Brilliant work by Urs Fischer: now that's how you get people's attention.
In a broader sense, artists fall under a variety of different categories: painters, musicians, photographers, sculptors, poets, architects, dancers, and of course my favorite, stucco-goatists. What, Mr. Editor? That last one isn't a thing? Shoot, I thought I might get away with it this time.
Of these, musicians seem to be the ones with the most swag to sell. Perhaps fine artists are just too good for merch, but maybe the opposite is true; maybe they're just scared of selling out. Whatever the case, we've tried to include a few artists on this list that aren't musicians so that you might be inspired to venture out. However, most of the list is made up of bands and musicians (greedy bastards).
It probably goes without saying at this point, but KISS is quite possibly the most commercially merchandised band of all time. They have calendars, figurines, bobble heads, kaskets, comic books and a great deal more. Not content to limit their income to swag items, they even have events and services like KISS kruises and themed mini-golf courses. Phew. It's crazy.
2. Urs Fischer
Urs Firscher is a Swiss contemporary artist and photographer living in New York and Los Angeles. He is likely most known for his waxwork, and though he probably isn't hurting for change right now (he's had pieces sell for several million dollars), he also has a large selection of exhibition catalogues and books for sale; something other artist just aren't doing enough of.
Of course U2 has all the old standbys like T-shirts, hoodies, CDs, DVDs, posters not to mention some awesome box sets. Notwithstanding, the reason they made this list is because of their infamous Achtung Baby branded condoms. These prophylactics are a little harder to come by these days, and if you do happen upon one, you probably shouldn't use it as a contraceptive anymore (they would be far passed their expiration). Good idea or not (I don't personally associate U2 with sex), these types of items are quite memorable, and being remembered is hugely important. No, farting in someone's face isn't a good way to be remembered.
4. James De La Vega
James De La Vega is an American artist of Puerto Rican descent residing in New York City. He is most known for his street art, inspirational quotes found around the city of New York, and muralist art. A quick Google search turns up a CafePress store where you can purchase various styles of shirts, babysuits, tote bags and messenger bags with De La Vega quotes and art on them. Whether or not this is actually his store aside, this is smart marketing. Chalk scribbles? Man, I think I missed my calling.
5. David Bowie
If you were to go to David Bowie's official merch store now, you wouldn't necessarily find a whole lot there. Maybe a few CDs, vinyl albums and T-shirts. However, he makes this list because of crossover cred. In addition to maintaining his relevance as a musician for many decades, he is also a known painter with some serious chops. He does some sculpting and photography work too.
6. Insane Clown Posse
When you really think about it, these guys are like the KISS of the hip-hop world. And when you have a brand to sell, what do you do? You merchandize! And man, the ICP does have a lot of stuff; DJ toolkit USB drives, earrings, charms, barbells, tote bags, swimwear, thongs, skateboards, and they even have an energy drink called Spazmatic (this is what I drink for breakfast every day). They have all the standards like apparel, stickers and postcards too.
7. Grateful Dead
A few quick Google searches on the topic of merchandise, and you're likely to come across the Grateful Dead name at some point. Yes, this band has an astonishing amount of swag. Not only do they have dozens (dozens!) of CDs for sale, they also have various shirts, hats, books, stickers and posters in nearly the same variety and quantity as their CDs! They may not have any unique items to speak of, but the sheer variety is pretty amazing. Man, death really sells.
8. Pink Floyd
Much like Grateful Dead, Pink Pig Floyd has a fairly substantial discography of CDs and vinyl albums for sale. They have T-shirt designs in abundance, and they also carry items like postcards, stickers, pens, magnets, posters, keychains, boxers, lanyards, mugs, tote bags, golf sets, aprons, beanies, caps and wallets too. They have a lot of stuff, both in terms of quantity and variety. The fact that they don't have any pig bodysuits is definitely a demerit though.
9. The Rolling Stones
There's no denying that there seems to be an advantage to having been around for a while. In addition to their impressive CD catalogue (which is on par with Grateful Dead's), the Stones also have T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, caps, mugs, tote bags, box sets, canvases and prints. Lesson learned; live a really long time and keep producing art. Keith Richards is no mere mortal.
10. The Misfits
This American horror punk trio has some really interesting items for sale on their store. They have gloves, shoes, snowboarding jackets, slip mats, masks and wrist watches in addition to the usual items. It's scary how much swag they have (get it?).
R.E.M. does have a lot of shirt designs, CDs, tote bags and so forth, but like U2, they had a fairly unique item called meadow in a can for their Green tour. It was a can filled with soil and seeds that would grow into a wild meadow when you poured it on a patch of dirt. Again, these types of items are remembered fondly by fans. I wonder what else we could put in a can.
AC/DC is yet another band with a lot of stuff. From T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, dresses, to BBQ covers, guitar straps, lighters, belt buckles and pint glasses, AC/DC is definitely rockin' the merch angle.
What other artists belong on this list? Don't forget to leave a comment before you go!