If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know the opportunity for radio station merch has been a popular topic over the past few years. We addressed the viability of merch sales in Techsurvey back in 2019. And we learned that a significant portion – one-third of radio fans – is ready, willing, and able to fork over cash or plastic to support and market their P1 station.
In our survey, we also cross-tabbed merch buyers by format to get a sense for the types of listeners most likely to make a purchase. And Urban-flavored stations came out on top.
And at or above the 30% mark are partisans of Variety Hits, CHR, Country, and Classic Rock. Overall, there's more of a market for merch than there are radio stations willing to step up to make it easily available.
That makes very little sense for three reasons:
- Most stations in 2021 are in need of extra sources of cash. And merch requires no inventory, just mentions.
- The markup on this stuff is huge. Merch is very profitable – just ask any touring band.
- At a time when most stations have minimal marketing budgets, merch works. There's no endorsement quite like real listeners displaying your brand wherever they go.
More good news – Rush Order Tees has commissioned and released an extensive research study that provides broadcast radio brands with great information to guide campaign decision-making. It consists of 1,017 band T-shirt owners in the U.S. You can access it here, but the sample (not surprisingly) skews male and young (average age: 34).
Here is a great infographic that breaks down music fans most likely to display their favorite artists on T-shirts, how much they've spent on their “collections,” and the number of band shirts they own:
Rush Order Tees' list of the best music genres deviates in some ways from ours. That stands to reason, given the differences between the two samples. Techsurvey also includes genres unique to the study (i.e., Variety Hits, Sports, Hot AC), as does the Rush Order Tees list (Punk, Jazz, Blues).
But the thrust of each study's takeaways is the same – merch represents millions of dollars of sales every year. And while Rush Order Tees' data is specific to bands, ours is focused on radio. The arc of each study is similar.
There are also fun findings about band preferences that shed light on artist and genre appeal – both current and classic. Below is the breakdown of the most popular bands/artists adorned on T-shirts.
And the clear-cut winner? AC/DC
Notably, five of the Top 10 most popular artists are members in good standing in the Classic Rock community:
And note the Top 5 bands are listed by genre: Pop, Hip-Hop/Rap, Hard Rock/Alt, and Classic Rock.
One final merch stat: fans keep their artist T-shirts for an average of 11 years. That represents (hopefully) a lot of loads through the washer/dryer.
Importantly, this data point suggests people covet these branded items of apparel. And that bodes well for radio station merch.
So, that's the good news. But last week, we ran across a cautionary tale revolving around one of Pop's most popular new artists, Olivia Rodrigo.
She has a hot debut album, Sour, and she has made high-level appearances, notably with President Biden supporting the COVID vaccines.
But according to BuzzFeed News' writer Ikran Dahir, Rodrigo has suffered a merch mishap that is angering many of her biggest fans.
Her team selected a company called Ceremony of Roses to handle the merch, made available on Rodrigo's website back in May. Last month, fans began receiving their merch purchases, and many were outraged by the quality – or lack thereof.
In short, many fans thought the merch displayed on Rodrigo's website didn't resemble what eventually showed up on their porches. And they took to social media to share their frustration, including TikTok:
It IS brutal when you turn off your biggest fans.
Ceremony of Roses has issued the standard merch mea culpa:
“We are working to resolve these issues moving forward and in the meantime, granting refunds or exchanges to anyone affected.”
But these words ring hollow to amped up fans, excited to start showing off their Olivia Rodrigo merch, only to be disappointed by what they received.
For radio stations and personalities who decide to launch wearable programs to market and sell branded wearables, let Olivia Rodrigo's merch debacle serve as a warning.
Simply taking the cheap, expeditious, and easy way out can (and probably will) backfire. Checking off the merch box could have disappointing repercussions.
Vetting merch companies like you would a new hire – checking references, ratings, and having your team inspect and wear the items themselves – is the wise way to go.
I'd be happy to test drive and display your station's T-shirt, men's large. Send here.
Access the Rush Order Tees study here.
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