Merchbar Is a One Stop Merch Shop


Back in 2009, Edward Aten founded, a social music network used by The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and others. Aten eventually sold, has worked with Pono and Red Bull, and currently works with Drip. He’s just launched his new company, Merchbar, which just went live with an iPhone app.

Merchbar is essentially one giant music merchandise store, and Aten says it’s “the only company to sign exclusive partnerships with every major music merch company”.

Aten’s co-founder John Hecker brought music merch to Sears and Kmart, selling $30 million in t-shirts. Merchbar’s head of tech, Aston Motes, was an early engineer at OkCupid and was Dropbox’s first employee.


Merchbar sells every item that their partners have made available.  This adds up to about 100,000 official merch items from over 3,000 bands.  The Merchbar team also curates collections, such as “Staff Picks” and “Halloween Costumes”.  The team guarantees that their prices match or beat prices in artists’ official merch stores.

The app features a chart of top-selling merch, and has a “For Me” section that recommends merch based on Facebook likes and iTunes libraries.  Product descriptions includes tweets and photos from fans who have the item.

Merchbar’s “For Me” section isn’t always right.  I’ve liked Lady Gaga and Britney Spears on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean I am interested in seeing all their merch.  Edward Aten says that recommendations will be a constant work in progress as they track more data, and the company is open to the idea of letting users give feedback on their recommendations.



Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more. Follow her on Twitter: @nine_u

16 Responses

  1. Ed Aten

    Hi Guys,

    Ed Aten here – founder of Merchbar. Let me know if you have any questions!

  2. Anonymous

    Hey Ed,

    At what point in the business cycle were you able to source funding or investment capital?

    And what exactly did you have built up at the time, was the whole App built etc. etc. etc.?

    I have a ton of killer ideas but lack of money and connections and coding ability has left me out in the dark, and of course theres no music money for me, so curious as to your specific path to making it happen, cause i need to make something happen here and i could use any insight into your business development.


    • aten

      Hey Anon,

      We haven’t disclosed our funding status so it would be a bit premature to describe the process. That said, when we do I’m happy to talk about how and what and why we did what we did.


  3. Brain Zisk

    Ed is awesome with a long history in the space, John Hecker is extremely core in the merch business as well, and Ashton appears to be everywhere. 😉 The app looks great, and seeing it now, glad we didn’t build the startup in this space which we had been considering. 😉 Glad we did help (at least temporarily) stall if not stop the Patent Application some other jerk had filed by pointing out that what they were trying to get covered was unoriginal and that what it would cover what had been done extensively in the past, and which would’ve covered both what Merchbar is doing, and what others had been doing for many years before.

    Go crush it guys. 🙂

    • aten


      Thanks for the support. Really appreciate it and you are dead on, its all about building a great team. Would love to hear what you were considering building. I’m convinced there’s probably several large businesses to be built in the space.


  4. Tunipop

    Nice work! I really like the curation element, along with play list interrogation. Unfortunately, I doubt very much that this will move the needle much for artists in terms of driving a measurable increase in revenue. You still have to attract users to the application, and frankly, I doubt that fans care that much to make the effort, especially when they can buy the same products elsewhere, perhaps at a lower price.

    The dirty little secret in music merchandise is that anyone with a credit card and tax number can buy wholesale from just about every major music merchandise supplier on the planet. There is nothing special about the ~3,000 artists listed on the Merchbar site. It doesn’t appear as though they have any current tour gear, and they don’t have artists from suppliers like Richards & Southern, Benchmark or Dreamer Media on their list. They are also missing the big independent merchandise artists like Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi and Jimmy Buffett. It is basically the same products, from the same ~3,000 artists, that you can buy from multiple online retailers like Rockabilia, Backstreet International, Amazon, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great start and has potential, especially the playlist curation. I would love to be proved wrong on any of the above, and help in anyway make this a success.

    As for Mr. Zisk’s comments. I respectfully suggest he get his facts straight before calling someone a jerk in an open form such as DMN. Presumably , I am the “jerk” who apparently kept him from realizing his own ambitions to build something similar to Merchbar in the space some time ago. In reality, Amazon and Yahoo both have patents already issued in this very space for very similar applications. Yet according to Mr. Zisk, I am a jerk for attempting to protect a unique method of identifying brands in streaming media (not just music), correlating with available authorized inventory, and bringing the commerce to the consumer inside the experience thereby eliminating a step in the purchasing funnel. Again, he needs to get his facts straight.

