One of the greatest challenges we face as an industry is the growth of merchandise.

Wearing something to show your fandom is nothing new. The bobbysoxers of the late 40’s, with their identifiable fashion and dedication to Frank Sinatra, were maybe the first pop phenomenon and, by the rise of Elvis, fanclubs were making unofficial t-shirts to show their love. Part of being a fan is showing your allegiance and merchandise and band tees are a key part of that. But the sheer amount of music merchandise in the modern pop world, what it is made of and how it is made, is an issue for those of us concerned about sustainability and a better future.

So, we thought long and hard about whether to develop merchandise for Music Declares Emergency and listened to those who said we should not. We experimented with overprinting used t-shirts and offering free stencils to those wishing to create their own merch but, ultimately, we felt that we were justified in launching and promoting the NO MUSIC ON A DEAD PLANET t-shirts that have now become synonymous with us and our cause which you can find here.

It helped that we had a partner in Teemill who we knew could back up their claims to be sustainable and circular in their practice and already created a lot of sustainable band merch. That we had a business model that, through a print to order system, would remove waste from the process entirely. That there would be no stacks of shirts waiting for buyers or gathering dust because we got our predictions wrong. We accepted that this would cut into our potential profit margin, but we also felt that there was a positive, progressive reason to go ahead on that basis. Balancing income (always welcome for a charity) with our ethics was paramount.

We do not believe that all merchandise is bad, rather that the majority of it is badly sourced, badly made, badly administered, and created with no thought towards its impact or consequence. A short blog is no place to get into a debate about the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ merch but our baseline is and will always be, is this something that people will actually use and would buy elsewhere if our version was not available?

Our reasoning began with the obvious. People wear clothes. Offering them an option that we knew was better than the vast majority of offerings out there represented an improvement on the current situation. The more people wearing our shirts, the less wearing shirts that had a greater impact on the planet.

In showing that you could successfully create demand for print to order band merch that removes waste from the supply chain and encourages ethical consumers to consider what they are buying, we hope that we are signposting a possible way forward for the wider music industry. Through working with Teemill on innovations including their ‘Thread Not Dead’ commitment to recycle any 100% cotton item to create new garments and by joining their Buy One, Get One Tree offer which plants a tree for every shirt sold, we continue to build on that ethical basis to maximise the positive impacts of our range.

What this means in practice is that our partnership with Teemill has resulted in 3,238 Trees being planted, equivalent to 404 tennis courts and 124,987kg of CO2, 33,934kg of CO2 emissions minimised by using renewable energy, which was then balanced by the recovery of 124,987kg of CO2 through tree planting, which makes our NO MUSIC ON A DEAD PLANET merchandise range carbon neutral! In addition, we have recovered and diverted 1,734kg of organic material from landfill, preventing 19,268kg of CO2 emissions and saving 12 million litres of water.

But it isn’t all about these serious (albeit necessary) considerations and impacts. We are, after all, music fans and, as music fans, we knew that the t-shirt range would deliver multiple positives that aren’t about numbers but about feelings.

They would create a space where artists and legendary designers could show their support for climate action in a creative way.

They would show the music industry that fans wanted their love of their favourite artists to translate into something positive for the planet.

They would give music fans the opportunity to show their support for climate action by literally wearing their thoughts on their chest.

And, they would help those fans find each other at gigs and festivals and all manner of other public spaces to continue to show to the world that we were an ever growing community of people that want climate action now.

The success of the range has proved our thinking to be right, delivering merchandise that is certified sustainable, linked to innovation and positive action, and enabled us to put the support of the likes of Thom Yorke, Afro Deco, Jamie Reid, Raissa Pardini, Peter Saville, Studio Moross, The 1975, Robin Clare and a host of other inspirational artists and designers at the forefront of the climate movement.

We still consider everything we make before we press go and will never stop doing that but we believe that merchandise can, and should, be a part of the music fan experience. After all, music graphic tees, as they are called in the industry, remain one of the most visible and powerful connections for fans to their favourite artists.

As the song says, ‘It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It’.


#merchandise #t-shirts #sustainability #circularproduction #fandom #musicgraphictees #bandmerch