Band merchandise - Billy Bragg tea towel
Gigs,  Merchandise

Merch Ado About Nothing

I clearly remember a point in my life when I drew a line under buying any more band T-shirts. It’s a line that got rubbed out and redrawn consistently over the following years. However, I have since pretty convincingly moved on to the more domesticated section of the merchandise table. I now (mostly) resist another black T-shirt with an inscrutable but vaguely threatening illustration on it and instead enthusiastically dive into the kitchen paraphernalia. Mugs and pencils (for grocery lists, of course) are useful purchases and my partner (at home) only ever gets the immortal late night text message from me ‘Honey, we have a new tea towel’, as I’m stumbling out of a Billy Bragg gig. 

It’s gratifying to have a token of a great show and the ongoing grounded nature of most bands this year may result in new and surprising ways to wrap their logo around essential and peripheral items. (Surely they’re making a last-minute push for the Christmas market right now?) Innovation is always welcome and alongside the ‘what’ it would be a worthy pursuit to think of the ‘how’, especially (but not only) in this season of goodwill. Some acts have moved towards ensuring their clothing merchandise is sourced from factories that don’t exploit their workers*, which has to be an ethical winner whether the band is raging against the system or not. That’s much ado about something. 

*Anti-sweatshop campaign No Sweat has been helping bands ensure the merchandise they sell fans lives up to the ethical standards the bands support. Their ethically sourced T-shirts have been picked up by some of the politically aware punk scene boosted by The Punks Against Sweatshops drive.

Photo: A Billy Bragg tea towel from my growing collection. Much like in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, where Douglas Adams has his space-hopping characters clutching their bath towels as they loop around the stratosphere, some fans are now leaving gigs clutching a tea towel to keep them safe in this world, or any others… © Imelda Michalczyk

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