    • Mr. Zisk

      No, I consider you to be a jerk for how you behaved when it was pointed out that the Independent Claims of what you were trying to reserve exclusive rights to appeared to cover what was a) obvious and b) had been commonly done before.

      • Tunipop

        As an industry leader, you are at best being highly unprofessional in your comments; and at worst woefully ill-informed on the subject, if not outright hypocritical. Comparing what we are doing with Merchbar is like apples and oranges, which you would know if you took the time to listen and understand. I will again make my offer to you (as I did a year ago), or anyone else that is interested to discuss the facts, opportunities and challenges in the space. Heck, why not make it a panel at SF Music Tech? There has never truly been a substantive discussion on the topic, and it’s not just about schlepping t-shirts. I’d be more than happy to help bring a panel together.

        *My apologies to Ed and the Merchbar team for this nonsense, kudos again on your launch guys.

        • Mr. Zisk

          You used my referring to someone in the online merch space as a jerk who pretty much noone but yourself and one of your partners would recognize as an excuse to step into a thread regarding another merch company, acknowledge it was you, reveal a “dirty little secret”, doubt what the other company is doing will move the needle, claim there’s nothing special about their artist selection, bash their merch and supplier selection, and then, after bashing them and me, offer them apologies for “this nonsense”, and “kudos on your launch”.

          I never compared Merchbar to Tunipop but I will now. Merchbar and their team consistently ship quality products and have done so once again in a form which will surely only improve, while in the 10 or so years has been around the only things I’ve seen you ship are Software Patent Applications which appear to cover Obvious Concepts which if they had been granted would have given you Exclusive Rights over what many others were doing over a decade before, plus a one page website with barely any information. At the same time, it appears that you still have not released any sort of actual merchandise related product on to the market.

          • Merch Jerk

            Ok, so you say, I am a jerk. I am a passionate jerk who has nothing to hide. I am a jerk that has spent the past seven years focused exclusively on the intersection of digital music and non-recorded merchandise in an attempt to truly understanding the marketplace within the broader context of digital media. And yes, we do having a working platform, it’s currently running in Beta on AccuRadio.

            For a segment of industry that is often referenced (merchandise, t-shirts, etc.) it is largely misunderstood, even by those inside the business. Check that “especially” by those inside the business. I will again, now for the THIRD time, offer to have a dialog with you or anyone else to share what I have learned the past seven years, including a nearly five year patent pending process order to advance broader understanding of this segment of the music industry and beyond. As the leader of SF Music Tech, I would think this would be of interest? Or, you can continue your petty vendetta for reasons I can only assume have to do with the fact that somehow I kept you from developing your own concepts in this space??? I truly don’t know.

            In the meantime, I am available to help companies like Merchbar and others crack the code. I can be reached [email protected] or on Twitter @tunipop

          • Anonymous

            Sounds like a real waste your whole patent fiasco…

            All the time you could have spent putting your knowledge and skills towards advancing something instead of just a small portion of the time.

            The world is set up all wrong, people are not being educated properly about the real world.

            Ive really learned that unless you have a lot of money you pretty much have to take a knee and suck someones cock or else you will get fucked and stolen from and your ideas will get taken and all will be put into the public by those with money to do so or you will deal with fights and wars like the ones yall are in…

            I’m a genius with a brilliant head and brain on my shoulders, but with how everything has played out, especially with music, i see blowing it off as the only peaceful and worthwhile solution here….

            Everyone on their #1 just not giving a motherfuck about anyone else, its dog eat dog, its whos got the bigger gun, its RUN MOTHERFUCKERS RUN!!!!!!!!

            They can market it and advertise it however they want but it will never cover up the truth and reality of this shit system were living in, a system built hundreds of years ago in a slightly different time…

            Burn the fucking thing to the ground for all i care, i cant make money or do anything anyways…


          • Anonymous

            slightly = draped in oozing sarcasm…

            im dead anyways, no interest in working hard for no money and others benefit, for others family/legacy/dynasty/system/world…

            homie dont play that…

          • Tuniflop

            Objecting to Tunipop trying to gain a Patent over what folks were doing a decade before is not a petty vendetta.

            We’ve had dialog before and it was a waste of time and energy.

            Your attempting to gain Exclusive Rights over an Obvious Revenue Stream which other companies can use to Benefit Artists (unless you are successful) is Simply Offensive.

  5. Randy Nichols


    Back to comments about Merchbar. it’s been a long time since someone has tried to be the onestop merch solution and I’m excited to see innovation in the space. if you are able to answer this, are you buying product wholesale from the merch companies or producing licensed merch in house?


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