The heavy metal band Slayer is on their farewell tour, and according to the concert industry trade publication Pollstar, they've made $10 million off of merchandise sales alone. However, even though it's the last tour of their career, the group can continue to make money after it's over.
Kristen Mulderig of Rick Sales Entertainment Group, which manages the band, told Pollstar that Slayer's business team has shifted into "legacy mode," which means keeping the band in the public eye and profitable after they've broken up, as in the cases of the Beatles or Nirvana.
"Slayer lives on, absolutely," she said.
The group may face more obstacles to becoming a legacy band than the Fab Four did. They never had a hit single or chart-topping album, and their closest brush with the mainstream came when Kendall Jenner was photographed wearing one of the group's t-shirts after guitarist Gary Holt was seen on stage wearing one that said: "Kill the Kardashians."
However, whatever short-term publicity the feud created, Slayer publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald said that neither she nor the band's organization believes that it contributed in any meaningful way to the group's $10 million merchandise haul.
"As this is Slayer's final tour, more fans likely want something to remember the experience, so more merch is sold, and this is a very extensive itinerary, even for Slayer," she told CNBC.
The group's fiercely loyal followers will likely continue buying their merchandise, but the band has ways of profiting off of their music that extend beyond its existing fan base. Mara Kuge, president and founder of Superior Music Publishing, said that one of the most significant opportunities to further their legacy is in synch licensing, in which a song is licensed for use in such audiovisual media as movies, commercials and video games.
Should they do this, Kuge said that they'd need experienced people to make the deals and keep track of the revenue.
"What's important is that artists have the right team behind them, who know how to maximize revenue and license their properties to the right people for the right fee," she said.
Also important is ensuring that no one profits from the band's intellectual property but the group itself. Stephen Connolly of the anti-counterfeiting company Pointer Brand Protection said that the marketplace is full of T-shirts and other merchandise that illegally use the trademarks of such bands like Led Zeppelin and the Ramones. Slayer, he said, will have to make sure that the counterfeiters aren't profiting off of them as well.
"Only by doing that can they continue to guarantee the sale of genuine merchandise and also protect their own money-making ability," Connolly said.
David Hooper, the host of the Music Business Radio show and owner of the Big Podcast Agency, said that Slayer could also make their future more secure by getting into the restaurant and lifestyle merchandise business. After all, it worked well for Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville hospitality company, which manages a restaurant chain, hotels, and casinos.
If that seems a little off-brand for a group whose songs include "Raining Blood" and "Public Display of Dismemberment," they can always follow the example of the classic hard rock band KISS, who are currently on their End of the Road World Tour, and who have their own line of custom coffins.
"That's how these guys keep making money," he said. "The logo and imagery are worth something."
Hooper added that as much as the band groused at Kendall Jenner wearing a Slayer t-shirt, they'd better get used to people who aren't fans buying their merchandise if they want to remain commercially viable in retirement.
"A few years ago, I was talking to a lady in a RUN-DMC shirt," he said. "I mentioned to her that I had worked doing promotion for them. She told me she had no idea of the music they did."
If Slayer and other musical artists who are about to retire plan for the future in the right way, they may be able to continue to make money off of their brand long after they've stopped recording and touring. However, what they should not do, Kuge said, is hope for some A-list celebrity to wear one of their T-shirts as they walk the red carpet.
"I hope that is no musician's retirement plan," she said.