge printing. However, poly-cotton blends like the Heather CVC Tee remain in the mix due to the softness.
Q: What do you look for when selecting a blank garment for an artist or tour?
A: We choose on-trend blanks that will hold their shape and color wash after wash. It’s critical the garment is compatible with screen printing as well as DTG print, embroidery, heat transfers and other decorating techniques.
Q: What are some artists you’ve used BELLA+CANVAS tees for?
A: Twenty One Pilots, Shawn Mendes, Cole Swindell, Cyndi Lauper, Halestorm, Dan & Shay, Frankie Ballard
Do you work in the world of artist merch? What trends have you noticed in the industry as of late?