The dust has only begun to settle on awards season and yet, somehow, we already miss it. Thus, we decided to create our own awards to honor an overlooked yet vital cog in the artist revenue machine: merchandise.
The classic crew-neck or tour poster have long been the go-to post-show purchases. Yet in recent years musicians have looked beyond the basics. Merch today is often an extension of an artist’s brand rather than a simple souvenir, and thus the swag can feel as individualized as a song.
Whether it’s artist collaborations with high-end designers or trendy pop-up shops with limited items, the live experience for many now extends far beyond the purchase of a ticket. Billboard, for instance, once estimated that a powerhouse like Taylor Swift makes $17 per head in merch sales.
So we honor this unheralded yet mighty aspect of the industry with our own awards — the Merchies. Here are this year’s winners.
Most FOMO-inducing: Beyoncé’s limited-edition denim jacket.
Adorned with embroidered patches that nod toward her native Texas and her hub of dedicated fans, the BeyHive, it was the hottest item of her sold-out Formation Tour. It’s currently going for upward of $600 on EBay — more than triple its retail price.
Cheekiest: Sturgill Simpson’s “Who the … is Sturgill Simpson?” T-shirt.
It was the question many were asking when the country singer-songwriter landed a Grammy nod for album of the year. He didn’t win, as no one beats Adele, but at least he was savvy enough to be in on the joke.
Weirdest: Sia’s collectable plush doll designed by KahriAnne Kerr.
Kerr’s collection of stuffed dolls already feature the likenesses of fashion mavens such as Coco Chanel and Anna Wintour, as well as iconic pop stars such as Prince and David Bowie. Sia teamed up with Kerr for a mini take of herself. The doll is replete with the elusive pop star’s signature look — pouty red lips and an oversized sheer white wig.
Naughtiest: Ninety-five percent of Rihanna’s “Anti” tour line.
There’s not much here that’s safe to wear to work as most items feature a curse word or a statement that has the wearer in full-on flippancy. The T-shirt depicting the singer stretched in the nude below the words “Role Model” is for the particularly brave.
Like a onesie, but more risque.
Best remixing of the classic band T-shirt (male): Kanye West’s Saint Pablo Tour shirt
West turned the ticket stub into a fashion statement. While hard stubs are increasingly a thing of the past because of advancements in technology, West created a retro-minded, ticket-themed shirt for every city.
Most adorable: Adele’s “A is for Adele” baby onesie.
Like an actual onesie.
Smartest commodification of controversy: The Boycott Beyoncé T-shirt.
After being called anti-police over her pro-black anthem “Formation,” the singer smartly turned a profit off of the backlash.
Most on-brand: Barbra Streisand’s beret.
Probably the most on-the-nose branded item since Willie Nelson put his name and face on smoking paraphernalia.
Most off-brand: Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour shirt featuring Marilyn Manson.
Confusing, considering the Biebs was barely out of diapers when Manson was at the apex of fame. And that doesn’t even mention that the original Biebs edition retailed for $200 at Barneys.
The fabulously diva award: Adele’s look-alike sleep mask.
Plush and comfortable — sleep like a world-class singer and look like one too. You’ll be snoring the chorus of “Hello” in no time though very off-key of course.
Strangest pairing: Megadeth’s wine glass and underwear bundle.
No top included.
Laziest: Maren Morris’ beer koozie.
Yes, country music and booze go together. We get it.
Most inspirational: Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World Tour hoodie.
Chance scored multiple Grammys for his exuberant blend of inspirational and introspective rap that’s deeply informed by gospel. It came as no surprise that his tour hoodie came with an uplifting image on the back: An angel with her arms stretched wide. It’s like being hugged from above.