Monday, August 5, 2013

"All Roads Lead to The Monkees"; The Economics of Merch

Interesting post about one fan's perspective on the band, on why using their real names started a trend but killed the rest of their careers.  Jerry Seinfeld, case in point.  Glee, America's Got Talent, American Idol, etc.  Larger media viewpoint.  What else does this reveal about their current "value" in the market?

I've been pondering the idea of the "20 Year Silence" the author refers to.  Roughly the time in between 1970 and 1986 (give or take 4 years).  Considered by this culture to be "prime entertainment years", the band became sensations again in their 40's.  And again in 1997, with a tv show and more touring.  And now in their 70's, they are more popular than ever.  Is it because the original marketing in the 1960's was innovative and now the brand is continuing that objective?

Looking at the Current Net Worth of the individuals: MN=$50 Mil, MD= $7 Mil, PT=$4 Mil, DJ=$5 Mil, the enterprising economist in me wonders what the comparison would be to 1960's, 1986's, etc. (Also the idea of "Net Worth" is essentially unrelated to "Personal Value", significance to fans, etc. Just a financial calculation of their holdings, potentials in contract negotiations, etc. Don't be offended!!)

Literally, I have been "coming out" about the Monkees to friends only recently.  Afraid that people who take themselves "too seriously" about music would react negatively, especially in favor of the Beatles or the Stones.  Some people still do that (mostly men older than 50).  But I find that anyone under that, especially women, hold no grudge.  At dinner the other night, I was talking to some friends from MIT about guilty pleasures in music.  The Monkees were assumed to be mainstream.  Which makes me re-evaluate their outsider/underdog status.  With the recent tour, they are getting to be just too popular.  When in doubt, I will always refer back to the original TV show.

Of all things, the TV show is almost an area of ANTI-Merchandising for the modern fan.  Kellogg's, sure.  But Yardley Soap?  And all of the memorabilia is offered only at Yard Sales, Conventions and eBay. There has got to be a peculiar area of Economics that is ripe for dissection about residual loyalties of old television shows.

I find it separately interesting that the "2013 Tour Merch" is so successful and predictably so, for the logo on anything can multiply its inherent value to a fan.  See 2012/2013 Tambourines selling and reselling for $20 to $30 (value without the brand, estimated at $5).  The Tour Book also includes any and all pictures of the current threesome, without any additional manipulations-which may or may not be an artistic decision.  There are pictures of the band walking down hallways, and for whatever reasons, Davy is blocked by another member (mostly because he is so short).  A vendor complained that the publishers did not bother to airbrush out his feet/legs/top of his head and attributed it to a lack of funding in not hiring a graphic artist to re-touch the photos (?).  There are also reports that the DJ Estate was asking too much to license his likeness for ay of the merch.  There is still a "Daddy's Song" tribute during the concert and much mention of honoring his memory, but Davy Jones fans are still bristling at the fact that he is not a bigger presence as part of their experience, i.e. Nothing for them to buy/invest in.

The Davy Jones Equine Foundation, run by his daughters, provides any number of items for purchase, directly or indirectly using Davy's image. The "Keep Calm and Ride On" tshirts were everywhere at the Monkees convention and the concerts I have attended.  Most fans I have run into are active on Facebook (all ages) and would be likely to have seen these shirts.  Notice that there is zero representation of this foundation at the tour merch table.

I would estimate that the average ticket price is around $100, and that the average fan probably spends an additional $40 at the venue for Merch or food/drinks. The current tour Merch Table offerings are here. (And I think my estimations are still conservative)  Other monetary factors include parking fees, time +gas, motels/hotels, multi-stop fans/groupies, and buying tickets for members of your family or friends who would not pay for the show (or attend at all) unless the main fan does all the legwork.

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