The evolution of the merchandising of the concerts from promotion to fashion

Today the merchandising of the tours is a symbol of those young people who no longer get excited for a well-made and designer dress: the desire is to wear something authentic

How to explain to all fans and devoted fans of a band that their favorite fetish has turned into a collective passion of global proportions ? The basic instrument of the cult, the concert merchandising, created as a promotional tool, has today evolved into a real fashion collection made up of clothes, accessories and jewelry, fought over by the world’s best known concept stores .

In today’s version, the 2.0 concert t-shirts are a must for every pop star wise and aware of the fact that discs and evenings are no longer enough to earn the trust of the public, especially the younger, to be reached with new approaches and on several fronts .

For example, those of Taylor Swift – one of the most business-oriented artists of the music scene – is available in its e-commerce for months, despite the album Reputation is released only on 10 November.

The association between the merchandising and the fashion world began with the punk of the couple MacLaren / Westwood, who worked with attention on the stage costumes of the Sex Pistols, then proposing them in the famous boutique of King’s Road, from whose showcases fancies – without economic availability – they have drawn inspiration to replicate their “do it yourself” versions. But it is with the American rapper Kanye West that the relationship has a new interesting development. To go against that old fashion system that “does not take it seriously” as a musician, presents the album The Life of Pablo and its t-shirt, along with its line Yeezy Season 3, confusing the ideas between pret-à-dresses -porter and souvenir gadget.

Today, the “merch tour” is the symbol of that generation of youngsters who no longer feels moved by a well-made and designer outfit. The desire for all those who have been bombarded with the proposals of consumerism since childhood is to wear something authentic that has value. Even better if you are directly connected to your life and your passions. The social networks propose it every day: the experience has become the most coveted of goods. If there is nothing so exclusive and only ours as something we have experienced, then even the gadgets connected to the event become more desirable than one of the famous limited editions and collaborations between the Louis Vuitton and Supreme brands.

There are many designers / stylists: from Beyoncé with Ivy Park to Drake with OVO, from Rihanna with Fenty to The Weeknd. An option not so strange, since the creative director of a brand is no longer the designer of thirty years ago – let alone the couturier of the ’50s, locked in an ivory tower to sketch sketches – but must know share his vision with a team of people. That West’s merchandising is vying for the Design of the Year award at the Design Museum in London, reaffirms the concept of interpenetration between ideas and professions. Those who follow the Italian rap scene know that Ghali, similarly, has launched his street clothing line “STO”, specifying that it is “designed by a collective of young boys”.

Whether the concert experience is simulated or real does not matter , because the purpose of these “relics” from merchandising is not to prove our presence. They are available – for all those who manage to buy them – online, in pop-up stores, in chains and department stores. This new form of fashion works because it creates an identity sense. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt with gothic lettering makes you feel part of a group, perhaps a secret society, a counter-society that stands as an alternative to the establishment : a typical attitude of the sports fan club and of the supporters organized with lots of uniform, scarf and various objects. For thirty years, from the Sixties to the Nineties, fans of the Grateful Dead buying a tie-dye blouse at their concerts felt they were joining a legend, that of the psychedelic and rebellious Californian scene. The same goes for other companies like rap, pop, metal, or an anonymous slogan “MERCHANDISING” like the one on the sweatshirt that Virgil Abloh from Off-white designed for the Travis Scott tour. Who benefits most from this exposure? Good question, considering that Abloh has been called the king of “Social Media Superinfluencers” and his every move is followed with religious respect by the boys. Between fashion and music it is a give-receive on a par. Both are artistic forms and profit-driven industries at the same time.

For large companies it is practically impossible to remain indifferent to the numbers that the trend of concerts is moving: this winter the usual collaboration between the heiress Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger is a line of hooded sweatshirts, caps and t-shirts, wisely baptized “Tour Merch”. In recent months, the H & M chain and the multi-brand Barney’s in New York have produced Justin Bieber’s tour leaders, or even the Japanese designer Jun Takahashi of Undercover, in order to pay tribute to his passion for rock, he founded the ‘Undercover Records’ imaginary discography label, under which it pretends to promote new unrecognized groups. A creative and brilliant trick to sell his second line inspired by style.

It seems that that ingenious mix of gadgets tending to kitsch, which until a few years ago was hung in the baracchini at the entrance to the concerts, sold only by local shops or at most from some specialized store, has become – along with the streaming and to the web – the last of the epochal changes in the music world.