A souvenir of the show can make a wallet hollow

Published 4:50 pm Saturday, May 4, 2013

I owe Jim James and his promoters a thank you for giving concert-goers the best purchase I’ve ever seen at a show, and I hope other touring musicians take a few pointers.

It’s important to note many concert enthusiasts like myself are chumps — we have an impulsive need to buy memorabilia at concerts. Schmucks like me are easy prey for concert promoters. I have an impulsive desire to purchase at least a small token of band merchandise at every concert I attend.

For as long as people look forward to concerts, the actual experience is short, so my concert experience isn’t complete without a memento to keep from the brief experience. Typically, it’s a t-shirt or a poster.

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Nine times out of 10, the shirts cost upwards of $30, and it seems like they’re costing more and more. I’ve seen shirts selling for as much as $45. Bands and tour heads can charge almost whatever they want, and people will pay it. It’s difficult for me to criticize, as I’m 100 percent guilty of overspending at concerts.

When I attended the Jim James show, the first thing I did was go the merchandise table to look for a shirt, but my friend pointed out posters and a vinyl copy of “Regions of Light and Sound of God” signed by James.

The poster — if I remember correctly — was $25 — and the record was $30. I was stunned, as I would expect most touring artists to sell autographed memorabilia for triple figures.

Hearing us talk about the autographs, the woman selling the merchandise offered her advice.

“These will be gone quick,” she said of the records. (They were all sold out when I walked by later.)

Even though I already had the record, I bought the autographed “Regions of Light and Sound of God” because it was the best value I’ve ever seen at a concert.

Let me put it in perspective:

— The tickets were $26 (closer to $34 after fees).

— Unsigned copies of the album were $18 when the album came out, and many newly released records sell for $25 to $35. The latest Neil Young albums sold for $35 to $70 brand new.

— I’ve bought a concert shirt for $40 before.

— Parking in some lots in Minneapolis for Minnesota Twins games and some concerts costs as much as $15 to $20.

— I saw a signed copy of the same autographed record on eBay selling for $300 a few days later.

— A shirt at the show was $20.

More musicians should take a cue from James and offer their fans similar deals. For the band and management, merchandise is a vital way for making money on the tour.

But musicians and promoters should cut fans some slack when pricing.Concerts are not. On top of tickets, there are the ticket fees (which are even growing on once reasonable sites like www.etix.com), parking, fuel, food and other costs. After all that, many people skip the merchandise table.

Fairly priced merchandise just shows an appreciation for fans.

Jason’s concert buys

My best concert purchase
Vinyl copy of “Regions of Light and Sound of God” autographed by Jim James — Cost: $30

My most impulsive purchases:
Bob Dylan concert posters. I’ve bought one at each of his concerts I’ve been to (three) and plan to buy another when I see him this summer. It’s just tradition. — Cost: $15 each (I think)

My biggest waste of money:
Radiohead T-shirt at Lollapalooza in 2008. I never even wore it. I stored it in a friend’s bag, but it spilled when he was caught in a mosh pit during Rage Against the Machine’s set. Most of the things in the bag — including my new shirt and glasses — were gone (forcing me to wear prescription sunglasses for the rest of the trip). With my shirt gone, I replaced it with a pack of buttons and a patch — a small consolation for the shirt.

Most worn:
Red Low T-shirt purchased at First Avenue. This is probably the most comfortable, well-used concert T-shirt I own. It’s my go-to shirt when I’m at home listening to records. I may go hunting online to replace it one day if I lose it. — Cost: $15 or $20