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The Role of Custom Garments in Band Merchandise

Music and fashion have always been intertwined, each influencing and shaping the other in a symbiotic relationship that transcends time and culture. From the iconic band t-shirts of the 70s to the custom merchandise of today’s artists, fashion has played a crucial role in the music industry. This article explores this fascinating intersection, focusing on the role of custom garments in band merchandise.

Section Key Points
Introduction Explored the link between fashion and music, and the role of custom garments in band merchandise.
The Intersection of Fashion and Music Discussed how fashion and music have always been intertwined, with musicians often setting fashion trends.
The Role of Custom Garments in Band Merchandise Explained how custom garments allow bands to express their unique identity and connect with fans.
The Impact of Band Merchandise on the Music Industry Highlighted the significant role of merchandise in a band’s revenue stream, especially in the era of digital music.


The Symbiosis of Music and Fashion

Music and fashion are two forms of expression that have always gone hand in hand. They are both forms of self-expression, a way for individuals and groups to communicate their identity, values, and beliefs. The relationship between these two industries is not just about aesthetics; it’s about identity, culture, and community.

Bands like The Sex Pistols were known for their rebellious music and their distinctive style (source: Rollingstone)

For example, the punk movement of the 70s was as much about the music as it was about the fashion. Bands like The Sex Pistols and The Ramones were known for their rebellious music and their distinctive style, which included customised t-shirts, ripped jeans, and leather jackets. Their fashion choices were a visual representation of their music and their rebellious spirit, and they inspired a generation of fans to express their individuality through their clothing.

The Role of Custom Garments in Band Merchandise

Custom garments have always been a significant part of band merchandise. They allow bands to extend their brand beyond their music, creating a visual identity that fans can connect with and proudly display.

  1. Brand Extension: Custom garments allow bands to extend their brand beyond their music. They create a visual identity that fans can connect with and proudly display.
  2. Fan Connection: Wearing a band’s custom garment is a way for fans to identify with their favourite artists and feel a part of their community. It’s a form of self-expression and a way to show support.
  3. Revenue Stream: Custom garments also provide an additional revenue stream for bands, especially for independent artists who may not have the backing of a major record label.

The Power of Customisation

In the world of band merchandise, customisation is king. It allows bands to create unique, one-of-a-kind pieces that resonate with their fans. Whether it’s a t-shirt screen printed with a band’s logo, a customised jacket with a band’s lyrics, or a limited-edition hoodie designed by the band members themselves, custom garments allow bands to express their creativity and connect with their fans on a deeper level.

Radiohead Limited edition Tshirt (Source: Reddit)

For instance, the British band Radiohead is known for their innovative and unique merchandise. They often release limited-edition t-shirts and other custom garments that feature artwork related to their albums. These pieces are not just merchandise; they are works of art that fans can wear and collect.

The Design Process

The creation of custom band merchandise starts with the design process. This is where the band’s vision comes to life, translated into a visual form that can be printed onto garments. The design can be anything from the band’s logo, album artwork, lyrics, or even a visual representation of the band’s ethos.

  1. Conceptualisation: This is the brainstorming stage, where ideas are generated and concepts are developed. It’s crucial to consider the band’s brand, their music, and what they want to communicate to their fans.
  2. Design Creation: Once the concept is clear, the actual design is created. This can be done by the band members themselves, a graphic designer, or a dedicated merchandise designer.
  3. Feedback and Revision: The design is then reviewed and revised until it perfectly encapsulates the band’s vision.

The Production Process

Screen printing with white ink

Once the design is finalised, it’s time for production. This is where printmakers like 3rd Rail  come in. With our expertise in screen printing and garment customisation, we can turn your band’s vision into a tangible product.

  1. Screen Printing: This is a printing technique where a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, except in areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil. It’s ideal for printing designs on garments because it produces vibrant colours and sharp images.
  2. Garment Customisation: This involves modifying or altering the garment to make it unique. It can include adding patches, embroidery, distressing the fabric, or even creating a completely custom garment from scratch.
  3. Quality Control: Each piece is carefully inspected to ensure it meets the highest standards of quality. This includes checking the print quality, the placement of the design, and the overall construction of the garment.
Customisation, inlcuding relabeling, can enhance your brands merchandise

Real-Life Examples

A great example of custom band merchandise is the British rock band Arctic Monkeys. For their Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino tour, they created a range of custom merchandise that included t-shirts, hoodies, and even hotel keychains. The designs were inspired by the album’s artwork and the band’s new retro-futuristic aesthetic.

