“Merchandise, it keeps us alive,” Fugazi proclaimed on their song “Merchandise.” Though the D.C. punk act saw merch as a distraction, many Do It Yourself punk acts use money from selling records and clothing to survive as a band.
When Philadelphia’s Algernon Cadwallader played Strangelight – a new Chicago DIY venue – on Friday, Feb. 5, singer/bassist Peter Helmis took some time to discuss the process of creating and selling merchandise. Peter highlighted an important attribute of creating one’s own records and merchandise that many artists are beginning to take advantage of in the digital era:
It’s really helpful, if you’re a band that’s playing lots of shows, to have a bunch of your records. If someone else puts it out, they’ll give you a bunch of free ones to start out with, then you have to buy them from the label whenever you need them. If you put it out yourself, it’s more money up front, but you have like 1,000 records at your disposal whenever you want. You don’t have to buy them again, you just sell them, have them whenever you go out.
As the band saves money by putting out its own records (Algernon’s DIY label is called Be Happy Records) and bringing their merch on tour, fans have the chance of saving money as well. Buying a record at a concert is usually cheaper than ordering it online or through a mail order, and often some of the merchandise isn’t available online. Three items onsale at the concert – the 75:24 tape, the Fun 7″ record and the tour T-shirt – are either sold out online or not available elsewhere. The group’s CD – Some Kind of Cadwallader – cost $6 at the concert and costs upwards of $8 online (plus shipping and handling).
Like a lot of DIY punk bands, Algernon Cadwallader isn’t getting rich and famous from its merchandise or playing concerts. As Peter said:
It’s anything but full-time, but it’s definitely a full-time hobby. It’s our passion.
To get a glimpse of Algernon Cadwallader’s Friday night performance, take a look at the video below: