For some bands, selling merch is a significant means of making money while touring, which is why venue merch cut policies can have a rough financial impact on artists. “Venue merch cut policies” is in regard to the percentage of profits a venue takes from a band’s merch sales; this a practice within the industry that has existed for quite a long time. Because of the financial hit some bands can take from such policies, some acts have been forced to not sell merch at shows (e.g. Igorrr and Monuments).
While talking to The Metal Circus, In Flames singer Anders Fridén was asked to share his thoughts regarding venue merch cut policies. Among the comments he shares, the In Flames frontman says he tried to bring this problem up a long time ago, but that “not enough bands were saying ‘we agree’ […].” Speaking to this issue, Fridén says (as transcribed by Blabbermouth):
“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. 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.
“I think it sucks, but there’s nothing I can do. I tried many, many years ago to start a debate and talk about this, 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. I don’t know what to do against it. 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.”
During this conversation, Fridén is asked if he thinks the issue could be “fixed” if enough bands were outspoken and voiced how upset they are with venue merch cut policies. In response to this, Fridén says:
“I don’t know about ‘fixed’, but it’s something that we have to be united, I guess. Everyone has to react. It can’t be just a few bands or someone in a band saying something and complaining, ’cause nothing is gonna happen. ‘Cause the whole cooperation, or whatever you wanna 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.
“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 gonna sell it inside when someone is gonna take that much money.’ But, obviously, the fans, they suffer, ’cause you wanna go to a show and you wanna buy your t-shirt. And then you piss someone off. 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. But I personally don’t know what to do unless we can all unite and say, ‘This is what it is.'”
What do you make of Fridén’s points?