On Friday, December 4th, Kane Brown released a new line of merchandise called the FAMILY collection which features a t-shirt, a pullover hoodie and trucker hat.
With the recent shifts in revenue streams throughout the music industry, artist merchandise has become an increasingly important source of income for them and their teams – especially given their inability to tour with the ongoing pandemic.
The new merchandise, which design solely consists of the word “FAMILY” in bold letters, is a collaboration with Los Angeles-based fashion designer Doni Nahmias. Images of the items can be seen below, but the most eye-catching part of the new merch is the price tag.
With relatively simple designs, the prices for these items certainly stand out as they are more akin to the costs for a concert ticket as opposed to merchandise.
In order to put these prices in perspective, I compared them to the cost of similar items for other notable mainstream country artists. These comparable artists were determined by Spotify Artist Popularity, which is a metric that represents how much an artist is played on the streaming service, denoted with a value 0-100.
These values are displayed on the vertical axis of the following charts:
Clearly, these prices are completely above the average market cost for merchandise, no matter how popular the artist.
In fact, all the apparel for sale by artists other than Kane Brown had a similar rate of ~$30 for a t-shirt, ~$55 for a sweatshirt / pullover, and ~$25 for a hat.
Granted this may be viewed more like a “fashion line” as opposed to your standard artist “merch,” but either way, many of Brown’s fans were not pleased with the inflated prices and let their feelings be known in response to Brown’s tweet promoting the line:
Love the Merch man, but you offer 0% financing by chance?
Was definitely going to support and buy something but once I saw the price I was very disappointed. Not everyone has thousands just sitting around to pay almost $200 for a sweatshirt when that can go to much more for necessities during the pandemic😕I can’t even for it as a gift
Given the economic conditions in a world full of shutdowns, it is no surprise people reacted this way – especially given the reputation of country music as being a community of blue-collar, everyday people. Kane Brown selling a plain black t-shirt for $85 comes off as incredibly tone deaf.
However, there are a few things to note regarding this situation. First of all, this was a collaboration with a designer therefore prices are automatically going to be much higher (regardless of cost of materials or if they should be). Secondly, Kane Brown has other merchandise for sale with pricing that is much more consistent with the rest of the market.
Finally, it is important to note that all three of the items in the FAMILY collection have sold out within 24 hours. While the total inventory sold for this line is unknown, it would be completely inaccurate to call it an unsuccessful endeavor for Brown. At the end of the day, America operates capitalist markets where private parties are allowed to set the price of goods in response or anticipation of consumer demand. In this case, there was ultimately enough demand to sell these products very quickly and as concerning as that might be to some, market forces determine the merit of a product, not public opinion.
Regardless of your thoughts on Kane Brown’s music or merchandise pricing, this event raises questions for the near future of the country music landscape. Without a clear timeline for the ability to resume normal touring schedules, artists need to maximize their existing revenue streams. Coupled with the rise of streaming and fall of album sales, merchandise sales will only become more vital to artists and many may be tempted to increase their prices or pursue brand / designer collaborations similar to Brown.
If doing so, artists must weigh the benefit of the additional income with the risk of alienating their fan base. These decisions may have very large implications as the industry’s consumption methods and fan engagement continues to modernize. Those that navigate the changes well will rise to the top, and those that don’t have the potential to lose considerable market share and fan equity.
Between getting lost on his own property, bombing the Thanksgiving halftime show, and now this, Kane Brown has seen his fair share of negative attention lately, but then again, if he can get people to pay $85 dollars for a t-shirt, I suppose he couldn’t care less.
By the way, what do you think a Creed shirt will run you these days?