In Flames’ Anders Friden Issues Call to All Bands in Fight Against Venue Merch Cuts
In Flames vocalist Anders Fridén has shared his thoughts on the hot topic of venues taking cuts of merchandise sales from touring artists, issuing a call to all bands to come together as a united front to fight back against this practice.
It's something a handful of bands (Architects, Bad Omens, Igorrr, Monuments, Alpha Wolf, Russian Circles) have brought to the forefront, but Fridén doesn't feel much can be accomplished by this sort of piecemeal approach and that all bands need to... band... together if they want to affect change in a meaningful way.
Anders Fridén on the Origins of Merch Cuts
"I think in the beginning it was a way for clubs to say, 'Okay, if we have shows and not enough people are coming, we have to take some money out of the merch because people are not drinking enough so we're not getting money from the bar.' But we know that is not true, because people are still drinking a lot when they come to the shows," the vocalist explains in a recent interview with The Metal Circus (transcription via Blabbermouth), "So it's just a thing that just stuck there. And for bands that are relying on the merch sales, it's really, really tough."
Basically, good luck yanking a revenue stream away from a business once it has been put in place, even if it's not entirely necessary anymore.
Anders Fridén on How Merch Cuts Hurt Touring Artists
The logistics of smaller scale touring (playing clubs rather than arenas/amphitheaters/etc.) have become increasingly difficult with worldwide economic factors (inflation) threatening already slim profit margins.
Fridén says years ago he tried to start this conversation about the perceived unfairness of venues taking a significant portion of merch sales (20 percent or more in a lot of cases), "but not enough bands were saying 'we agree' or were acknowledging the fact that it was a huge problem. And then it kind of disappeared."
"Everyone has to react; it can't be just a few bands that say something," he urges.
"I don't know what to do against it," he admits, continuing," It's a huge cost. I mean, we sell a fair amount of merch, and the money that goes to someone else, even though we sell it ourselves sometimes, it's crazy. It's insane. But it's way tougher for smaller bands that live from solely the merch; they have to get the merch money to pay gas to get to the next venue or to pay so they can maybe sleep in a motel or get some food or whatever. And then someone comes and just takes 20 percent out of their pocket for nothing. It's horrendous."
As documented in Loudwire's original reporting on why venues take merch cuts, there is no universal model all veneus abide by when it comes to this practice. Different percentages and tax figures are in the mix from night to night, as well as the chance a venue may impose their own seller at the merch table instead of allowing the band to use their own dedicated merch person. In this instance, a band still has to pay for their own merch person who is not allowed to sell that merch while also forking over a large percentage of the sales. As a result, some artists have elected to not sell merch at all at select shows.
Can This Be Fixed?
"I don't know about 'fixed', but it's something that we have to be united, I guess," Fridén goes on, still unsure of what the end game solution looks like.
"Everyone has to react. It can't be just a few bands or someone in a band saying something and complaining because nothing is going happen. Because the whole corporation, or whatever you want to call them that takes this concession money, it's such a huge… It's like David versus Goliath, but bands have to turn into the Goliath instead," he laments.
Recently, some artists have attempted to skirt the issue by not selling merchandise inside the venue at all, turning nearby parking lots into a place of temporary business.
For Fridén, whose bands released their new album Foregone earlier this year, it's something he tried to do about 15 years ago.
"I think this was, like, 2005, 6, 7 or something, and that's the first time I really recognized it over here in Sweden, like we had it. And I got really upset. And I said, 'Let's sell our merch outside. We're not going to sell it inside when someone is going to take that much money," he recalls.
Anders Fridén on Why It's Not Fair to Fans Either
The downside, Fridén admits, is that the fans are the ones who also wind up hurting from this.
"You want to go to a show and you want to buy your T-shirt. And then you piss someone off [either because the prices are too high to combat the percentage that the venue takes or because merch is not for sale]. Sometimes it does feel like it doesn't matter what you do because there's always someone who doesn't understand why you're doing it the way you do it. It's a huge problem. It's difficult," he says, issuing a rallying cry, "But I personally don't know what to do unless we can all unite and say, 'This is what it is.'"
Watch the full Metal Circus interview with Fridén below.