Groups seeking sustainability through merchandise

Before the pandemic wreaked havoc on musicians’ ability to tour, there was a lot of talk about how they could do it in an eco-friendly and even carbon-neutral way. Perhaps the most high-profile example of this was Coldplay’s decision to take a break from touring until they were able to find a greener approach.

With always-busy touring, streaming paying relatively low royalties, and backlogs at record-pressing factories, this has made artist merchandise one of the few reliable sources of income for some artists. But even that can have its unpleasant aspects – and whether an artist is performing in arenas or basements, a growing coterie of bands are concerned about the environmental impact of the merchandise they make.

Writing to Pitchfork, Quinn Moreland offered a deep dive into the issues faced by bands looking for more sustainable merchandise. There are few easy answers here – Moreland spoke to the founder of printing company Night Owls, who mentioned that shirts can cost between $5 and $25, depending on the materials used. Unfortunately, those made from recycled materials are on the high end – which could be prohibitively expensive for many viewers.

One of the more interesting solutions is to allow fans to put new logos on existing shirts – an approach, the article notes, that has been adopted by punk collective Bomb the Music Industry! and rock band The 1975. But just as the artists in question make music on vastly different scales, questions of cost and sustainability arise differently for different artists. There are few easy answers here, but Moreland’s article offers a good overview of some of the emerging approaches to the question.