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10 Reasons To Make Art Not Merch

I have this saying: “Make art, make art!”

It comes from Glen Hansard’s humble but inspiring Oscar acceptance speech for Best Original Song in 2008.  

The guy had the whole world’s ear for a few moments, and he chose those words; “Make art, make art!”

It’s a phrase which should be at the core of everything you do as a musician.

Not the idea that you should keep making art and one day you will win an Oscar or “make it big”, whatever that is. Please. Rather it serves as aid memoir that to make anything other than art is a waste of your time.

Art Cant Be Wrong

It has become clear from my work with the bands that if you make art, and only art, you can not be wrong. 

What do I mean by that?

To thrive in the new music industry, amongst other things, musicians need two things:

  1. To have a niche appeal
  2. To offer unique goods or experiences that cant be reproduced easily that people actually want

If you make art, and only art, in everything you do, then:

  1. You will not be a clone, you will be you, and get this, you have niche appeal!
  2. You will be creating unique goods or experiences that cant be reproduced easily that people actually want, and you will make more money.
  3. You will feel happy, alive and inspired
  4. People around you will feel happy, alive and inspired
  5. You will become attractive
  6. You will become interesting
  7. You will be the catalyst for creativity
  8. You will generate word of mouth and content galore
  9. You will add invaluable context to your music
  10. You will never run dry of ideas

Bin The Merch

To me “merch” is a dirty word. It conjures images of cheap and nasty shapeless t-shirts, thrown together tour posters and badges for badges sake, all produced as an after thought. This stuff is so incredibly patronising to the music fan.

The first thing to apply the “make art, make art!” principle to is your merch. Its simple, make art, not merch, because who wants merch?

Of course the more people you can involve in creating art, the more fun it is. This principle is at the heart of everything I do with the band Hope and Social. Have a look at the fun we are having making a song and a video with a blue jacket and a stamp.

In my next post ill provide a case study of some really special art we made for a recent Come Dine With Us event where we turned the studio into a French bistro, an invited people down to eat, drink and make art. The night was a huge success and the art/merch we made to sell on the night raised just under half the funds required to produce the upcoming second Hope and Social album alone.

But for now, here is Glen to remind you what you do best: “Fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up.”


Quick Bio: Dont you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?


Reader Comments (1)

I will definately agree with what Hope and Social are doing, supported them once, been to a few of their gigs in Leeds, UK and i know how they run as my sister and good friend who is also her boyfriend are very close with H&S so i hear a lot of things...

I have been writing an introduction about what to sell, packaging of products, not physically but how you assemble these pieces with what you have to offer for an article within my final year project at university.

This post has shone through, thanks MTT, the readers, the contributors and the commenters! Helping me get through a slurry of information and making things just make sense.


April 11 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

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