Headbangers’ Brawl 4/6: Brawl: At What Point Has Merchandising Gone Too Far?

Posted by on April 6, 2012

Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.

Many fans and websites (including us) have been giving Slayer a hard time about all the tchotchkes they’ve been slapping their name on. However, Zach recently stumbled upon Motörhead’s online store. And just like Slayer, Motörhead are selling their own blankets, USB dog tags, pint glasses, socks, and even their own line of Durex condoms. In fact, if you look closely, each of the bands’ web stores use the exact same picture of the product but with different logos (as proven by the image above). So what gives? Why do Slayer and Motörhead have identical merchandise products for sale?

The main reason is mainly because of Global Merchandise. They’re the company that handles both bands’ merchandising as well as bands like Mastodon, Motley Crue, Anthrax, Machine Head and even Elton John, among many others. While each band has to sign off on every product that bears their name, Global produces the merchandise and probably even pitches them on each idea. And such relationships between merchandise companies and bands are not unusual (just look at Bravado).

Zach’s discovery created a debate between him and Bram about whether any of this even matter. Before long, they realized that they were already in the middle of this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl:

Zach: Let me start off by saying that no matter what either band sells, I will always love Motörhead (Lemmy is God, after all) and Slayer (or shall we say SSLLAAYYEERR). And  it should be noted that Global has done some pretty cool merchandise with groups, including Ghost and Mastodon (even though they were $65, their Tusk Beer Stein did look pretty awesome). Plus, the one thing you can’t argue with is that both Slayer and Motörhead still after 30 plus years releasing solid albums and performing their asses off. All I’m saying is that it’s slightly disappointing to see some of our favorite groups have so little connection to what they’re selling.

Granted, merchandising is a gigantic business on its own, and I’m sure there’s no way in hell that Lemmy or Kerry King would want to bother themselves with that kind of stuff (that’s why they hired Global). And let’s be honest, it’s not like either band has opened up a mini-golf course or joined forces with Archie (like one band I can think of). But as a fan, it’d be nice to see both iconic and newer bands put a little more effort into creating unique merchandise, especially during a time when bands can’t rely on album sales and tours like they used to.


Bram: I don’t think there’s anything out of the ordinary with what either band is doing. When you’re talking about bands that have 30 years’ worth of fans, it’s not surprising in the least that they would branch out and license their name to multiple products. And as the Global Merchandise and Bravados of the world find new products to slap bands’ names on, of course iconic bands like Motörhead and Slayer would be at the forefront of getting involved. They’re making money without playing a note or touring. I don’t have the first clue what you’re disappointed about.


Z: For one, I’m disappointed that Global didn’t even bother trying to differentiate Slayer and Motörhead products. Seriously, look at the picture above and tell me that isn’t the same exact pair of feet with different logos photoshopped on them? If you’re selling them on a band’s website, could you at least make a little effort in presenting them as “exclusive items” and not just something you slapped a sticker on?

And second, who the fuck really wants an expensive pair of socks with a band’s logo on them?! Yes, I pointed out just one example, and sure it doesn’t put that much of a damper on the band’s “brand” or its legacy. And hell, I’m guilty of buying products just cause it has a band’s name on it (in fact, as I am writing this I am drinking coffee from a Motorhead travelers mug that I purchased at Gigantour last January). But it gets to a point where enough is enough. I just wish that bands and companies could focus on creative items that enhance the “brand” rather than exploiting the fact that they’ve become so popular that people will buy anything from them. And considering how many fans have been vocal about their disappointment in Slayer’s most recent cash grabs, I’d say I’m not the only one who thinks this.


B: Every band should have a brand. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cashing in if your band is popular enough. I’d much rather have a Slayer logo on my socks than a Nike swoosh. How different do you want a pair of fucking socks to be? If you like a band enough to buy something non-conventional with their logo on it, you should be able to. Whether that’s a pair of socks or a coffin. Speaking of that, you say you want different and creative merchandise, but you’re giving KISS shit for branding themselves as much as they can. So basically you want something different as long as it’s not too different?

I don’t think anyone other than a few butthurt bloggers give a shit what Slayer merchandises. And if we knew that people would buy Metal Insider socks, I’d be calling Bravado up right now instead of writing this. It’s not anyone’s fault that both Slayer and Motorhead saw that socks (for example) were available as items to be branded and added them as something for fans to potentially purchase. And I don’t think anything they’re selling is anything that they don’t believe in. Everyone wears socks. If Slayer was selling a bible with their logo on it and Motorhead was selling a guide on living drug and alcohol free, then that would be something to truly get upset about.


Z: I’m all for branching out with different merchandise. But at the end of the day, merchandise should not only promote the band, but create a stronger bond with the fan (the consumer). I buy a product with a band’s name on it as an expression of admiration and love for said band. Exploiting that love by slapping it on socks (overly priced socks, mind you) or Archie comics just doesn’t sit well with me. All I’m saying is if you’re going to sell something with your brand on it, make it worth the fans’ while.


B: Which I think this merch does. I mean, how many black t-shirts can you own? And ultimately, the consumer wins. No one’s forcing them to buy any of this stuff, and it wouldn’t exist if people weren’t buying it. These bands’ fans are voting with their wallets… perhaps their Slayer wallets.

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Categorised in: Headbangers Brawl