Rock Stars Can Be Bought

23/02/2010 at 10:35 pm (Art, Guitars, Music, Rock, Toys, TV)

For the last 50 years, the phenomenon of merchandising has grown to become a rich stream of revenue for the various fields of entertainment and sports. We all know that the best souvenir from a gig was a t-shirt that proudly cried, “I was there!”

Of course, band merchandising is not without its cynics. It is accepted that the priority is the music, which should the central core of what every band and solo artist strives to produce. Usually. In these ever changing times it is accepted that your product will, to some degree, be given away for free.  How do put the most time into your work if you have to hold down a day job to do it?

This isn’t a new thing. The Fab Four were a marketing man’s godsend back in the 60’s, spawning a plethora of products that are gloriously reminiscent of the age. The Monkees too, being born of a manufactured background fitted the bill when having an equally manufactured line of finger puppets and toy cars. Through the seventies, with ABBA, Cher and Michael Jackson earning their own doll ranges.

I personally love merchandising. Not necessarily just t-shirts, but odd toys, games, action figures, CD cases, wallets… I’ve always enjoyed that extension to the experience of seeing a band and feeling part of it. Go to your local HMV, and you’ll find toys, t-shirts, gifts and gadgets are dotted in various corners of the store. Merchandising has become as essential as the basic product, whether that’s a CD, DVD or game. There are, of course, extremes. A band I have loved for years knows how to work the marketing machine perfectly.

KISS are without a doubt the masters of music merchandising. With an image that is recognised all over the world, the marketable element of KISS is obvious. It has been estimated that in the period between 1977 and 1979 the profit would have exceeded $100 million. To this day, KISS merchandise is performing spectacularly, as Gene Simmons – the band’s massively tongued bassist – has arguably become the George Lucas of the music industry.

Now it is a key ingredient to many a band’s marketability is their merchandising range. My Chemical Romance, Green Day, Fall Out Boy have all been pressed into plastic versions.  The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Queen, Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne amongst other classic acts are forever immortalised in miniature.

I guess what it comes down to is the difference between seeing music purely as an art form based on its own merits, or if the showbiz element should spill over into other artforms.   Does a toy of your favourite singer dilute the credibility?  Are the action figures of Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and yes, Janis Joplin, disrespectful, or are they just affordable 3D mementos of our heroes?

Personally, I’d love to be an action figure!

Info on KISS merchandise sales from



  1. dawniepants said,

    Have you seen Gene’s room filled with every piece of Kiss memorabilia he has approved. It is insane. Kiss toilet paper.

  2. peacockpete said,

    Yes indeed! There’s been Kiss wine, fragrances, Kiss Kondoms and the Kiss Kasket, allowing you to be buried in a coffin emblazoned with Kiss graphics. There’s not a lot left that hasn’t been branded with that lightening bolt logo.

    It’s astounding, really!

  3. emmasimms said,

    My fave meorabilia? My Chasing Vegas tee I wear to bed…

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