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IN FLAMES Vocalist Calls For Bands To Fight Together Against Merch Cuts

"Everyone has to react; it can't be just a few bands that say something."


The topic of merch cuts – when a venue takes a percentage of a band's income from sale of their own merchandise – has been a hot topic in the past year. Igorrr refused to sell their merch at a UK venue due to the cuts, while Monuments did the same in Greece as did Russian Circles in France.

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Now In Flames vocalist Anders Fridén has weighed in during an interview with The Metal Circus, saying that everyone has to band together against the cuts in order for something to happen. Fridén also reasons that the cuts were originally there to ensure that a venue didn't lose money on bands, but have since become a source of income instead.

"I think in the beginning it was a way for clubs to say, 'Okay, if we have shows and not enough people are coming, we have to take some money out of the merch because people are not drinking enough so we're not getting money from the bar.' But we know that is not true, because people are still drinking a lot when they come to the shows. So it's just a thing that just stuck there. And for bands that are relying on the merch sales, it's really, really tough.

"I think it sucks, but there's nothing I can do. I tried many, many years ago to start a debate and talk about this, but not enough bands were saying 'we agree' or were acknowledging the fact that it was a huge problem. And then it kind of disappeared. Everyone has to react; it can't be just a few bands that say something.

"I don't know what to do against it. It's a huge cost. I mean, we sell a fair amount of merch, and the money that goes to someone else, even though we sell it ourselves sometimes, it's crazy. It's insane. But it's way tougher for smaller bands that live from solely the merch; they have to get the merch money to pay gas to get to the next venue or to pay so they can maybe sleep in a motel or get some food or whatever. And then someone comes and just takes 20 percent out of their pocket for nothing. It's horrendous."

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Dark Funeral guitarist Lord Ahriman has said that "venues will slowly kill the live scene with their outragious merch cut," while Bad Omens has stated they "don't want to give you 20% of the merchandise we design, pay for, manage, set up, carry, and sell ourselves because you gave us 24sq ft of floor space in your venue we sold out." Architects drummer Dan Searle offered a more reasonable solution, saying maybe bands should maybe get a cut of the venue's alcohol sales.

So what can actually be done? Fridén once again reasons that the only way to really make a difference is to have a united front demanding something change. Which is tougher for smaller artists as Khemmis recently pointed out, recently saying "Unless the big names with real industry power give the middle finger to corporate venues stealing from artists, nothing will change and that sucks for artists AND fans."

"I don't know about 'fixed', but it's something that we have to be united, I guess," said Fridén. "Everyone has to react. It can't be just a few bands or someone in a band saying something and complaining, 'cause nothing is gonna happen. 'Cause the whole cooperation, or whatever you wanna call them, that takes this concession money, it's such a huge… It's like David versus Goliath, but bands have to turn into the Goliath instead.

"I think this was, like, 2005, [200]6, [200]7 or something, and that's the first time I really recognized it over here in Sweden, like we had it. And I got really upset. And I said, 'Let's sell our merch outside. We're not gonna sell it inside when someone is gonna take that much money.'

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"But, obviously, the fans, they suffer, 'cause you wanna go to a show and you wanna buy your t-shirt. And then you piss someone off. Sometimes it does feel like it doesn't matter what you do because there's always someone who doesn't understand why you're doing it the way you do it. It's a huge problem. It's difficult. But I personally don't know what to do unless we can all unite and say, 'This is what it is.'"

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