Arctic Monkeys designs were inspired by the album’s artwork and the band’s new retro-futuristic aesthetic.

The Economics of the Music Industry

In the past, bands primarily made their income from record sales and touring. However, with the rise of digital streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, the revenue from record sales has significantly decreased. According to a report by Citigroup, artists only received 12% of the $43 billion generated by the music industry in 2017.

Artists only received 12% of the $43 billion generated by the music industry in 2017.


In this context, merchandise sales have become an increasingly important revenue stream for bands. It’s estimated that merchandise can account for as much as 30% of a band’s income, and in some cases, even more.

The Role of Merchandise in a Band’s Revenue

Merchandise sales offer several financial benefits for bands:

  1. Direct Income: Unlike record sales, where income is often split between various parties (record labels, distributors, etc.), bands typically receive a larger portion of the income from merchandise sales.
  2. Touring Revenue: Merchandise is often sold at concerts and tours, providing an additional source of income. According to Billboard, merchandise sales can increase by up to 30% at live events.
  3. Brand Expansion: Merchandise also helps bands expand their brand and reach a wider audience, which can indirectly boost their income through increased visibility and fan engagement.

Real-Life Examples

A prime example of a band leveraging merchandise for revenue is the American rock band KISS. Known for their extensive range of merchandise, from t-shirts and action figures to coffins and condoms, KISS has reportedly made millions from their merchandise sales.

Kiss have a company solely dedicated to the bands merchandise


Another example is the British band Iron Maiden. They have a dedicated merchandise company, which contributes significantly to their income. Their range of merchandise includes clothing, accessories, and even their own brand of beer.

An array of merchandise from Iron Maiden tours (source: Reddit)


While the primary purpose of band merchandise is to create a connection between the band and their fans, it also serves as a significant source of income. As the music industry continues to evolve, merchandise sales will likely play an increasingly important role in a band’s revenue stream.

The Future of Custom Band Merchandise: Trends and Innovations

Sustainability in Fashion

One of the most significant trends in the fashion industry is sustainability. As consumers become more aware of the environmental impact of their purchases, they are seeking out brands that align with their values. This trend is also reflected in the band merchandise industry.

  1. Eco-friendly Materials: Bands are increasingly choosing to use eco-friendly materials for their merchandise, such as organic cotton or recycled fabrics.
  2. Sustainable Production Methods: Printmakers are adopting sustainable production methods, such as water-based inks for screen printing, to reduce their environmental impact.
  3. Ethical Manufacturing: Consumers are also concerned about the ethical aspects of production, such as fair wages and working conditions. Bands are responding by choosing to work with manufacturers that adhere to ethical standards.

Technological Innovations

Technology is also playing a significant role in the evolution of custom band merchandise. From the design process to production and distribution, technological innovations are making it easier and more efficient to create and sell custom garments.

  1. Digital Design Tools: Advanced design software allows for more intricate and detailed designs, expanding the possibilities for custom band merchandise.
  2. Direct-to-Garment Printing: This technology allows for full-colour, high-resolution prints directly onto garments, making it easier to produce small batches of custom designs. Screen Printing vs DTG
  3. E-commerce Platforms: Online platforms make it easier for bands to sell their merchandise directly to fans, regardless of their location. (Print Social)

Real-Life Examples

Coldplay, a British rock band, is a great example of a band embracing sustainability. For their album “Everyday Life”, they created merchandise using sustainable and ethically sourced materials. They also used water-based inks for their screen-printed t-shirts, demonstrating their commitment to reducing their environmental impact.

UK Band Coldplay are leading the way in sustainable practices through all facets of their business (source: Imperial College)


The future of custom band merchandise is exciting, with endless possibilities for creativity and innovation. As we move forward, one thing remains clear: the link between fashion and music is stronger than ever, and custom garments will continue to play a crucial role in band merchandise. Whether it’s through sustainable practices, technological innovations, or simply the art and craft of creating unique pieces, bands and printmakers like 3rd Rail Clothing are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of band merchandise.