Documentary studio XTR and Crooked Highways team up on “Merch!”
The upcoming documentary will examine the origin and impact of musical merchandise through the stories of musicians, designers, fans and entrepreneurs who have helped commodify artists. The non-fiction feature will trace the history of these products, starting with Elvis Presley’s first concert t-shirt. This continued with the psychedelic tie-dye look popularized by the Grateful Dead and the cranial iconography of Metallica and Megadeth. This stretches to the present day when artists like Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Harry Styles and Billie Eilish continue to hit the money through pictures, posters, clothing and more.
“Merch! will feature archival footage and tell the story of late merchandising legend Dell Furano and his brother Dave Furano, who co-founded Winterland Productions with Bill Graham. They’ve seen the merchandise transform from niche products for hardcore concertgoers into a massive revenue stream with the rise of music streaming and declining record sales.
“Merch! is directed and produced by Brian Furano and Ryan Gall, and is produced by Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett and Abazar Khayami for XTR. Gall co-founded the Global Citizen Festival and produced “Activate,” the National Geographic docuseries, in addition to co-directing “Louder Together,” a documentary narrated by Hugh Jackman. Furano brings to the film his decades of experience in licensing and entertainment for companies such as Live Nation Merchandise, Sony Signatures and Epic Rights, as well as more personal memories and stories of his family, whose company has helped launch the merchandising movement.
“I grew up backstage at concerts starting in the mid-’80s and I’ll never forget a show at the Oakland Coliseum, where I realized not only how important the family business had become, but also the connection and the elation it brought to fans’ faces as they shopped for their merchandise,” Furano said. “What seemed like we were printing ‘Born in the USA’ t-shirts by million has turned into a cultural revolution, and I can’t wait to show viewers what the other side of the business looks like.”
“My love for music and merch started in the late 90s, going on the road with bands to film, record and eventually, after meeting the Furano family, create art and merch experiences in tour with Ozzy Osbourne, Barbara Streisand and the Rolling Stones. I got to see the pure joy people felt when they got their hands on their favorite band’s item,” Gall said. It’s fascinating to see where music merch is today and a 20-year dream in the making to be able to tell this story of its origins and where it is today.”
The news follows XTR’s announcement of a new documentary in production celebrating the influence of boy band superfans directed by Gia Coppola with Aggregate Films, “Superfans: Screams.” tears. throw up.” The company is also showing six documentaries at the Tribeca Festival, including “Menudo: Forever Young,” a docuseries for HBO Max about the Latin American boy band of the same name.