Speaker Box: Music and the Merch

Speaker Box: Music and the Merch

Musicians exploring less-conventional avenues of branding and merchandising; July concerts from X, Khalid and The Alarm.


By 1983, British heavy metal rock band Iron Maiden had the best-selling T-shirt in rock and roll. Rumor was that the band made more money selling T-shirts than records. Music merch has come a long way since then, including more creativity at matching a performer’s personality and vibe to the product. Sammy Hagar kind of started this in 1999, when he created Cabo Wabo tequila (he later sold the brand for millions).

Maiden transitioned from T-shirts to beer: Trooper, a traditional British ale, was the first of several brews named after their songs. Earlier this year, Metallica’s Enter Night pilsner appeared on liquor store shelves, after they earlier endorsed a fruit-infused whiskey named Blackened. While members of Maiden and Metallica have worked closely with brewers and distillers to craft their branded pints, other acts, such as The Rolling Stones, KISS and The Police, have lent their images and album art to collector wine bottles. Essentially, fans are buying a bottle of wine just for the label (winesthatrock.com).

The latest twist on music-branded product leans toward sobriety. Zakk Wylde, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and founder of Black Label Society, helped craft Valhalla Java Odinforce Blend, a dark coffee made by Death Wish Coffee (deathwishcoffee.com) – an appropriate endorsement since Wylde no longer drinks alcohol. Meanwhile, Willie Nelson has his name on Willie’s Remedy, cannabis- and hemp-infused coffee, and also offers a hemp oil tincture you can drop in your own cup of java (williesremedy.com).

The potential for liquid branding is ripe. Teas, extracts, fruit drinks, Kombuchas are all available. Snoop Dogg’s Gin, anyone? As artists try to stay visible and relevant, branding opportunities will become even more inventive. Just keep an eye on your local spirit shop.



Big Show Quick Hits

Top-flight acts ready to rock the 405


X by Frank Gargani



July 1, Tower Theatre, towertheatreokc.com

One of the upstart bands that helped create the Los Angeles punk scene in the late 1970s is touring to celebrate its monumental career. Still comprised of the original line-up (vocalist Exene Cervenka, bassist John Doe, drummer D.J. Bonebrake and guitarist Billy Zoom), X was a chameleon and proved that you can morph traditional country, folk, blues and punk to create a distinct sound.



Khalid by Grace Pickering



July 19, Chesapeake Energy Arena, ticketmaster.com

I love classic R&B and soulful singing, and Khalid is one of the best new talents in recent years. The singer, originally from Georgia, is a young old soul, and his sweet vocals are reminiscent of old-schoolers such as Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, with a blend of 1990s romantic hip-hop. He’s touring in support of his sophomore record “Free Spirit,” with special guest Clairo.



Mike Peters of The Alarm by Stuart Ling


The Alarm

July 21, Tower Theatre, towertheatreokc.com

The first time I saw The Alarm was when the Welsh band opened for U2 in June 1983 at the Lloyd Noble Center.  While lead singer Mike Peters has been back to the 405 a few times since then, the new version of The Alarm has not. I have no doubt they won’t disappoint. Peters is one of the most sincere, passionate performers I’ve ever seen. They will be joined by Modern English (“I Melt with You” is a masterpiece) and the Michael Aston-fronted Gene Loves Jezebel.